Wash or Not Wash?

This was one of those questions we talked about a while back when we agreed to disagree.  The good news is that it just don’t matter!  If you insist on washing your fabric before using it, you’re probably dead set on why you do it and you will not consider not washing.  I’m right in this group with  you.  If you don’t wash, you probably have weighed out the risks and have no fear of using unwashed fabric.

I have several reasons for washing first.

  1. I just think the fabric behaves better when it’s been washed. Sometimes it’s kinda slippery or has a mind of its own before washed.  Know what I mean?
  2. I like to know what the fabric is going to feel like once its been washed.  It will get washed eventually in a quilt.  I have had a fabric from a quilt shop that was very limp and thin feeling after having been washed.  I only remember it happening once . . to a pink fabric that I really liked but decided not to use.
  3. Probably most important is . . you never know where the fabric has been stored and whose package it was sitting next to on the UPS truck.  There could have been cooties in the package sitting right next to my package and some of them may have come visiting and I don’t want them.  I like for my fabric to be clean . . very clean . . before I use it.


Wait just a minute!  Is that a dog in the middle of my pile of clean fabric that just came out of the dryer? Yes, and what are you going to do about it?


Looks like Speck isn’t too concerned about getting his cooties in my nice clean fabric.

I guess it’s safe to say that we can scratch #3 from my reasons for washing fabric.  It surely isn’t “very clean” after a dachshund has been sleeping in the pile.  He’s a clean dog . . as far as dogs go but he’s still a dog and I bet he has cooties!  Maybe I’ll wash it again or . . maybe not!  I know . . I’ll iron it.  Ironing kills cooties, right?



  1. 1

    Denise says

    Oh no, Speck Cooties – you’d better send me that infested striped fabric. 🙂 He just knows you’re going to iron it so he’s keeping a watch on it for you to make sure no one sneaks in to steal it.

  2. 2


    But dog cooties make it better. I sure hope so because I find Honey hair on all my quilts. Honey has never been in my quilt studio but her hair still manages to get on my fabric. Go figure.

    The main reason I have found for washing fabric is because I do not know what chemicals the fabric has been treated with. Some places even spray it with bug spray so it won’t get infested when being stored in a warehouse. Or so I have been told. Sounded reasonable to me and since I have my hands all over that fabric, I want to make sure it is clean. Dog cooties don’t count.

  3. 3


    Hmm – I like the idea that ironing kills cooties. I’ll have to remember that.

    My two main reasons for washing are to remove chemicals, as Susan mentions, and to relieve any stretching from being on the bolt. I often find the stretching or skewing to be a problem, especially on the outer layers, and it makes it harder to cut it square to the grain lines. Washing with CAREFUL ironing helps it be mostly square again.

    I’ve also been trying to rip off the selvages before I wash recently, which seems to help it lay flatter for cutting lengthwise strips. I don’t normally like ripping because it leaves the edges stretched, but the washing/drying/ironing seems to get them mostly shrunk back, and then I cut off just a little more. This is a fairly new plan, but so far I’m happier with my straightness of cuts!

  4. 4


    I tried not washing this last batch of fabric, chiefly because it’s jelly rolls and charm packs. It’s so nice not having to clip and iron, but I am extremely wary of the chemicals and will be washing immediately upon completion. My eyes and throat actually burn a bit when I iron them, which makes me thing nasty stuff is there – formaldehyde, et cetera to keep off bugs – and I don’t need lung cancer.

    Truly, though, it’s more convenient not to wash… but I think I’ll be firmly in the Wash camp for non-roll/charm stuffs.

  5. 5

    Michelle says

    I very rarely wash fabric and have never noticed a smell or chemicals or anything like that when working with unwashed fabric.

  6. 6


    I seem to be sensitive to the chemicals too, so I always wash fabric before using it. If I need to add body for a specific technique, I use spray starch.

  7. 7


    I’m in Tina’s corner. I was my fabric specifically because I am sensitive to the formaldehyde in the finish. I can’t even use commercial spray starch (asthma attack) so if I starch I do it with a homemade brew.

  8. 8


    I wash first also. I’m like you where I like to get the feel of the fabric first. I also have heard that there’s a lot of chemicals used in making fabric and I like to wash that out too. And certain colours need to be tested for colourfastness.

