How to Wash and Care For a Quilt Without Damaging It: Four Methods to Try

Even the most delicate quilts need cleaning, however, throwing it in the washer or dryer should be a last resort.

Eva Hagan - Author

Feb. 27 2024, Published 4:19 p.m. ET

A colorful quilt sits on a white couch.
Source: iStock

Even if it’s just for decoration, the beautiful quilt at the end of your bed could use some washing occasionally. But quilts, which are often made with love and care, are not like the rest of your bedding. Typically, your bedsheets, duvet covers, and other blankets are made to be thrown in the washer and dryer for easy cleaning, but quilts can be a bit trickier.

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Depending on age and the type of quilt, you might not want to put it in the washing machine at all. Here are some good steps to follow for quilt-washing.

Four quilts sit stacked in a wooden closet.
Source: iStock
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There are several easy methods to wash a quilt.

According to American Patchwork and Quilting, there are several cleaning methods for quilts, some of which don't even include water. Often, identifying the proper cleaning method for a quilt depends on what would do the least damage.

Some quilts are very old and should not be put in the washing machine or dryer; even coming in contact with water could cause damage. Consider talking to a museum or expert for individualized recommendations when dealing with an antique.

That said, here are some ways to wash a quilt.

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Washing the quilt by hand

According to Better Homes and Gardens, if you own a quilt, washing by hand is the safest option for cleaning, and there are steps to follow to make the process as seamless as possible.

First, remove any stains with stain remover and sew up any spots that need repair. Next, find a sink, bin, or bathtub big enough to hold your quilt for washing. Then, fill it halfway with cold water, and depending on the size of your quilt, add one to two tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent.

After this, fully submerge your quilt in the water for at least 10 minutes, gently rubbing out dirt and grime. Then, drain the quilt by squeezing out the water using your hands and rinsing with clean water until no soap suds are coming out. To dry the quilt, lay it out on towels to air dry.

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A person uses a handheld vacuum on a couch.
Source: iStock

If you are just looking to remove some dust and dirt off the surface of your quilt, using a handheld vacuum could work. American Patchwork and Quilting recommends using a nylon hose over the end of the vacuum to reduce rubbing on the quilt’s surface.

Airing outdoors

A woman wearing a pink dress holds out a quilt from a yellow building.
Source: iStock

According to American Patchwork and Quilting, putting your quilts outside on a windy day can be an excellent option for cleaning them. Protect them from the ground by placing towels or even a mattress under the quilts where debris is unlikely to fall directly onto them.

If you are worried about falling leaves and dirt, consider covering the quilt with a bedsheet. American Patchwork and Quilting does not recommend hanging the quilts on a clothesline because doing so could damage the seams.

Safe machine washing

It is possible to put a quilt in the washing machine. However, according to Casper, it’s not a recommended washing method for your most valuable family heirloom. Putting a quilt in the washing machine can be risky because the seams and stitches could come undone during the cycle, so make sure your quilt is sturdy enough.

If you use the washing machine for your quilt, use gentle or delicate cycle settings and opt for a cold water wash. In terms of detergent, Casper recommends fragrance and dye-free.

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