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How to Care for Quilts


Whether you want to preserve your special handmade quilts or simply have them last a long time, take these precautions to prevent wear and tear

You have quilts that are used every day and others that you want to keep in good shape for generations. Even those that are special deserve to be displayed from time to time. Whether storing, displaying, or using, over time your quilts will begin to feel the effects of time.

First, optimum temperature and humidity conditions may not be possible for most of us. However, if possible, keep fluctuations to a minimum with regard to both moisture and temps. The ideal temperature range is between 60 and 70 degrees with humidity no less than 45% and no more than 60%. Air circulation will prevent mildew formation.

"Tendering" is the result of too much fluctuation in which cotton fibers lose their strength and begin to crumble.

Insects can do considerable damage; mothballs and cedar are no guarantee that infestations won't happen. Carpet beetles are another problem if left untreated. You should gently unfold and shake your quilts often and inspect closely for any future problems. Do not refold quilts exactly as they came out; rotating the fold lines will reduce uneven wear for stored items.

Keep your quilts clean. You can vacuum them if they are lying flat. Some experts state that you can put a quilt in the washing machine. But let it soak and then use your hands as an agitator to remove grime. You should not put quilts in the dryer; rather, let them dry outdoors and flat if possible. Always support a wet quilt; its heaviness will pull on the fibers. Heirloom quilts should not be cleaned at home. You can, however, air them out a few times annually.

Light is also your enemy, whether from natural or fluorescent sources. Protect your quilts from direct sunlight and use filters over any fluorescents.

If you can, store special quilts lying flat on an unused bed under a protective layer, such as a comforter. You can also purchase acid-free boxes and paper to further protect quilts that you wish to store.

As always, consult a professional for the latest advice on how to care for valuable quilts.


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