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Quilt Care and Storage

Updated on November 10, 2015
Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer has been quilting for 25 years and writing about quilting for almost 4 years. She has won a number of awards for her work.

Antique quilts need special care.
Antique quilts need special care. | Source

Quilting is a craft that has been done for hundreds of years and, until the last century, quilts were not considered art pieces and not much thought was given to their care. They were utilitarian items that were washed and used over the years, tucked away in trunks, and thrown out when they became worn and tattered.

Today, quilts are recognized as important family heirlooms and works of art. People realize the incredible amount of work that goes into making a quilt and want to ensure that their pieces last for generations to come.

Whether you have a precious antique quilt that has been passed down from family member to family member, or you just bought a new modern piece for your living room wall, there are many important things to remember when caring for, and storing, your quilts.

Take care of your quilts.
Take care of your quilts. | Source

Types of quilts

For purposes of this article, I have divided quilts into two categories.

  • Antique quilts
  • Newer quilts, both bed and wall quilts, machine and hand quilted

The care and storage suggestions discussed in this article are designed for quilts that are handmade and are, or will become, treasured heirlooms.

*Note that there are also functional quilts purchased from department stores that, while quite lovely, are not meant to be heirlooms and do not need to be treated with special care. While the care and storage suggestions provided here can be used on department store quilts, the instructions that came with the quilt when purchased can be followed.

Caring for quilts

Properly caring for quilts is quite specific and does take some time and effort.

Antique Quilts

  • There are many antique quilt collectors and people who have inherited old quilts from family members. Many of these heirlooms are worth considerable amounts of money and it is important to care for them in such a way that they do not get ruined.

Newer Quilts

  • In recent years, quilting has found a resurgence. Handmade bed-sized and wall quilts have become quite popular, with beautiful pieces adorning homes and offices around the world. While newer quilts also require specialized attention, caring for them is not as difficult as it is for antique quilts.

Quilt care tips at a glance

Care and Storage Tips
Antique Quilts
Newer Bed Quilts
Newer Wall Quilts
Washing
No
With care
No
Dry Cleaning
No
No
No
Spot Cleaning
With extreme care and only when absolutely necessary.
As needed. Use care when quilt is hand quilted.
As needed. Use care when quilt is hand quilted.
Vacuuming
With care as needed. Do not vacuum pieces that are embellished or in delicate condition.
Not necessary unless it is a hand quilted piece that is not washed.
As needed
Repairing
Unless you are a skilled seamstress, consult a quilt conservationist/restorer.
If able, repair quilts with stitching and fabric as needed. If you are not the maker, but are in touch with them, ask them to repair it.
If able, repair quilts with stitching and fabric as needed. If you are not the maker, but are in touch with them, ask them to repair it.
Handling
Keep to a minimum and use cotton gloves.
Ok to handle
Ok to handle with care.
Displaying
Do not hang and keep out of sunlight.
Do not hang and keep out of sunlight.
Out of sunlight
Storing
Use acid-free storage products and never store in plastic, cardboard boxes or in damp conditions.
Use acid-free storage products and never store in plastic, cardboard boxes or in damp conditions.
Use acid-free storage products and never store in plastic, cardboard boxes or in damp conditions.
These are suggested care and storage tips. For more detailed instructions, refer to the directions below. If you are unsure about your quilt, or if the quilt is a delicate heirloom, contact a professional quilt conservationist.

Washing a quilt

Antique quilts

  • Do not wash antique quilts. The agitation could tear the intricate stitching and make old dyes run. If there is any writing on the quilt, it could wash it off.

Newer quilts

  • Bed quilts that are machine quilted - These can be washed in a machine, using a mild detergent, in cold water, and on the most gentle cycle. Keep in mind that the more the quilt gets washed, the more faded and puckered it becomes. Washing in a machine significantly reduces the life of a quilt. Tumble dry on the lowest dryer setting or lay flat to dry.
  • Bed quilts that are hand quilted - Do not machine wash the quilt. Instead, hand wash in a large tub using gentle detergent. Do not wring the water out of the quilt, let it drain out slowly. Lay flat to dry.
  • Wall Quilts - Do not wash wall quilts. The agitation ruins the stitching and design. It also causes puckering and fading.

Dry Cleaning Quilts

All quilts

  • Do not dry clean quilts. The chemicals used during the process could damage the fibers and ruin the colors.

