Should I Start Prewashing My Fabric?

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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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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,

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

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41 Responses to “Should I Start Prewashing My Fabric?”

  1. Pamela Beni

    I am a senior who used to quilt. I always prewashed my fabrics . Now, as the receiver of placemats,which I love, I find that almost no one prewashes. Therefore after using my placemats they all shrink. Now they are only good for tea and cookies or my dog’s meal.

  2. MaryAnn Bonny

    I also sew clothing, and would not sew any fabric without preshrinking it. Washing and drying, steam pressing or sending it out to the dry cleaners. It helps to eliminate any potential problems.

  3. Lee Masciarelli

    I prewash my pieces. Especially when making a baby quilt. Fabric can sit around and be handled by many different people and I also like to see how it's going to behave once it's all finished. When in doubt, I do as was advised by Ashley and put a little piece in hot water to see if it will run.

  4. Kathryn

    pre-washing strips and small pieces has worked for me by placing them in a lingerie bag to wash.

  5. Melinda

    I do not pre-wash because I love the “well-loved” look of old quilts and so I make my quilts and then wash and dry on “hot.” The result is a quilt that looks well-loved. I will never pre-wash. I don’t care who else may have “touched” the fabric as from the time they touched it and the time I bought it, germs are no longer alive.

  6. Betsy McNair

    If you do prewash and there is a dark fabric in the colors, it is alright to use a Color Catcher in the wash cycle?

  7. Deborah Devine

    I prewash for sanitary reasons. I have worked in fabric stores and see what customers will do to fabric on the bolt. I have seen people wipe their nose on their hand and then wipe the hand on the fabric. I have seen people with open oozing sores handling the bolts. I have seen people put babies down on a bolt and use it as a diaper changing station. I have found food, food wrappers, half finished sodas, and dirty tissues hidden inside bolts of fabric. People cough and sneeze without turning their head or covering their mouth. We even had one old man who came in with his wife and spit chewing tobacco juice in the store. I would never sew with fabric from the bolt without prewashing it.

  8. Karen Burgoyne

    I have always prewashed but not out of fear of shrinkage or bleeding. I was taught to wash new clothes before wearing as you never knew who may have tried the item on, or what was floating around in the warehouse. I want to work on fabric that is clean.

  9. Susan

    Re washing fabric, if your going to print on fabric ie: use Bubble jet set to print on your fabric it must be washed and rinsed before. Soaking in Jetset to make sure the Size is washed out of fabric or your print wont stay in after you wash it later :-)

  10. Deb Hird

    I only prewash flannel, wearables or a red if it bleeds during testing. I wet a piece of the fabric and place between a white napkin or paper towel then set some weight on it- A cold iron works. I wash it if it bleeds. After many decades of quilting the only fabric that bled was a blue and cheap dime store cottons.