Cleaning Your Vintage / Antique Quilt
- Posted by Luv2LuvAntiques on February 20, 2009
This lovely 1930s feedsack postage stamp quilt can be seen at BlackRain4's Vintage & Antique Shop at Etsy!,
I have been told how to clean linens by experts. A lady I know locally, who is a quilt expert, gives appraisals of vintage/antique quilts. I was talking to her about cleaning quilts. Also, I'm a member of the Vintage Tablecloth Lovers Club; I've learned alot from them about cleaning and storing other textiles. (Some of the members have written books about vintage/antique linens.) I've cleaned many tablecloths, blankets, bedspreads, towels, aprons, pillowcases, doilies, lace, vintage clothing, (damask, Quaker Lace, chenille, barkcloth, etc.) I've even cleaned a vintage lampshade with Biz solution.
Please stop putting quilts in your washer with oxyclean, and the dryer, with all that heat and tumbling! You cannot wring or twist the material. Oxyclean will eat holes in alot of vintage/antique fabric. I've seen some sellers online recommend bleach for spot removal...it will eat holes and make white areas, removing the dyes! A professional dry cleaning also may harm a quilt. The chemicals and pressing...!!! You are literally "killing the quilts with kindness"!
Textile museums have a quilt bath, like a long trough, that washes and rinses, without twisting, or squeezing the fabric, and then the quilt drains and dries.
Cleaning a vintage/antique quilt:
Clean your bath tub really well, and rinse all the cleaner out with hot water. Lay clean towels on the bottom of the tub, and lay the quilt on the towels. A bed sheet may work better for you. Then fill your tub with warm water. (Don't let the water run directly on the quilt, as the force may cause holes! Don't use hot water in case the colors run...if they do run, immediately put the quilt in cold water.) Let it soak in plain water for a while, for the old soap and alot of dirt to come out. Then empty the bath tub, letting the water drain from the quilt for a while. You gently roll the quilt up in the towels, removing it from the tub. (Have a garbage bag on the floor to sit it in, as it will be soaking wet.)
If you've found the colors to be colorfast, you can try a bit warmer water temperature in the tub. Put Arm & Hammer Detergent in the water, mixing well. (Arm & Hammer has the baking soda to get rid of odors and it really removes stains well! I've used it on many fragile vintage/antique linens.) Unroll the quilt gently, placing it in the tub, still on top of the towels. (Never lift up on the wet quilt itself, as it may tear.) Let the quilt soak for a few hours. (You can move it around a few times inbetween, very gently.) Then drain the water and rinse the quilt well, several times until the water runs clear. Let the quilt drain for awhile, and then roll it up in the towels, remove it from the tub to sit on the floor in the garbage bag again. You could try repeating these steps if the quilt is really dirty.
Then put water in the tub, with as warm a temperature as the quilt will tolerate. Mix in a quilt cleaning mixture that will soak out more stains. (Quilters have mentioned "Restoration" that you can purchase online. I was able to buy a quilt soak powder in town here.) Then unroll the quilt laying it on the towels, in the bath tub again. Let it soak for hours. Then you do the draining, rinsing and draining steps over and over, until the water runs clear.Vintage fabric experts say to lay the wet quilt directly on the grass in the yard in the sun to dry. The natural oxygenation process of the grass (chlorophyl in the grass), and sun will help remove stains also. This is called "sun crofting". (If you have dogs, like I do, you can lay the quilt on towels on a table to dry in the sun. That's the second choice.)
It is alot of work, but the quilt will have minimal damage, unless it has dry rot. You will preserve the quilt, as leaving it dirty, with increasing storage stains, will continue to break down the fabric. If you have rust, it will oxidize and spread over a larger area, literally eating holes in the fabric.
You can then display your quilt on a quilt rack, chair, or bed. In lieu of a window curtain, you could hang your quilt over a curtain rod, with a heavy window shade behind (to keep the sun off the quilt to prevent fading). This will really beautify a room! If you want to store the quilt, wrap it in unbleached muslin, to prevent storage stains. (After you buy the new muslin wash it with Arm & Hammer Detergent in your machine, rinsing the soap out well, before you dry it.)
Per Hart Cottage Quilts online site:
"Please don’t dry-clean a vintage or antique quilt. And keep it away from the dryer!
You can do this to all but the most delicate quilts:
Pick a nice breezy day for this. Buy some fiberglass screen (this is the kind modern window screens are made of). Cut a manageable piece, say 18" square or so, and cover the edges with masking tape so you don’t snag yourself or the quilt. Lay the quilt down on your carpet, put the screen over it, and use your vacuum cleaner’s dusting attachment to suck out dust from the quilt through the screen. You will be amazed at the difference this can make.
Then move the quilt outdoors. Lay it on a sheet in the shade, or (if it’s sturdy) drape it over a sheet-covered rail fence (no pickets!) or a couple of clotheslines spaced a few feet apart so the weight is evenly distributed and the quilt isn’t flapping around, and let it snooze in the fresh air for the day. No Febreze or other "freshening" sprays, please. We don’t yet know their long-term effect on fabrics, especially antique ones."
I have a vintage hand tied quilt that is wool and cotton corduroy, so I would not wash it. Experts say to forget the dry cleaners...they will ruin it! If using it on a bed, make sure a top sheet turns down over the top of the quilt. Do not sit directly on the quilt when sitting on the side of the bed...turn it back and sit on the sheet. Place a smaller blanket, or throw, at the foot of the bed, for your pet cat or dog. (My little dog likes his own towel at the foot, and can still sleep with me!) You may use a lint roller to remove loose lint or hair (the type with the tear off sheets on the handled roller).
I hope you will use this information, and pass it along to others, so more vintage quilts are preserved.
Take care, Diane (www.etsy.com/shop/blackrain4) (www.bonanza.com/booths/luv2luvantiques)
My main website: www.Luv2LuvAntiques.com
I'm a member of www.vintagetableclothsclub.com
The information you provide will come in handy for some of those quilts of mine. I know Oxyclean has ruined many things of mine with elastic.
There was a question as to what I actually bought. They sold it as a tablecloth. I thought it looked like an antique crochet coverlet. The lady felt it would clean up nice with lemon juice and water. Have you ever heard that before?
I temporarily placed it on the bed for pictures. Still needs a good cleaning. Very heavy piece!