Example of Fabric Bleeding

This quilt was spot cleaned and the red fabric ran when it got wet.  Look at the white fabric along the diagonal seam to see where the fabric bled.
This quilt was spot cleaned and the red fabric ran when it got wet. Look at the white fabric along the diagonal seam to see where the fabric bled. | Source

Spot Cleaning Quilts

Antique Quilts

  • Many old quilts have brown stains or other spots on them. Unless they really bother you, leave them. Even spot cleaning can remove color that you do not want removed. If there are spots that you would like to remove, use a very small amount of a mild cleanser and gently rub the area with a white soft cloth. Use extreme care when doing this.

Newer Quilts

  • Bed Quilts - If you prefer not to wash the entire quilt, spot cleaning can be done. Using a small amount of gentle detergent, use a damp white cloth and gently wipe the spot away. Lay the quilt flat to dry. Use care, as fabric colors may run and stain other parts of the quilt.
  • Wall Quilts - Only spot clean when absolutely necessary. If there are spots that you would like to clean, use a very small amount of a mild cleanser and gently rub the area with a white soft cloth. Use caution, as fabric colors may run and stain other parts of the quilt.

Vacuuming quilts

Antique Quilts

  • The only recommended method to clean antique quilts is vacuuming the dust off, and only if the quilt is not already damaged or has embellishments that may come off. Never shake or pound an heirloom quilt as this will damage the stitching.

Newer Quilts

  • Bed Quilts - Because newer bed quilts can be washed with care, they do not need to be vacuumed. There are cases when you may want to vacuum the bed quilt, namely if it does not get washed or is a highly valued piece.
  • Wall Quilts - The only method I recommend is vacuuming the dust off, and only if the quilt is not already damaged or has embellishments that may come off. Never shake or pound a wall quilt as this will damage the stitching.

How to vacuum a quilt

Vacuuming a quilt is easy, but it should be done with caution. Do not vacuum a quilt that is frayed or that has loose embellishments. These instructions are for both old and new quilts, but always keep in mind that antique quilts are extremely fragile. Extra care should be used when vacuuming them.

  1. Cover the brush nozzle of your vacuum cleaner with cheesecloth or old pantyhose, using a rubberband to secure it to the handle.
  2. Lay the quilt flat on a bed or on a clean sheet on the floor.
  3. Holding the brush about 1 to 2 inches away from the quilt surface, run the vacuum across the quilt. Do not place the vacuum brush directly on the quilt surface.

Repairing a quilt

Embroidered quilt in need of some repairs.
Embroidered quilt in need of some repairs. | Source

Antique Quilts

  • Unless you are skilled at sewing and are familiar with fabric restoration, it is best not to try to repair an antique quilt. Find a skilled conservationist or restorer in your area.

Newer Quilts

  • Bed and wall quilts - If you are able, using a needle and thread, carefully mend the torn area. If a larger area needs to be repaired, use matching fabric to fix the area. Another option would be to get in touch with the original quilt maker and have them make the repair. A quilt restorer can also be contacted.

Displaying a quilt

Antique quilt with damage from adhesive tape used to hang the quilt.  The tape was removed but the glue remained, as well as the tear that occurred when removing the tape.
Antique quilt with damage from adhesive tape used to hang the quilt. The tape was removed but the glue remained, as well as the tear that occurred when removing the tape. | Source

Handling a quilt

Antique Quilts

  • Try not to handle an antique quilt too often. The dirt and oils on your hands damage the old fibers. Use white cotton gloves when possible.

Newer Quilts

  • Bed Quilts - Many quilts made today for use on beds can be handled like other bed coverings. Be careful not to leave them in direct sunlight and do not over wash.
  • Wall Quilts - Use care when handling wall quilts. Many pieces have embellishments and intricate stitching that is easily broken.

Quilt faded by sunlight

Wall quilt faded by sunlight.
Wall quilt faded by sunlight. | Source

Antique Quilts

  • Use care when displaying an antique quilt. Never display in direct sunlight or where children or animals will come in contact with it. Never hang an antique quilt, as the fabric and stitching will pull and tear.

Newer Quilts

  • Bed Quilts - Modern bed quilts can be displayed many different ways. Use care to keep them out of direct sunlight. It is not recommended to hang large quilts because the weight may tear the stitching or fabric over time.
  • Wall Quilts - Quilts made for walls should have a sleeve to hang them or another option. Never display the quilt in direct sunlight. Never use something where glue is needed to adhere it to the back of the quilt, like velcro. Removing it will tear the fabric and leave glue residue.

Storing Quilts

In an ideal world, quilts should be stored on an extra bed, laid flat on top of a clean sheet, with a clean bedspread on top to cover it. However, if that is not an option then there are other storage methods.

