Stop!! If you have a quilt that needs to be cleaned, please consider using a professional. Some of the methods described here, if not done properly can ruin your quilt! I will be happy to refer you to someone who can clean, restore, and/or conserve your quilt professionally.
That being said:
Have a new quilt that you wish to clean? If it is machine pieced, and quilted, and is meant to be used, you can extend the life of your quilt with proper care and washing. You can wash it in the washing machine, in cold water, with Orvus, or other gentle soap that does not contain phosphorus. Use your gentlest cycle. Air dry, or tumble dry on very low.
The first thing I do when I bring an old quilt home that came from a questionable source (like an auction), is FREEZE it. Wool quilts, and batted quilts are a dream home for little bugs. Place the quilt, folded, in a plastic bag, like the ones with the zipper that a new comforter comes in. Freezer should be below zero. Place the quilt in the freezer for a day or two, remove it to let it thaw, then place back in the freezer for a couple more days. Then remove, again. Please note, freezing can make a mildew stain worse, so if your quilt has mildew, refrain from this step.
DO NOT put an antique quilt in the washing machine!
DO NOT dry clean your quilt.
If you have an antique quilt there are some things you can do to clean it.
Vacuuming is a great way to remove dust and loose dirt particles from your treasure. Use a fiberglass screen (can be purchased at any hardware store). Use a size that us manageable for you. Finish the edges with Bias Tape sewn around or even masking or duct tape…but be sure no adhesive will catch onto the fabric. Place the quilt on a flat surface (face down), lay your screen over the section to be vacuumed, and using a brush attachment, gently work your way up and down the screen. When you have finished the back side, turn the quilt over and vacuum the front.
If a quilt must be wet washed, first test for colorfastness. Dampen a cotton swab and gently rub it on any questionable (reds, blacks, etc) fabric. If all the fabrics in the quilt are color fast…
Fill a tub with warm water and mix the All American Quilt Wash available at Material Pleasures or Orvus (2 Tablespoons for half a tub).
Gently immerse the quilt in the tub and let it soak. Do not agitate it, do not wring it or scrub it. Drain the tub and rinse it with clean warm water several times, until all the soap is removed. To remove excess water, push the quilt against the side of the tub. Be careful…wet fabric is very delicate and can tear very easily. Use a sheet to help you stabilize it as you remove it from the tub. Allow it to dry flat.
DO NOT wet clean your quilt if it has inked signatures, deteriorated fabrics, silk fabrics, woolen or silk thread, or if appears to have never been washed before.
NEVER iron your quilt!
The best way to store quilts is in an acid free box with acid free papers rolled up in the fold to alleviate stress on any fabrics.
Quilts should be aired occasionally, and when refolded, try to avoid the previous folds.
You can also store a quilt rolled up around a cardboard tube, like a shipping tube, 4" in diameter. Wrap the cardboard in unbleached muslin. And then roll your quilt around it.
NEVER store your quilt, or any textile, in a plastic bag. Textiles need to breathe.
NEVER keep your quilt in direct sunlight, especially a crazy quilt.
NEVER store your quilt touching wood or cardboard.
Quilts love to be aired out, use a sheet over it to protect it from the sun.
Displaying your quilt:
The best way to display your quilt is on an unused bed, (away from direct sunlight). Otherwise, hanging is acceptable. Be sure all the weight is evenly distributed. Sew a 4" wide muslin tube onto the top on the quilt, creating a sleeve. Stitch through all the layers. NEVER use nails, pins, or staples.
Use white cotton gloves to handle your quilt…oils and dirt from your hands, as well as raggy fingernails can be detrimental.
Always wash your hands prior to handling your quilt.
Do Not smoke, drink, eat, or let pets or children in the area.
Do Not use ink pens in the area.
Please note, these are only suggestions. If you have a valueable piece, or sentimental piece, I recommend you take it to a professional who cleans antique quilts. Contact me for recommendations. I cannot be held responsible to any damage that might occur or if you are unsuccessful in removing a stain.