Should I Start Prewashing My Fabric?

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Question


I have figured out that quilters seem to have strong opinions about prewashing or not. It just made me wonder, if you always feel the need to prewash, does that mean you never use precuts? If you do use them without problems, then doesn’t that negate the reason for prewash. I don’t prewash, but have never used a dark color I thought might bleed. I’m just trying to figure out if I need to start prewashing.

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Answer


Yes, you are correct in that the debate over whether to prewash or not is a hotly debated topic. That being said- I am in the category of people who do not always prewash fabric. However, in terms of those that do prewash, there are some that are dedicated enough to it that they do prewash precut fabric. This is very time consuming as pressing all of the small squares and strips is a process. Also, prewashing precut fabric means that they can potentially shrink- making them not the same size as they were when first purchased.

In terms of whether or not you should start prewashing- I would recommend, if you are using a fabric color that you are afraid might bleed, cut a small square from the fabric and place it in warm to hot water. If it bleeds, definitely prewash, if not you should be ok.

Hope this helps,
Ashley


Related:
Quilters Guide to Preshrinking
How to Prevent Fabric Bleed
Quilt Care Part 1: Cleaning Heirloom Quilts

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44 Responses to “Should I Start Prewashing My Fabric?”
  1. sonia bermudez
    sonia bermudez

    Why the fabrics can not be pre wash before they sell it? When or if buy fabric allway has to buy more just in case it shrink i dont think its ok

    Reply
  2. Shirley Fortner
    Shirley Fortner

    Thanks I usually prewash unless it is precut, just needed to know for sure which one is best to do .

    Reply
  3. Pat
    Pat

    I always pre-wash. I never have a problem with dye running or shrinkage. I know people who did not pre-wash and had shrinkage problems when the item was washed.

    Reply
    • Tanya Ehrsam
      Tanya Ehrsam

      I was taught to prewash. I worry like the dickens if I’m at a quilt retreat and don’t prewash. I prewash fat quarters…you have to press them at some time anyways. It only takes a minute. I do not generally prewash pre-cuts, but I use them usually with like colors in tote bags. I make my own squares out of yardage or fat quarters, because I don’t always need five inch squares and there’s a lot of waste with charm packs. I’m not big on using strips or mini-charms. But I’ve read enough stories of bleeds and shrinkage from not pre-washing that I’m a life time pre-washer. if this hasn’t convinced you, even if the fabric were washed before it left the factory(there are no hypoallergenic soaps) how many hands touch it? How many people sneeze near it? And since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, why risk it? Color catchers are just an added expense…you could get more fabric for that price, but the laundry soap is already there, hopefully.

      Reply
  4. pkstros
    pkstros

    I’m new to National Quilting as well as relative new to quilting. I’d like to look up “how tos” when I come across a problem/answer as to where I look up the information.

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  5. Mary Talcott
    Mary Talcott

    I only prewash if I want to make sure the fabric won’t bleed, I like the krinkle of the fabric after the quilt is made.

    Reply
  6. Cathy
    Cathy

    I’m new to quilting. The batting i bought said to wet it and let it dry. What is the purpose and is it necessary?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Dear Cathy,

      Thank you for your patience while I got you the answer:

      Hi,

      This could be to simply flatten out the batting before using, however I am not familiar with this technique. I would recommend reaching out to the batting manufacturer to see if they have tips or instructions on why this should be done.

      Cheers,

      Ashley
      National Quilters Circle

      Reply
      • Karen Boyd
        Karen Boyd

        If you are using cotton batting the reason I have heard is to preshrink the batting. If it is synthetic, I would guess to flatten out. But be sure not to stretch it.

        Reply
      • Stephanie Santmyers
        Stephanie Santmyers

        In my experience soaking batting does make it shrink. Mountain mist 80/ 20 batting is nearly impossible to hand quilt unless it is soaked first. Don’t put soap in the soak. I have also put my batting in the drier set to low heat.

        Reply
  7. Agnes
    Agnes

    You do not allow me to unsubscribe from your site. I am not a quilter and have tried many times but keep getting your email soooo please remove me immediately.

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  8. Phyllis A. Doane
    Phyllis A. Doane

    Question of how to stitch the quilting for a star Bicentenial quilt. It is of the Mexican/US war in the 1778 era.

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  9. Karen Vander Molen
    Karen Vander Molen

    Looking to replace my Husqvarna Viking Sapphire……any suggestions on what to buy!

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  10. marjo
    marjo

    The primary reason to prewash should be to eliminate all the chemicals used to keep bugs, rodents, etc. from eating, chewing, urinating, on the fabrics during shipment in containers from other countries. Your lungs and your health should be the main reason you prewash all fabrics, clothing purchases, etc. If you ever research the number of respiratory diseases caused by people breathing dyes, insecticides, herbicides, etc you will understand. Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones, but perhaps you are not. Caution please.

    Reply
    • Rosemary
      Rosemary

      Totally agree with you, marjo. The thought of handling that fabric or making a quilt for anyone, especially a baby, is pretty gross.

      Reply
  11. Linda Johnson
    Linda Johnson

    I didn’t always prewash. Then, a favorite quilt I fussy-cut and hand made designed borders and used a gingham checked backing. The greening the backing bled and ruined my civil war ladies tablecloth quilt. I wash everything.

    Reply
  12. Gail
    Gail

    Answer to my comment on transferring embroidery floss to the little bobbin for organization of sewing room

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    • Customer Service
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      Hello Gail!