  • Store in acid-free boxes.
  • Wrap around acid-free cardboard tubes and then store in closet.
  • Store folded quilts in a closet, padding the quilt folds with acid-free paper.
  • If storing numerous folded quilts on a shelf, do not stack too many on top of each other as the weight may cause permanent creases.
  • Bring your quilts out every 6 months, checking for damage and refolding. This ensures that there will be no permanent creasing.
  • NEVER store quilts in plastic bags or plastic containers. Some of the chemicals used can destroy fabrics.
  • NEVER store quilts in cardboard boxes. These boxes have chemicals in them that could destroy quilts.
  • NEVER store a quilt if it is damp. It will get mildew and be ruined.
  • Do not to store your quilt in an attic or damp basement. Humidity can damage a quilt.
  • If storing your quilt in a wooden trunk, wrap in acid-free paper. The wood may contain chemicals that could be harmful to your quilt.

Quilts stored in a closet.
Quilts stored in a closet. | Source

All quilts are heirlooms

Quilts are special treasures and should be treated with tender loving care. Made by grandmothers, mothers, friends or maybe a famous artist, many hours were spent making it.

Older pieces not only have sentimental value, they may have historical and significant monetary value as well. Newer quilts are made with just as much care as antiques, only with different methods, and need to be treated just as carefully.

By following the care and storage tips provided here, your beautiful quilts will be able to be passed on to the next generation and hopefully people will enjoy them for many years to come.

Resources and quilt care books available

© 2012 Glimmer Twin Fan

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great information my friend! I think I mentioned before that I have one quilt from my grandmother....the thing must be eighty years old. This hub is quite useful so thank you!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
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      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks so much Bill. Take care of that quilt. They really are special. Thanks also for always commenting on my hubs. I really appreciate the support!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      Great information about the care of quilts. They can't be handled like blankets for sure! I store my quilts in pillowcases - this keeps them from fading in the sunlight and yet still lets them breathe. Voted up.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Perfect timing! My son and daughter are repacking my mother's quilts for me now. Thank you

    • Written Up profile image

      Written Up 4 years ago from Oklahoma City, OK

      I wish we still had my grandmother s quilts. She would make them from her kids outgrown clothes. They would have great sentimental value today.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Hi Millionaire - Pillowcases is another good method and you are right, they definitely need special care. Thanks for commenting!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Hi mhatter - It's nice that you are keeping your mother's quilts and keeping them in good condition. The quilt in the top photo is my husband's great grandmothers so I don't take it out too often. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
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      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Written up - Those would have been really sentimental. It's always fun to see what old fabrics look like. Until I started quilting 20 plus years ago I never gave quilt care much thought, then I realized how special the pieces are. I appreciate the comments.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Your quilt storage chart is so thorough - well done! This hub is full of useful content and I am happy to vote up.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Antique quilts are so precious. We have one that's in such bad condition but we love it anyway. We've had to replace a lot of the patches with newer materials but we don't mind. LOved your hub, looks lovely and your suggestions will save many quilts. Let's hope that lots of quilt owners read all about how to care for them here.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
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      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks so much ChristyWrites! I appreciate the support.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      I appreciate it GoodLady. I hope this will save some quilts. There are so many amazing ones out there and some tell us so much about history. Glad you are taking care of yours!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      You've just saved my wall hanging quilt from a terrible fate ... the washing machine! I will hang it and beat it instead.

      Great information Glimmer, information that you don't find in too many places.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
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      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks tillsontitan! Don't hang it or beat it either. Just vacuum it carefully. I'm glad you found the hub helpful!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Lovely post. I think your quilts are beautiful.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thank you teaches! I appreciate it. I love our old quilts and my new ones too.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very useful tips! The olden quilts have a lot of intricate and sometimes delicate artwork done on them. Your hub will be very useful for those who have these heirlooms or the recent ones too.

      Voted up and useful.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks rajan! I would love to see some quilts from India. I'm glad you found the hub useful.

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 4 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      Great hub. I've got a crazy quilt that was made by my great aunt in 1895. It is a treasure for me, that I will pass to my granddaughter. Thanks for sharing all the info.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Congratulations on hub of the day on this beautiful Christmas Day. Great information about quilt care and storage. I don't store mine...I keep them out as I like to see them every day.

      My sister just gave me a new one...for Christmas...I just added it to my hub on the Grinch quilt in which I had showcased your quilting last December. Again, great job. Merry Christmas to you and yours Sending Angels to you ...:) ps

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
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      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks so much cloverleaffarm! - It's nice and quiet in the house right now before my daughter wakes up and sees what Santa brought. I hope this info helps you and thank you for the comments.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      Congratulations on HOTD! I love this hub!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thank you so much pstraubie! It was a nice Christmas gift for me this morning and I still have a few minutes until my daughter wakes up to see what Santa left her so I turned on the computer to see this.

