In Defence of Pre-washing

The debate about pre-washing quilt fabric rages on in the blogosphere and I’m sure most of us will hold on to whatever we believe to be correct. We’re people, and that’s what people do.

This post provides evidence for what I believe to be correct. How can you go wrong with an evidence-based approach?

The batik strips in the photo below are some of the more intensely coloured strips from the Robert Kaufman Artisan Batiks Spring Garden Roll-up (aka jelly roll, but I’m guessing Moda holds the copyright on that term so no other manufacturer can use it.) See the water in the basin? It’s blue tinged. The photo doesn’t show it as clearly as I would like but take it from me, that water is BLUE. Sufficient evidence for me to keep pre-washing.

Jelly roll strips being hand-rinsed in a wash basin

That water is BLUE(ish)

My observation is that water temperature makes a bigger difference on colour runs than the absence or presence of laundry soap (I used Sard laundry soap) but I didn’t do a controlled study so I guess I’ll have to claim that as anecdotal. For the record, in this photo the water was as warm as I could stand with bare hands.

I don’t know how the recipient will launder the quilt so my theory is I will minimise the risk of colour runs by pre-washing.

I don’t starch. Never will. I try to avoid heavily scented cleaning products and spray starch falls into that category most times, I find. Strong floral scents can be aggravating, especially at this time of year when half the population is suffering pollen allergies. Many of us get a bit sneezy at this time of year when the north winds blow pollens down from the desert.

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11 responses to “In Defence of Pre-washing

  1. I’m wondering why you used water as hot as your hands could stand. I doubt anyone would wash a quilt in hot water (or at least I don’t think so).
    People do strange things, though. I made a quilt for a lady and one day I saw it on her clothesline really whipping in the wind. I wanted to cry but gritted my teeth instead!

    • Alice I can assure you I wasn’t trying any kind of self-torture with the water temperature. I don’t do pain, or even mild discomfort, if I can help it. The water was warm not hot :-) As for drying techniques, I wonder which is harder on the quilt, a clothesline or a drier. I use neither – I have a drying rack that I place indoors.

  2. I’m with you – I pre-wash and don’t starch. I use the hottest water my poor old water heater will make and wash until there’s no color residue. I do the same with wool and yarn, too. It just makes sense – no surprises later.

    • I’m for no surprises, just like you. All that talk of water and wool has got me wondering – do you do felting? I did a short course in felting at a local adult education place a while back and quite enjoyed it though I was surprised at how physically demanding the rolling process was. I still use my hand felted hat in the winter (it doesn’t give me hat hair) and the green pixie slippers that I made.

  3. I don’t do much felting – felting of bags after knitting is all. It’s too much work and I would rather knit instead and let the washing machine do the hard stuff, though I quite admire felt artists.

  4. You’ll have to look back 7 (!!!) years to find this post – http://catmccall.blogspot.com/2004/11/welcome-to-new-week-yawn.html

    The bag is called Sophie and was a free download at one time but now can be found here – http://www.blacksheepbags.com/sophie_bag.html

    The design is clever and easy on big needles and is then felted down to the perfect size in the washing machine. Easy peasy ;-)

  5. I don’t pre-wash….at all. When finished I like to wash in cold water, on delicate, and either line dry or into the dryer it goes. I’ve never had any bleeding before.

    There is a product I know a lot of people use in their washer called Shout Color Catcher that supposedly traps the dyes in the wash water to protect against color bleeds. I’ve never used them…so I can’t personally say that they work or not.

    • Those colour catchers can be very handy. You’d be surprised what colour they sometimes turn in the wash. The run remover stuff also works well if you happen to have an accident. I had a near disaster when I pre-washed some quilting fabric along with a blue sleeping bag sheet. I had thought that as the sleeping bag sheet had been washed before it wouldn’t run, but it did. The run remover solved the problem and turned my quilting fabric back to its original colour, something I hadn’t been able to achieve through washing with normal detergent alone.

  6. hi – did you pre-wash the jelly roll strips? when i made Miss A’s quilt (using a Moda jelly roll), i was advised NOT to pre-wash the strips else they would become mis-shaped. so i didn’t… but i’m really worried that the red (quite strong on some of the strips) will run. xo

    • Yes, I do prewash jelly roll strips and the evidence so far tells me that’s a good idea. The reds, browns and some shades of blue seem to be the worst culprits for dye loss. Washing strips in a delicates bag in the washing machine makes them a bit hairy. A good swish in warm water with some laundry soap is less damaging. Last time, I popped the drying rack in the bath and let the strips drip dry there and there wasn’t any distortion. I did them in batches of similar colours do break the job down into manageable chunks.

      It might be a good idea to give Miss A’s parents a follow-up gift of some colour catchers. They’re available at Woolworths/Safeway in the laundry products section and they do seem to work at trapping any loose dye.

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