Washing Fabric and Quilts

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Last Updated June 04, 2018

Washing fabric and quilts before piecing and using is something I do every time I make a quilt. When I first started quilting, I washed all the dark fabrics before I started piecing the quilt. Later, as fabrics and dyes got better, I stopped the washing. There were a few times when fabrics would bleed after the finished quilt was washed. Some of these I was able to catch and re-wash before putting the quilt in the dryer. Some I was not. Additionally, it was pretty random which fabrics or colors would bleed. One I remember that didn't get caught before the dryer was a medium pink fabric from a reputable manufacturer.

Washing Fabric Before Piecing

I managed to keep these mishaps under control until several years ago. I made one of my bucket list quilts using the Snails Trail quilt block.

washing fabric and quilts before piecing and using

None of the fabrics were washed before piecing. One of the hand dyed batiks bled all over it.

washing fabric and quilts after bleeding colors
I washed that quilt about 10 times….really! Each time I tried something different someone suggested. Since that happened, I wash every piece of fabric before using it. I don't care if it's from the most respected fabric manufacturer or not. This is not going to happen to me again.

Washing Quilts Before Giving or Using

I give away most of my quilts. Because I make a lot of quilts, there's not enough room in my house for them all. I like the wrinkled look of washed quilts. After making Quilts of Valor, I wash all my quilts before using them or giving them away.

The fabric is washed and shrunk, but the batting is not. Washing the finished quilt before giving it away means there are no surprises when the recipient washes their quilt.

I recommend washing fabric and quilts before piecing and using. I don't have any surprises once all the work is done. If a fabric happens to bleed, it doesn't get used in the quilt. People who receive my quilts aren't surprised when they wash their quilt.

Washing Fabric and Quilts

I don't use any special detergent or soap when washing fabric or quilts. Here is what I do:

  • I use regular detergent for clothing
  • Use cold water
  • Use a color catching product such as Shout Color Catcher or Breezy. I use both of these.
  • If you have an efficiency type washer, use the Deep Water Wash function. This adds more water and allows the excess dye to dilute and the color catcher to do a better job.
  • After washing, inspect the fabric or quilt before putting it in the dryer. Heat from the dryer will set the dye and it might not come out after drying.


For more information on quilting fabric read the article Quilting Fabric Terms.

For information about washing yardage, read What To Do With Lots of Yardage

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