How To Wash a Quilt: A Step-by-Step Guide

April 1, 2022 | Casper Editorial Team
how to wash a quilt

A quilt makes for a beautiful addition to your bed — but with any bedding, a quilt will eventually need washing. Pet paws, kids’ spills, and everyday use all cause a quilt to get dirty. So, how do you wash a quilt?

A quilt is a thin bed cover with batting between two layers of fabric. If you own a quilt, either handmade or machine-stitched, you might have been putting off washing it because you don’t want to ruin it. However, if you can’t ignore those little stains or a buildup of dust any longer, this how-to guide is for you. 

Our Everyday Quilt and Quilted Shams are made with light, breathable cotton for all-season comfort.

How to Hand Wash a Quilt

American Patchwork and Quilting recommends avoiding washing an antique or heirloom quilt unless it’s absolutely necessary — and doing it by hand if you have to. If your quilt is vintage or hand-quilted, it’s especially delicate, so you should avoid putting it in the washing machine. Putting a quilt in the washing machine runs the risk of unraveling the stitching.  

Here’s how to hand wash your quilt. 

You will need:

  • Bathtub or large sink
  • Drying rack
  • Clean towels
  • Gentle liquid detergent (dye-free, scent-free)
  • White vinegar
Materials you'll need to wash a quilt: distilled white vinegar, drying rack, clean towels, bathtub, and gentle liquid detergent

1. Inspect the Quilt

Before you wash your quilt, inspect it for any wear and tear. If you find any loose threads or seams that are stretched out, now is the time to whip out the sewing kit and make small fixes. That way, you’ll avoid making small damages worse when washing the quilt. If you don’t have a sewing kit or don’t know how to sew, you should get help from a seamstress. 

2. Prepare the Tub

First, make sure your bathtub or large sink is clean. Give it a quick once-over rinse to ensure there’s no soap residue. Then, fill the tub with cold water. Next, add your gentle, dye-free, perfume-free, liquid detergent to the tub. You may also use a special quilt soap if you can find one.

3. Soak and Gently Agitate the Quilt

Submerge the quilt entirely in the water. Gently move the quilt around in the water, swirling it around with your hands. This will help remove any dirt. Leave the quilt submerged for 10–15 minutes. 

Then, drain the soapy water from the tub. Fill the tub once more with fresh water and add half a cup of distilled white vinegar. The vinegar will ensure that any detergent residue will be removed from the quilt and will help keep the fabric soft after washing. Gently swish the quilt around for another minute. 

4. Rinse the Quilt

Next, rinse the quilt. Drain the water from the tub again, and then refill it with more cold, fresh water. Agitate the quilt in the water again to remove any remaining detergent. Repeat the rinse process again until the quilt is completely free of detergent. 

5. Remove and Air Dry

Once you drain the tub, you will need to remove the quilt. A wet quilt can be surprisingly heavy, so you may need to enlist a friend for help. 

You can gently squeeze out some of the water, but don’t wring it out — that can put too much stress on the quilt. It’s also not a good idea to hang a wet quilt from a clothesline because it may risk tearing the seams. Instead, you can use a drying rack. Or, move the wet quilt to a bed of dry towels and spread it out completely flat on the ground. You can put a fan on the floor or open a window to speed up the drying process. 

Put more thick towels on top of the quilt to help soak up some of the water. If you have enough towels, you can press or roll up the quilt between the towel beds and then move the quilt to another layer of towels to finish drying. 

How to Machine Wash a Quilt

A washing machine just isn’t going to be as gentle on a quilt as your hands — so it’s not advisable to put a delicate heirloom quilt in the washer. Machine washing can make the stitches unravel and cause the quilt to crinkle. 

However, if you have a machine-stitched quilt from a retailer, check if the tag has washing instructions. If it says it’s safe to machine wash, you can do so. 

If you have an everyday quilt that can withstand the washing machine, here’s how to wash a quilt in a washing machine.

1. Test for Colorfastness

First, test the quilt for colorfastness to keep the dyes from running and fading. To do so, gently rub a wet, white cloth over the different colors on the quilt. If the colors rub off onto the white cloth, you will want to avoid washing it at home in the washing machine. You may need to take it to a professional dry cleaner or quilt restorer to keep it in its best condition. 

If there’s no color bleeding, you can likely wash it at home.

If there’s only a little bit of color bleeding, or if you’re still concerned about the colors fading in the washer, use a color-catching sheet in the washing machine to help absorb excess colors that bleed into the water.

2. Wash Gently

To wash your quilt, set the washer to a gentle, delicate cycle with cold water only. Add a dye- and perfume-free detergent. 

For bulkier blankets like quilts, recommended to use a large load capacity washing machine. If your quilt is a king size, use a large, front loading washing machine. It’s also best to put the quilt in the washing machine by itself and not with any other laundry. 

To machine wash a quilt, use a large load size, cold temperature, and gentle cycle.

If desired, you can also add half a cup of distilled white vinegar to the washer to help keep the colors bright. 

3. Dry Gently

Air drying is your safest bet when drying a quilt. However, if you have an everyday quilt that you need to dry quickly, you can partially dry it in the dryer.

Treat a quilt like a delicate piece of clothing. Make sure to use low or no heat. Put the machine on tumble dry until the quilt is close to dry, and then take it out to air dry the rest of the way.

Dry cleaning should be a last resort since it can make the dyes bleed or fade. If you do choose to dry clean, make sure to check if the dry cleaner has references and experience handling delicate quilts. 

How Often to Wash a Quilt

Unlike pillowcases and duvets, less washing is better to preserve your quilt and keep the colors vivid. You can wash a regularly-used quilt once per season. 

Wash an antique or heirloom quilt, which is especially delicate, even less often. You can get away with washing a quilt only once or twice a year if you don’t use it that often.

How to Spot Clean a Quilt

National Quilters Circle recommends spot cleaning as needed. Here’s how to spot clean to remove small stains that don’t warrant an entire wash:

How to spot clean a quilt

  1. Dilute white vinegar or gentle quilt soap with distilled water. 
  2. Put a cloth below the quilt. 
  3. Soak another cloth with the soap mixture and then dab it gently onto the quilt stain. Don’t rub it!
  4. Rinse the area or blot it with cold water until all traces of soap are gone.

You can also periodically clean your quilt with a vacuum to keep it dust-free. Put a nylon hose over the end of the vacuum hose and put the hose on the lowest suction setting. Then, gently vacuum both the front and back of the quilt with the vacuum hose. 

How to Care for Your Quilt

One of the best places to store your quilt is on the bed. Spreading the quilt out on a newly-made bed will prevent creases. If you need to store the quilt away or don’t have any extra guest bed, place the quilt in a muslin or cotton bag in a dark closet with a dry temperature and always avoid humid attics.

Every couple of weeks, check on your quilt and re-fold it in a different direction to prevent creases. To freshen it up, you can also take the quilt outside to air it out every once in a while between washings. Just make sure to keep the quilt out of direct sunlight.

Knowing how to wash a quilt properly will help keep yours in beautiful condition for years to come. If you’ve washed your quilt and you’re still in the cleaning mood, check out our guides on washing a duvet and washing pillows, too. With step-by-step guides, you’ll freshen up the whole bedroom in no time. 

Also, if you’re looking out for a new quilt, take a look at our bedding collection. From our light and breathable everyday quilt to the luxuriously soft velvet quilt, we have something for you. 

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