Your bedroom households serve many functions: bedspreads, comforters and blankets keep you warm in the winter months, duvets, shams and dust ruffles add decoration and handmade or antique quilts have a sentimental feeling. Unfortunately, these bedroom favorites are not covered by the Care Label Rule, and as a result, consumers may find caring for them difficult.

The first step in caring for your households is knowing what to look for when you purchase them:

  • Read all care instructions prior to purchase. Care instructions may be found on a temporary label, a hang tag, or on the packaging. After purchase, if the labels are on the packaging or are removed because they are scratchy or unsightly, it is best to keep them in your linen closet or laundry area.
  • If possible, make sure a bedspread has been preshrunk. Shrinkage of two or three percent can easily occur after cleaning if the fabric was not properly stabilized during manufacturing. This may cause the spread to not fit properly or appear much too small.
  • Make sure down or fiber-filled bedspreads and comforters are well-quilted. A comforter with poor construction and insufficient quilting can cause the down to shift, lose shape, or become matted. Preferably, quilting stitches should run both vertically and horizontally with quilting lines about eight to 10 inches apart. Finally, check the strength of the stitching.
  • Check the content label to see what type of batting the bedspread uses. Some bedspreads and comforters contain wool batting, which can shrink and distort if machine washed.

The next step in caring for your household is knowing what kinds of problems can occur with cleaning:

  • Many bedspreads and comforters contain a special glazed finish called chintz to give them a special sheen and luster. Unfortunately, many of these finishes have a limited durability to cleaning procedures. Once removed, the bedspread fabric may take on a dull, chalky appearance and become susceptible to pilling (the formation of small balls on the fabric surface). This is why it’s important to keep and follow the care instructions carefully.
  • Another problem you may experience is distortion of the filling due to the presence of heat-sensitive fibers. Bedspreads and comforters containing these types of fibers will often show noticeable puckering or shrinkage after acceptable drycleaning, washing or drying procedures.
  • Comforters and bedspreads may sometimes experience fading during acceptable care procedures. This type of fading occurs when the dyes or pigments applied during manufacturing are not colorfast to drycleaning or washing procedures. Your cleaner may be able to determine whether an item is susceptible to color loss by conducting colorfastness testing.
  • Comforters and bedspreads may also experience shrinkage after a care process. Shrinkage can result if the item was not preshrunk during manufacturing, or if the item contains wool batting or heat-sensitive fibers.

The last step involves caring for your households properly:

  • Again, follow the care instructions carefully.
  • Tailored and quilted bedspreads, as well as comforters that are too large for home machine washing, should be taken to your professional cleaner.
  • Clean or launder all matching or coordinated items (pillow shams, dust ruffles, curtains) together to ensure that any color loss or sheen loss will be uniform.
  • Before cleaning, inspect the comforter for cuts, tears, or weak areas. A quilted article becomes quite heavy when immersed in solvent or water and, during cleaning, these small rips, tears, and holes can enlarge.
  • Clean spots and stains quickly to prevent permanent damage to the textile and color.
  • Remember that light exposure, atmospheric conditions, and time alone can affect dyes and cleaning performance.
  • Duvets or zip-on covers can be purchased to help protect down comforters. These covers can easily be removed for regular cleaning and slipped back on.
  • Blankets should be cleaned before storing away for the spring. Soiled blankets placed in storage attract insects and stains can set and weaken fabrics
  • If in doubt about cleaning a comforter, check with your professional cleaner. Through adequate testing and expert cleaning procedures, your cleaner can prevent many of the problems mentioned.

Caring for hand-made and antique items:

Handmade quilts need to be treated with great care. If the fabrics were not prewashed before the quilt was made, all colors should be checked for colorfastness. Gently rub a wet cloth over a small area in each section of the quilt. You will see if any of color comes off. Since quilts are made up of many pieces of cloth, it is necessary to test all sections. Some dyes will run in water and mild detergent, while others will run in drycleaning solvents. If you decide washing is safe for all colors and fabrics in the quilt, fill a tub with water and mild detergent. Gently work the detergent and water into the quilt. Drain the water and fill with fresh water rinsing thoroughly until the water is clear.

If there is any question about the condition of the fabric and its ability to be cleaned, don’t take a chance. Hang the quilt out to air dry instead.

Antique quilts should be cleaned by someone experienced in dealing with older textiles. How a quilt will withstand cleaning depends on its construction, fiber content, past treatments, and storage. Some older quilts may contain worn fabrics, making them very fragile. They may also contain a wool filling that will shrink when exposed to heat, strong detergents, and agitation. Some may contain fabrics that have never been cleaned, such as the older chintz applique quilts, in order to maintain their shiny finish and color. In some cases, only light vacuuming can be used to clean them. Consult an expert before doing any type of cleaning.

Proper storage of hand made quilts helps keep them safe for future generations to enjoy. Quilts should be stored in a clean, cool, dark area free of drastic temperature and humidity changes. This rules out the attic or basement. Fold or roll the quilt onto a cardboard cylinder covered with acid free tissue paper. Wrap in acid free tissue or sheets or pillow cases that have been washed many times with no bleach or detergents containing bleach. The quilt should be refolded several times a year to prevent permanent creases and splits in the fabric.

Caring for your pillows:

If your pillows are synthetic filled, you can wash and dry them. The thickness and density of pillows means that you will need extra rinse and dry cycles. If you have natural filled pillows, like down or feathers, they should be sent to the drycleaner where the ticking is removed and the feathers sanitized.

Pillows are best protected from dust and dirt with a pillow protector and pillowcase. When proper care is taken, it is recommend to clean pillows at least once a year. Freshening up your pillows by airing them out on a dry, sunny day is also a good idea.