  9. 9


    In the past, I have been inconsistent about washing or not. But, I sure could feel the difference when I was refolding my fabric. So, in the future, I’ll wash some of the older stuff when I bring home new fabric to wash.

    I wondered about washing the pre-cuts – I can see soaking them and then using a salad spinner to get the excess water out as an option.

    And concering starch – I bought a bottle of liquid starch and use a spritz bottle. That way, I can adjust the level of stiffness by how much I dilute the stuff.

  10. 10

    Judy in Michigan says

    Sorry but this has nothing to do with washing fabrics…just a note – I miss your chickens!! Enjoy reading your blog no matter what you have to say. Don’t ya just love it, clean fabrics and then Speck! What fun you have every day!!

  11. 11

    Jane says

    Love Speck!!! My Zoey looks like him (dapple) but has one half blue eye…people think she is blind in that eye….but back to the topic. I don’t wash…never have. I haven’t noticed a difference or problems when I quilt/cut/sew but I’m not sensitive to any chemicals (that I am aware of) but can understand your concerns if you are. Alot of good reasons to wash…but laziness is my main reason for not I guess. Plus, I have been buying alot of precuts or kits lately (again…laziness!!).

  12. 12


    I guess I’m old school as I always wash my fabric. In fact, it doesn’t get put away until after it’s been washed. I also wash it with a Color Catcher sheet and will continue to wash it until the Color Catcher is clear of any dyes. There’s nothing more frustrating than to have a project ruined because one of the fabrics bled into the other prints.

  13. 13

    Linda says

    Cooties!! Funny. The only thing better than dog cooties is cat cooties……at least that’s what my cats told me. LOL Better cooties than fleas. My indoor cat, who rarely steps outside, came up with fleas, the cat who goes out didn’t have any. Which means my house had fleas. Do you know that flea spray is over $6 a can? And a 4-treatment pkg. of Advantage is $43?? For such little bugs fleas sure are expensive. LOL

  14. 14


    I’m in your camp Judy. I have been quilting for over 20 years, and when we used to buy fabric (even from Quilt shops) there was always the element of dye bleeding. Now I know that fabrics have improved greatly, but I still wash my fabric before using. It only takes ONE red or blue fabric bleeding in my quilt to make me want to throw it away! Thanks for standing on common ground. And yes we each can make that decision. But for me there is no debate 😉

  15. 15


    I know I am in the minority here—but I do not wash first unless it is red or purple batiks. At this point, I have never had a problem with color running—I do put in some color catchers though when I wash the quilt for the first time. My main reason is laziness, but I like to sew with crisp fabrics and I can’t justify washing all the sizing out and then putting it back in via spray sizing or starch. At any rate, even if I don’t wash, I totally support you (and others) in doing whatever makes them happy and comfortable in their quilting “zone”. There is certainly enough room for all viewpoints.


  16. 16


    I wash all the fabric I use except for pre-cut fabric and in cases where I was going to fussy cut strips for a stack and whack style quilt. I think washing makes it easy to work with and one can also get rid of whatever it is that has been added to finish the fabric – one gets to see what the fabric’s soul is like once it is washed! 🙂

  17. 17


    I am a washer of yardage but recently was working with some good quality Moda precuts and liked the way they ironed so crisply with the sizing already there. Some cheap fabrics get overdyed and are stiff so those definitely need to be washed, but to me it’s debatable about the high quality stuff needing to be washed unless it is really red or really dark and might run. I am consistently inconsistent with this dilemma, but overall think washing is “a good thing”.

    I do NOT think dog cooties are better than cat cooties, however 🙂

  18. 18


    Judy, I like to laugh, and this morning I got a good chuckle from this post. I rarely wash my fabric….maybe red sometimes.

    : )

  19. 19


    Doxies DO NOT have cooties! 🙂 Love those pictures of Speck!

    I wash some; some I don’t. Depends on how anxious I am to get started, or the color of the fabric. I’ve found dark blues to be bleeders sometimes.

  20. 20

    Kerri says

    I agree! I have longarmed for 7 years, and still think yikes when my clients have non prewashed fabrics. I always repeat to myself, well, whatever happens, they decided not to prewash.

    I like the “this is how the fabric will be” feel and look of fabric, over the glossy look off the roll.

  21. 21

    Kerri says

    One more thing, I even will give some fabric a another quick rinse and dry if I am not sure I prewashed! (do to my severe lack of organizational skills) lol