Prewashing Fabrics: Pros and Cons

What do you do when you purchase new fabric? Do you toss it in the wash before you start quilting with it or do you sew with it as is?

A big debate in the world of quilting is whether or not fabric should be washed before it’s ever used in a quilt.

Differently Hued and Patterned Fabric Laid out in Circle

Garden Party fabric by Anna Maria Horner

What exactly is prewashing?

It’s just what it sounds like: washing fabric before use.

To do this, sort fabric by colors, separating light and dark. Always wash like colors together on a cold cycle with a gentle detergent. Once finished, shake out fabrics before tossing them into the dryer. Remove fabric promptly to prevent wrinkling. The edges will fray during this process, so trim them off before folding the fabric. If the fraying bothers you, the edges can be serged or zigzag stitched to keep them tidy.

Serging & Zigzagging

Prewash? Don’t prewash? That is the question!

Most quilters seem to have a very definite opinion on the subject. There are many benefits to both options, so let’s take a look at them today.

Arguments FOR prewashing:

  • It prevents vibrant dyes from spreading onto other fabric. Some bright colors, like reds and purples, can run and bleed when they are washed. This can be very devastating if it happens to a finished quilt. When fabrics are washed beforehand, the chance of this happening lessens.
  • Fabric shrinks when it’s washed and dried. When woven together, the fibers of the fabrics are pulled nice and straight, so laundering causes them to either shrink or relax back into their normal shape. This can cause some distortion in a finished quilt if the items have not been previously washed before they were cut and sewn.
  • Any sizing or chemicals that have been used on the fabric are removed before the fabric is used. This is especially beneficial to those who have sensitive skin.

Vibrant Patterned Fabric Laid Out in Fan

Photo via the Craftsy fabric shop

Arguments AGAINST prewashing:

  • The amount of shrinkage really isn’t that bad. Yes, it’s still there, but it creates the cozy, crinkly effect many quilters desire.
  • With today’s quality fabrics and dye, bleeding is not much of an issue. Most manufacturers realize that a vast amount of quilters do not prewash, so they ensure that the dyes are set completely.
  • Brand new fabric has sizing, creating a nice crisp material. This creates ease when cutting and piecing. Once the sizing is washed out, the fabric loses that crispness.
  • Prewashing takes too much time! Plenty of quilters prefer to spend their precious crafting time cutting and sewing, not prewashing.
  • When creating quilts that aren’t often used, like wall hangings and heirloom quilts, prewashing is unnecessary. The fabrics remain sharp, vibrant, and smooth.

Multiple Layers of Colorful Patterned Fabric

Garden Party fabric by Anna Maria Horner

If you decide to prewash your fabrics, here are a few tips:

  • Always follow the manufacturers directions for laundering.
  • Never wash precuts. The small pieces can get lost in your machines.
  • Flannels and minky are soft additions to quilt, but and they should always be prewashed. They shrink a lot more than regular quilting cottons.
  • If you decide not to prewash but are unsure about certain fabrics, always test them. To do this, soak a small piece of fabric in soapy water that is the same temperature you plan on washing the quilt in. If the water is still clear after 30 minutes, you are good to go. If the water has changed color, be sure to prewash the fabric with a color fixative like Retayne, which helps the dye become more permanent.

Interested in learning more about caring for quilting fabric? You may also enjoy our article How to Clean Quilts.

Tomorrow on the Craftsy Blog, we’ll be sharing helpful tips for storing quilts.

How about you? Do you prewash your quilting fabrics? Let’s hear your thoughts!



Being reasonably new to quilting but having purchased fat quarters over the years thinking maybe one day I might start and now have added half metres as I think they will b more useful. I took advice through my blog and the overall feeling was wash so I washed I think there were about 90 half metres and 70 fat quarters, needless to say I did only rinse in luke warm water, a few did run so glad I did it but have been advised to always wash now as if I mix washed and unwashed in a project that might be washed later they will distort.Fortunately here in the UK we have had some good weather and managed to get them dry very quickly, ironed and put away.


I pre-wash, but then I add starch back in when I press the fabric. I much prefer the feeling of my own starch (I use concentrate and mix to my liking.) than the sizing and other treatments on unwashed fabric.

Starching before cutting and sewing gives a lot of body back to the fabric to make it easier to work with.

Gauri Alnabel

In my opinion pre-washing before quilting or doing applique is highly essential. Firstly it will help us to identify if the fabric will bleed or not. It it spreads color too much it is better not to use it in quilt. The next point is that most fabrics have a tendency to contract a little after the first wash. It is good that it happens before quilting or the whole structure may be lost.


I generally soak pieces that are smaller than 1 yd. in a basin with whatever temperature water I need and use a small amount of Retayne. Then I spin them dry in a salad spinner, dry further in my dryer on low and iron or fold away. I also like to use “Color Catcher’s” when washing a completed quilt….I use only cold water on these and if I give it away, I give washing instructions along with a washer sheet.


I don’t prewash anymore. I don’t like all the shredding which occurs. Ironing out all those creases is very time consuming and frustrating. Besides I have been told that quilt shop quality fabrics are less likely to run. The quilting/sewing process is so much more pleasant without the pre washing phase.