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  13. Rosemary
    Rosemary

    The good thing about buying yardage is you can wash it and dry it before using it and get it to shrink as much as it will then shrinkage and colors running aren’t an issue.

    Reply
  14. Leonie Fraser
    Leonie Fraser

    Thank you for your wonderful website! I get asked this question a lot, and I usually give the same answer that was given above with three small additions:
    1. Try to only buy pre-cuts that are good quality materials. Check with the manufacturer’s websites and good quilting shop owners – they can tell you the difference in shrink and colour fastness of the different ranges.
    2. Wash mainly to remove chemicals – and iron while the fabric is wet straight out of the washing machine. believe me, it makes the process easier!
    3. If you are testing a swatch of fabric for colour fastness, don’t rely on whether it bleeds into the water. Have a piece of white fabric and take your swatch while it is still wet and lay it on the white fabric. If it bleeds don’t use it in your quilt – put it aside for something that is going to be made from just that fabric. Bleeding is a real problem, particularly with hand dyes and batiks, and I have seen quilts where the maker carefully washed all the fabrics first only to have the colour bleed from one fabric to the piece next to it after it was washed. Then they cried! I swatch test a lot!

    Reply
  15. Polly Stahl
    Polly Stahl

    I never prewash, I use Color Catchers when I wash my finished quilts and have never had a problem with bleeding, even reds.

    Reply
  16. Charlene Cairn
    Charlene Cairn

    I always prewash and preshrink. Most of what I make gets washed, and I don’t want it shrinking at different rates after I’ve made it. I also prewash precuts on the rare occasions I have them, as I’m not a precut fan, I like to have enough fabric to make my own choices about what size I want to use.

    Reply
  17. Andrea Van Delden
    Andrea Van Delden

    You can also buy sheets, they look sort of like dryer sheets, that will trap colour when you wash. I buy mine at a large drug store. They work like a charm!

    Reply
  18. Judy Myres.
    Judy Myres.

    I always prewashed my fabric but stopped several years ago when I kept hearing that you should not prewash fabric. Last year I developed contact dermatitis on the palms of my hands . Through a process of elimination I determined it always flared up after I had been handling fabric in my stash, piecing or quilting. I prewash all my fabric now.

    Reply
  19. Cindy
    Cindy

    I wash fabrics that are very stiff like batiks, but I always zigzag the cut edges so they don’t fray in the process. I also use a color catcher in the wash.

    Reply
  20. Bonnie Hicks
    Bonnie Hicks

    I prewash fat quarters by turning the rough edges and taking a long zig zag. Once out of the dryer, just pull one thread to remove stitching, then press/starch.

    Reply
  21. Rose
    Rose

    I am surprised that it is not pointed out that fabrics are made with known carcinogens. Chemicals that are used in processing fabric cause cancer, and we absorb these chemicals through our pores in the handling of fabric. This is a huge reason for ore washing fabric!

    Reply
  22. Nan
    Nan

    Always prewash… think about putting all that work and hours of planning, precision cutting, stitching, it is beautiful and you are so happy. Then even if you never plan to wash the piece… you or someone will at some point … You wash it and out it comes, with bleeding areas, areas where some fabrics shrink some don’t and you have a hot mess, discolored, twisted (I am also assuming if you don’t pre wash you may not be laying pieces out on grain either) some flat areas, some puckered, shrunken. I don’t know about you, but I would sit and sob… especially if it was made for someone special and this happens…. Just something to think about.

    Reply
  23. BECKY
    BECKY

    I prewashed some of my fabric and it looks like the material is coming apart on the ends. I have to cut so much of the fraying material off before ironing. Is this normal?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Becky,

      Here’s what our experts had to say: Yes, depending on the fabric, this is normal. One way you can cut down on the amount the fabric frays in the wash is to baste close to the raw edge of the fabric. This will only allow the fabric to fray up to the basting stitches.

      If you have any other questions, please chat, email, or contact Customer Service at 1-855-706-3538. 

      Sincerely,
      Codi
      National Quilters Circle Video Membership

      Reply
  24. Karen Boyd
    Karen Boyd

    I am a dedicated pre-washer. While I am not an expert quilter I have taught, for a quilt shop and machine shop, how to quilt. I have has some very bad experiences in my sewing life which means I prewash almost every fabric I use for any kind of sewing. Unless of course it is not consider washing machine safe. Then I strongly consider another fabric. However if I am using purchased precuts, rather than those I cut myself. I do not wash them. And if I need extra fabric for some reason I don’t wash that either. I guess I am posting to say that when you least expect it, some bad will happen and sometimes it will be bad enough to ruin your project. I will also say that if you plan to wash your quilting cottons, you need to buy extra for srinkage and for the fabric having been pit on the bolt off the grain.

    Reply
  25. Sheri Colby
    Sheri Colby

    I am shopping for a new sewing machine. I am a beginner quilter and I sew on all types of fabric including canvas and heavy denim. I’m leaning toward the Janome s5. I’m not interested in all of the embroidery stitches. Do you have any suggestions ?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hey Sheri,
      Here’s what the experts had to say about your question:

      There are many great brands and models of basic sewing machines available. That is a great brand. Another option would be the Singer Heavy duty. It is great for all types of fabric, even heavier fabrics, and it doesn’t do any of the fancier monogramming or embroidery stitches.

      Please let us know if you have any further questions
      Sincerely,
      Danesha
      National Quilters Circle Video Membership

      Reply