Do I need to wear white gloves to touch my antique quilt?
While it is not necessary to wear white gloves to touch your own quilts, it is wise to take some precautions in handling your quilts to keep them from becoming soiled. Here are some basic tips:
Wash hands; remove sharp jewelry and tie back long hair before handling textiles.
Do not smoke, eat or drink around textiles.
Keep quilts on clean dry surfaces.
Do not place textiles directly on, in or next to cardboard, unsealed wood or non-rag (acidic) paper.
Do I need to use acid free paper or boxes to store my quilts?
Quilt storage doesn’t need to be expensive, while you can use acid free paper or boxes, you can also use clean cotton sheets or washed, unbleached muslin are excellent to protect and store quilts in.
Where is the best place to store my quilt?
Store textiles in a dark, dry place. Attics, basements and garages should be avoided. Avoid any storage area that is exposed to extremes in temperatures.
KEEP QUILTS OUT OF DIRECT SUNLIGHT. The ultra-violet rays in daylight and fluorescent light break down fabric dyes and speed up the oxidation of fibers.
Keep textiles away from insects, mice and other vermin. (Do not use moth crystals when there is insect infestation)
Quilts can be stored flat, folded or rolled around full-length wooden dowels or cardboard tubing. If space is at a premium or if your quilts contain thick stuffed work, the folded method of storage is preferable. Don’t stack too many folded quilts on top of each other or else the weight of all the quilts will create creases that are hard or impossible to get out. For the same reason, unfold and refold your quilts periodically to avoid severe creasing. It is recommended to use muslin tubes or pantyhose stuffed with batting in the fold areas to protect the fibers from creasing.
Can’t I store textiles in plastic bags?
No! Plastics should NEVER be used for storage. They contain harmful vapors, which contribute to the deterioration of the fabrics. Plastics that are particularly harmful: dry cleaner’s bags, heavy-duty garbage bags, garment bags and Styrofoam.
Can I keep my quilts in a cedar chest?
Cedar, along with other woods, secretes oils that can damage fabric. If you must keep your quilts in a wooden container, it should be sealed with aprotective coating of polyurethane varnish, then lined with unbleached, washed muslin or acid-free paper. Metal containers should also be lined with this muslin or paper.
I have some old quilt blocks that are stored in a shoe box, is that safe?
Newspapers and cardboard boxes are NOT OKAY because they are full of harmful decaying agents. Just remember how your newspaper ages after only a few weeks. Contact of these items with your quilts will cause harm.
Can I use one of the new fabric-refresher sprays on my quilts?
They do not appear to cause any harm, but you need to test the color fastness of your fabrics before you spray anything “wet” on them.
My quilt has smoke and/or water damage - what do I do?
There are three levels of damage that occur with textiles from smoke. First, there is the particulate matter that occurs from the burning—the smoke, soot and ashes. In addition to soiling the quilts, the acidity level of the fabrics becomes dangerously high. Second, the water used to extinguish the fires often saturates the now dirty quilt. Last, there is often cross-contamination, more ashes as things are moved around, mud from people walking through the area.
What is the first thing to do?
The best thing to do is to immediately place the damaged quilt in plastic and put it into a deep freeze. Do not allow the quilt to dry, keep it wet - in a bathtub if necessary - until you can find a large freezer to place it in.
The next step is to contact a Textile Conservator. You can check with the American Institute of Conservators (AIC) for a local listing. This specialist can then determine the proper course of action for your quilt. It may be wet and dry cleaned; placed in an ozone chamber, or carefully washed on a flat screen.
More information is available through AIC at
1717 K Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20006
My quilt smells musty, should I wash it?
First of all, is it really dirty or does it just need to air? To air a quilt, lay the quilt on a clean sheet on top of some green grass. Protect the quilt with another sheet and let the chlorophyl from the grass deodorize the quilt.
Should I wash an antique quilt?
DO NOT WASH YOUR QUILT IF it contains the following: inked signatures, a dye that appears unstable, fabrics that are seriously deteriorated, glazed or silk fabrics, the use of woolen yarns.
All quilts should be cleaned with care. Often vacuuming is enough to clean the surface of the quilt. Lay the quilt out on a large, clean surface. Place a fiberglass screen over it. Then gently pass a low-suction, hand-held vacuum with a small brush attachment over the quilt. Washing a quilt should only be done with great caution. It is not recommended if your quilt has any holes weak spots in the fabrics, unknown fabrics or appears to never have been washed. If any of these conditions are apparent, consult a professional quilt restorationist before cleaning.
How do I go about washing an antique quilt?
If your quilt is new or is in very sturdy condition, the following wet-cleaning method is recommended.
Use a very mild detergent such as Orvis, Quilt Soap or All Free & Clear following the directions on the bottle.
Use a container large enough to accommodate the entire quilt at one time, such as the bathtub.
Place a clean white sheet in the tub first, and then lay the quilt in on top of the sheet.
Do not agitate the quilt in the water.
If you choose to use the tub of the washing machine as a container for washing the quilt, do not let the quilt agitate, simply fill and empty the water
Rinse by pressing down on the quilt with the palm of your hand, towels or with a cellulose sponge.
Remove excess water by pressing gently with clean white toweling or mattress padding.
Remove from tub by lifting on the sheet under the quilt. DO NOT LIFT A WET QUILT
Lay flat to dry on a clean, non-porous surface.
Never press with a hot iron
NEVER PUT IN A WASHING MACHINE AND DRYER as though it were ordinary bed linen.
Can I take a quilt to the dry cleaners?
Dry cleaning is NOT RECOMMENDED because the dry cleaning method involves rough agitation of the quilt inside the dry cleaning machine and the dry cleaning solvents may harm some fabrics.
Can I hang my quilt for display?
If you want to hang your quilt, there are several accepted safe methods:
Sleeve Method: Sew a 3-inch wide unbleached muslin sleeve along the whole width of the top edge of the quilt. Make sure that the stitches go through all three layers of the quilt. Insert a _ or 1 inch wooden dowel (sealed with polyurethane varnish) through the sleeve and hang the dowel on the wall or from the ceiling.
If the quilt will be hanging for extended periods of time, sew a sleeve on the opposite end so that the quilt can be hung from that end also.
Mounting Method: The most protective way is to mount the quilt on a fabric-covered wooden framework. First stretch a piece of washed cotton cloth to a sealed wooden framework (similar to a support for an artist’s canvas). Both the cloth and the framework should be larger than the quilt itself. Secure the cotton cloth to the back of the frame with rust-free staples. Attach the quilt to the cotton cloth by hand sewing in zig-zag patterns which run parallel to each other throughout the body of the quilt. A piece of Plexiglas could be used to cover the quilt as long as it does not rest against the quilt surface.
NEVER hang a quilt up with clip-on metal curtain hangers. The weight of the quilt gradually creates small tears where it is clipped.
NEVER hang a quilt by directly tacking, stapling or nailing it to the wall.
NEVER hang a quilt in direct sunlight.
Rest the quilt every six months by hanging from the opposite end or putting another quilt in its place.
Should I put a label on the quilt?
Part of maintaining good care of your quilt involved keeping with it any information you have (such as maker’s name, date, pattern name and any other special information). This information could be typed or written with waterproof ink on a piece of muslin and loosely basted on to the quilt.