Many people adore and collect antique quilts. The items are often fragile so owners look for ways to freshen the quilt without placing it in danger of damage. Other people store quilts through the summer season and then bring out the quilt in the winter when the nights begin to grow cool. After storage in a chest, my quilts are in need of a simple freshening without a full laundering.
Dry cleaning has long been accepted as a way to safely have fragile items cleaned but with a historic quilt the dry cleaning process can actually damage the quilt and its colors. The chemicals used in dry cleaning are extremely harsh and even if the quilt does not show immediate damage it can lessen its overall life and look. Consider taking the quilt to a professional textile restorer and cleaner in the area if the quilt is extremely old.
1) Hang the quilts outside and allow them to air out. A gentle breeze will help remove all dust and debris that have accumulated within the quilts fibers. The sunlight and the air help to give the quilt a fresh crisp scent.
2) Quilts that are delicate or fragile should not be allowed to blow in the breeze on the line. Lay a clean sheet on the ground and lay the quilt on top of it. Turn the quilt in the sunlight and allow it to air out in this way.
3) Roll the quilt using a lint roller to remove any excessive hair or fibers that might have accumulated on the fabric.
4) If you feel safe using a vacuum on the quilt then consider doing this on a low setting to remove any excessive hair or fiber buildup.
5) Dry cleaning product. There are numerous dry cleaners on the market that can be sprinkled onto the quilt and then gently vacuumed off. These cleaners protect the color fastness of the quilt and do not harm most fabrics in any way.
6) If you feel safe and confident about washing the quilt using water then try do it by hand instead of in the washing machine. The spin cycle can often destroy delicately stitched handmade quilts. Fill a large tub with warm water and use a very delicate soap. Work the quilt into the water and then gently wring dry. Either lay flat in the sun to dry or dry on a line.
7) Sodium perborate works successfully at lifting certain brown age stains from a quilt. Follow the directions on the label of the product that contains the chemical carefully before applying. It comes in a powder that can be mixed into a paste or you can buy it as a prepared paste. The prepared paste is often easier to utilize.