My Goal: Cleaning an older quilt

There are generally two ways to clean a quilt- but vacuuming is the safest and most widely recommended.

Vacuuming– Lay your quilt our on a large clean surface. If the quilt is very delicate, lay a fiberglass screen over it. Then gently pass a low-suction handheld vacuum with small brush attachment over the quilt.

Washing  a quilt can be done but only with great caution. DON’T WASH YOUR QUILT if it contains any of the following: inked signatures, a dye that appears unstable, fabrics that are seriously deteriorated, the use of glazed or silk fabrics, the use of woolen yarns with questionable dyes or if it has never been washed. Remember that textile fibers are much more fragile when wet.

If however, you have determined that it is desirable to attempt washing your quilt, first test wash a small section to make sure that the dyes are stable and won’t run. Once you have decided that it is safe to wash your quilt, keep in mind the following suggestions:

  • Use a very mild detergent like Orvus (packaged as our Quilt Clean) in a solution of 1/2 ounce of detergent to 1 gallon of distilled, filtered or softened water.
  • Use a container large enough to accommodate the entire quilt at one time (some people recommend using the bathtub).
  • Do not agitate the quilt in the water.
  • Rinse by pressing down on the quilt with the palm of your hand or with a cellulose sponge.
  • Remove excess water by pressing gently with clean white toweling or mattress padding.
  • Lift quilt with a towel sling or with both arms so that the weight is evenly distributed. DO NOT lift by one edge or corner.
  • Lay flat to dry on a clean non-porous surface.


  • NOTE: Historic textiles should NEVER BE PRESSED with a hot iron.
  • Dry cleaning is NOT RECOMMENDED because the dry cleaning method involves rough agitation of the quilt inside the dry cleaning machine and the dry cleaning solvents may harm some fabrics.

Source: Great Lakes Quilt Center at Michigan State University.


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