      I appreciate all of your support and hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas too.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
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      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Hi vespawoolf. Thanks so much! I really appreciate your support and I'm glad you like the hub.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      We had an old hand made quilt from my husband's side of the family and passed it on to his uncle who has kids. Will pass this information on to them as to how to properly care for it. Wish I had known this earlier as for years I kept it in a plastic box. When I looked at it before passing it on...it did look OK...so hopefully it will be good for many years to come. Up, useful and interersting votes and will share so that others can learn how to properly care for their family heirloom quilts.

    • Vanderleelie profile image

      Vanderleelie 4 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

      I have a collection of modern hand sewn quilts which I use for everyday bedding. This hub offers lots of great tips for proper care and maintenance of these textiles. Well-written and useful!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      Congratulations on hub of the day. Very good information for story quilts. I my grandma's old quilt. Voted up.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      I appreciate the support Peggy W. I'm glad the quilt still looked ok when you gave it to them. Some people pack a quilt away and forget about it. If it is even slightly damp, the plastic doesn't allow the quilt to dry and mold could develop. Thanks for reading and enjoying the hub.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
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      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thank you for commenting Vanderleelie. I love to hear when people have quilts. They are so special and I am glad you found the hub useful.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks very much moonlake! Take care of your grandma's quilt. The old ones are some of my favorites!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Congratulations on the Hub of the Day, and Merry Christmas!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks so much Bill! Merry Christmas to you and Bev too!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      Congrats on HOTD! I have a quilt that my classmates and I made in high school (that was a long time ago). I want to preserve it, so I will take your advice.

      I voted this UP, etc.etc.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 4 years ago from Norfolk

      Thank you for sharing this info. I recently acquired a very beautiful quilt which was made as a wedding present over thirty years ago for someone. I had begun to wonder what might be the safest way to clean it when necessary.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 4 years ago from New Jersey

      This is great information. It certainly makes sense to protect someone's hard work properly. Thanks for sharing.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Excellent tricks of the trade Glimmer! Congrats on your HOTD!

    • expertscolumn profile image

      Stanley Soman 4 years ago from New York

      is there a market for antique quilts? If so how old do they have to be to be "valuable"?

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Vicki L Hodges 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Very useful hub. You packed a lot of information into this hub--beautifully! Very attractive article. Well done and deserving of Hub of the Day. Congrats and Merry Christmas!!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thank you so much Mary! Definitely take care of that special quilt you have from school. Those kind of quilts are really specials. I appreciate the support.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      sallybea - I appreciate the comments and I am glad you found the hub useful. I really think it's important to take care of keepsakes.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks Stephanie! Sometimes it's easy to forget treasures we put away in boxes, but like you said, it makes sense to take of these things. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
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      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thanks so much for your comments Sunshine! Hope you had a great Christmas.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      expertscolumn - There is definitely a market for antique/older quilts. Prices depend on so many things, like age a condition. There really is not a defined age for an antique, certainly anything from the 1940s and earlier. However newer quilts can also be worth some money too. Thank you for commenting.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
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      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Merry Christmas to you Victoria Lynn! Thank you for your kind comments.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Used to keep one given by my Great Grandma! Quilts are such heirlooms,

      and I remember how warm it was. We had to throw it away when it got too torn. Thanks for sharing and congrats on a great HOTD, detailed, interesting and well-written.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      What a neat gift for you on Christmas Day--congrats on your Hub of the Day award for your interesting and helpful hub!

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 4 years ago from Spain

      Hi Glimmer. This is such an informative hub it deserves HOTD. I love quilts and have just been given a shop bought one, now I know how to care for it. Thanks for great info :)

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      I'm sorry to hear that you had to throw your Great Grandma's quilt away. It is always a shame to have to do that. I'm glad you enjoyed this hub midget38 and thanks so much for commenting!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
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      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      RTalloni - It was a neat gift. Thanks so much for reading and the comments.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
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      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Thank you so much bac2basics! I hope the tips come in handy for your new quilt.

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 2 years ago

      I am afraid I have violated some quilt care rules -- need to keep them in mind with what is still in my possession.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image
      Author

      Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago

      Hi KarenTBTEN - I made lots of mistakes before I started quilting 20 something years ago. I hope my article helps you out with your quilts. Thanks for commenting and reading.

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