Cleaning a Handmade Quilt

Dear Donia,
How do I clean an old handmade quilt?

Thomas Jefferson letter

Q. Dear Donia,

I have a handmade quilt that is dirty from being hung on a wall for many years. Each quilt block was made by a different person so a variety of materials were used, including signatures written in ink and puffy craft glue. What is the best way to clean the quilt without damaging any of the quilt blocks? I plan to store it in an archival box afterwards. Thanks, Catherine

A. Dear Catherine,

What a wonderful keepsake to have and a common problem when we display the things we love.

The best way to clean quilts is to use a vacuum cleaner rather than your washing machine. Briefly, use a vacuum cleaner with suction control and set the suction to low so you don't accidentally suck up the fabric. You can either use the brush attachment or you can use a soft-bristled paintbrush to direct the dust and grime into the nozzle. For a more full account of how to vacuum your quilt, you can refer to the ALCTS Preservation Week webinar "Caring for Textiles" from 2017. (Preservation Week: Caring for Your Textiles) The recording of the webinar is there along with all the handouts including one specifically on vacuuming, as well as one on quilt storage and handling. 

If you have any further questions, be sure to ask.