Washing Quilts

Quilt washing

Front-loading washing machines make washing quilts easy, but top loaders can be adapted. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Washing quilts: How to Help Your Quilt Live to 100, Part 10

By Barb Gorges

From Part 9 we have the list of what we need before putting a quilt in a washing machine: color-fast fabric, Shout color-catcher sheets, quilt in good repair (not fragile antique), stains treated, Orvus soap–either from the feed store or the quilt shop, and clean front-loading machine.

Don’t use other laundry products such as bleach or fabric softener.

Orvus soap is a white solid at 65 degrees. Even if it’s warm enough to be a liquid, mix it with half a cup of warm water before pouring into the soap dispenser. A tablespoon is enough for a queen-sized quilt. Use less for smaller quilts–too much and you will be rinsing forever.

Set the machine for cold wash, cold rinse, and hand wash cycle—or the lowest amount of “agitation” possible. Add an extra rinse or plan to send the quilt through a complete wash cycle again without soap. The “Max Extract” spin setting is good.

For top loaders, fill with lukewarm water. Mix in the soap. Turn the machine off and add the quilt. Use your hands instead of the agitation cycle for a few minutes, gently lifting and moving the quilt. Then let the quilt soak 10 minutes before setting the washer controls for the rinse cycle. Substitute your hands again for the agitation in the rinse cycle, then let it spin.

With either machine, when finished, check immediately to see if there was any bleeding. If so, treat with stain remover and rewash immediately (and recheck immediately again)—and plan to dry that quilt fairly quickly in the dryer.

Otherwise, check to make sure the quilt doesn’t sound soapy. If in doubt, run it through another washing again, without soap. Next issue we will discuss the finer points of drying quilts.

Scroll down to read the first nine parts of this series.


2 thoughts on “Washing Quilts

  1. thank you,, the trick is to buy a top loader that will let you open the top with water in them. I messed up the computer and had to have a service man come out and reset.. If one looks for a new washer be sure to ask if you can open the top with water in them… all this to protect us from injury! hummm


    • That’s interesting. Thanks for the information. I have had a front loader now for about 10 years and didn’t realize the new top loaders completely lock up. My old Kenmore did just during spin cycles. I would recommend a front loader to anyone buying a new washer. They use less water and soap, and laundry doesn’t get stretched around the agitator. My Maytag (control panel pictured) has a variety of options including the hand wash cycle, spin only, rinse and spin, quick wash, extra rinse, and max extract. Though max extract really compresses a quilt into a lump and you have to be careful about pulling the quilt flat again, it leaves less moisture in the quilt so drying doesn’t take as long.


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