Thursday, March 26, 2009

Washing a quilt

Whether or not I prewash my fabric, and that does depend on the quilt's use and desired 'look', the first bath usually happens directly after the binding goes on. There is a bit of dust and oil from handling and marking the quilt during the construction process that needs to be removed so the quilt will emerge soft, cuddly, and ready for the bed or couch.

The basic soap is Sodium Laurel Sulfate, commonly known as Orvus Paste or Quilt Soap, packaged in 8 oz. bottles. After discovering the same is used to wash livestock, I bought a 7.5 lb. container at a feed store. It's an inexpensive way to dispense some soap and washing instructions to those who own a quilt. I learned my lesson when my niece washed her batik quilt with a commercial detergent which stripped the original color. Fabric has binders to retain the color and detergents go on the attack. Stick with pure, simple ingredients that are biodegradable and won't harm your fabrics. Soak continues to amaze me by successfully removing stubborn stains.

Batiks and hand-dyed fabrics have a greater tendency to bleed color. Prewashing with Synthrapol helps remove excess dye. If a quilt is constructed without this pre-treatment, use Retayne to stop the fabric from bleeding, particularly when a dark fabric is sewn to a light fabric. For future washings, I use Woolite's Dye Magnet or Shout's Color Catcher, both of which resemble dryer sheets to pick up any renegade dyes in both the washing and drying cycles.

Here's my 10-step process to washing quilts:
  1. set the washing machine to the delicate cycle.

  2. fill the wash tub with warm water (no more than 80 degrees)

  3. add 1-2 tablespoons of mild soap. Allow the soap to agitate for a minute.

  4. toss in a color-catching sheet to catch renegade dyes.

  5. stop the machine from agitating while adding the quilt into the basin.

  6. push the quilt into the water until it is saturated.

  7. resume the wash, rinse, and spin cycles.

  8. remove the quilt carefully from the washing machine.

  9. dry on low heat for 20 mins. until slightly damp.

  10. complete drying by laying the quilt flat on a clean sheet on the floor.
Older quilts must be handled with care. Use the bath tub to hand wash. Hand press out the extra water, blot with a terry towel and dry flat on a sheet. Set a fan to aid drying. Quilts with some wear and tear should only be aired, not washed.

Copyright ©2009, Sharon Baggs

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