Caring for Bedspreads and Comforters

Although bedspreads and comforters are mostly used during the cold winter months, many people also use them
year round to spice up their bedroom. They are available in a myriad of styles and colors and can be quite costly.
Unfortunately, these bedroom favorites are not covered by the Care Label Rule, and as a result, consumers may find
caring for them difficult.

What should I look for when purchasing bedspreads?

Making sure your bedspread or comforter lasts begins at purchase. Read all care instructions prior to purchase. Care
instructions may be found on a temporary label, a hang tag, or on the packaging. If you have any questions, consult your
local dry cleaner prior to purchasing.

If possible, make sure the 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 are well-quilted. Preferably, quilting stitches should run both vertically and
horizontally with quilting lines about eight to 10 inches apart. Also check the strength of the stitching. Poor construction with
loose stitching can allow the filling to shift during a care process.

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.

What problems are associated with bedspreads?

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).

For best results, follow the care instructions carefully. If there is no care label or if you need assistance, take the item to
your local cleaner for professional cleaning.

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 accept-able dry cleaning, washing
or drying procedures. Tests can be performed by your cleaner to determine if an item contains these fibers. If so, high drying temperatures
must be avoided.

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 dry cleaning 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.

How can I care for my comforter properly?

  • 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
    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.
  • Zip-on covers can be purchased to help protect down comforters. These covers can easily be removed for regular cleaning and slipped
    back on.
  • 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.

How do I care for hand made and antique quilts?

Hand made quilts need special care. If the fabrics in the quilt were not prewashed, all colors should be carefully tested for
colorfastness before cleaning. Some dyes will bleed in water and/or detergent, while others may bleed in dry cleaning solvents. If
washing is safe for all colors, fabrics, and batting]filling, fill a large tub with water and a mild detergent. Gently work the
detergent and water into the quilt. Aggressive agitation could pull out the quilting stitches. Drain and fill with fresh water,
working the detergent our of the quilt. Rinse thoroughly until the water is clear. Drain and roll the quilt to push out the excess water.
Hang over several lines to dry out of direct sunlight.

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.

Copyright 1997 The GAZETTE No. 121, 1-2. A Publication of the International Fabricare Institute