Always remember and respect the hours of work that went into the making your quilt. To assure long life for your quilt, proper care is essential.
Wash or Dry Clean?
Most quilt lovers prefer to wash rather than dry clean their quilts. But some quilts can not be safely washed. If a quilt has loose lace or puffy applique work, machine washing is very risky and the quilt should be professionally dry cleaned. Also, while all of the fabrics used in quilts are supposed to be color fast, sometimes a fabric that will run is mistakenly used. Look out for fully saturated dark colored fabrics and hand-dyed ones as they the ones are most likely to run. Before washing, test the suspect fabric by rubbing it with a piece of white cotton moistened with very hot water. If the color transfers to the white cotton, don't wash the quilt -- even in cold water. Instead, get the quilt professionally dry cleaned. If you must dry clean your quilt be sure to air it (outside if possible) before using it.
It is generally fine to wash your quilt in a home washing machine, though for a very large quilt you may need a commercial size machine. To wash a quilt, use cold water and a mild detergent(that is free of perfumes, brightners, and bleach). Run the machine on a short gentle cycle. To keep the colors bright, add half a cup of vinegar to the wash cycle.
Quilts are heavy when wet. Try to support its wet weight so that the threads don't pop. It is OK to partially dry a quilt in a dryer, but it is best to lay a quilt flat on rack to dry. Some people like to finish drying their quilt out on the grass on a sunny day! Do not iron your quilt.
Washing or dry cleaning a soiled quilt will extend its life; washing or dry cleaning a clean quilt will shorten its life. Quilts that are used every day normally only need washing once a year. But if you have pets or children, more frequent washing may be desirable. Airing quilts (on a drying rack outside) between washings is a good practice.
On a new quilt you may note white or gray lines running through the quilting. These quilting markings are part of the process quilters use here to make sure the quilting is properly applied to the quilt. If a line is white, it is probably chalk and can be brushed off or easily removed with a damp cloth. Also the first time your quilt is washed or dry cleaned the chalk marks will disappear. If the lines are gray they were probably made with a pencil and can be removed with a gum eraser. Quilting marking is part of the craft of Lancaster quilts.
When not in use your quilt should be stored in a dry, dark location in a cotton or muslin bag -- never store your quilt in a plastic bag or cardboard box. For wall hangings a cotton pillow case should be used. Be sure the quilt is clean before you store it away. Every other month or so it is a good idea to take the quilt out and refold it another way before putting it back in the bag. When you take your quilt out of storage, air it out. Lay it on the grass and let the sun penetrate it, or tumble it in a cool dryer for a short time.
Before washing or dry cleaning your quilt it is wise to inspect your quilt for seams that have come loose and repair them prior to the washing or dry cleaning.