Janet 21

Beware. I ALWAYS prewash & use color catchers.
I’m thinking about my red, white and blue patriotic quilt that I almost ruined. I dripped on one block just a bit when filling my steam iron. The blue ran all over the white. So glad for that accident. It saved my whole quilt.


I used a non prewashed border on an art quilt and dampened it to block it….the border shrank despite the pinning and I ended up with a curly picture which now needs to be rebuilt to lie straight. Learning the hard way!!


I have two SIL who both quilt and are on opposite ends of this argument – I am just starting and I think I’ll follow the advice NOT to pre-wash but my SIL who doesn’t pre-wash advised me to use Color Catchers to wash the quilt when I do wash it. I had tried to pre-wash and don’t like the feel of the fabric afterwards and don’t want to take the extra time to starch so we’ll see what happens on my next fabric purchases!


Many years ago when I used poly/cotton fabric for quilts I was told to always prewash and iron carefully. Then I joined Thimbleberries with Lynette Jennings and she said her fabrics did not need to be pre-washed. The only time I will prewash is if I am using a red or some bright color that might run into a “white” or light. I will use a little vinegar to make sure there is no running of color. Most of the time I prefer NOT to prewash. I like my top, batting and backing to age together. There aren’t any Quilt Police that I know of so I believe in doing what your mind/heart tells you.


I prewash to remove the formaldehyde used in the manufacturing process. I have sensitive skin. And I know the fabric won’t shrink when I wash it months or years later. It is a pain, and leaves strings (or what my children used to call “fabric ####”). These must be trimmed off. I also love to iron the wonderful fabrics while dreaming of what I will make with them.


Many of my close friends and family who were addicted to collecting fabrics and sewing have
died of cancer that caused breathing problems or lung cancer. I do pre-wash ALL of the fabrics
I work with just as a caution. I do not need to breath chemicals added to fabrics during the manufacturing process.

Vicki B

I so agree about the toxicity of chemicals that treat fabrics. I have had my eyes burn like fire in a fabric store–that alone tells me that it is not good for people! I wash and rinse twice with a bit of white vinegar in the rinse cycle!
I find ironing peaceful and relaxing – is that weird?


I always prewash. I have always worried about colors running and shrinkage. I have recent started starching. It was recommended to me to clip a small triangle from all four corners to prevent fraying. It really helped!

Theresa Johnson

I was a sewer before I was a quilter and always pre-washed fabric before making garments so I still do.


I always prewash, unless it’s small precuts that will ravel. The reason I prewash is that I will buy fabric thinking of using it for one purpose, and then end up using it for something else entirely, like a blouse or a child’s dress or shirt. I don’t want to have to mark everything I wash or don’t wash, so I just wash everything, and then I can use it for anything without doing any further prep other than ironing, and also starching for quilting. Also, if I wash it, then I know how it will behave when washed, like bleed or wrinkle badly or warp, and that can have an effect on what I end up doing with it. I use all kinds of fabrics, not just cotton. Having washed and dried it, I also don’t have to worry about clothing fitting, or parts of a quilt shrinking more than other parts.

Marjorie Edwards

I always prewash fabrics. The investment of money, time and work is too valuable to risk uneven shrinkage and color bleeding. I learned the hard way! The first thing I do when I buy fabric is wash dry and press. That way I know I’m ready to go when I want to start cutting.


I am so puzzled when I hear expert quilters say they don’t wash because fabric from good manufacturers doesn’t run. I find that good fabric seems to have more dye in it and sometimes runs more than the cheap stuff. I’m certainly not taking the chance that a project I have put many hours into and spent a great deal of money on will be ruined in the wash. WASH!

Jackie Van Toll

I don’t prewash if I am doing piecing or other types of quilting but if I am doing applique, I always wash the material the applique is going on. I did a huge project last Christmas only to have it not hold because of the sizing in the material.


I always pre-wash my fabric. I press it with starch or sizing to give it the crispness of new fabric. It’s kind of redondant, but the fabric cuts better. I snip a corner before washing so that when I pull a fabric for a project I know right then if it has been washed or not. I wash the fabric exactly as I would a finished quilt. Sometimes a quilt will shrink too much after it’s together and washed. Just my way of doing it.


I almost always pre wash, especially reds and dark saturated colors. For smaller cuts of fabric like fat quarters, I do it in a basin by hand sometimes using Retayne. I try to press the fabric while it is still slightly damp. For larger fabrics, I use Fray Check on the cut edges before washing. This really cuts down on the fraying and thread nests that can be problematic!

Gretl Dixon

I always prewash my fabric before use brcause I have worked in all types of warehouses and they just aren’t that clean. There is all types of dust and germs that fly around.

Connie Latham

I like to pre-wash and I’ve started pre-washing small cuts in a lingerie bag with good results.

maggie robinson

I always prewash. gives me peace of mind, although one time I made a blue and white quilt and in spite of the pre washing of fabrics, one of the dark blues ran anyway. the result being I had to undo the quilting , remove the block and put a fresh one in and redo the quilting … a whole lot of work. so I would never take a chance generally.


My criteria:

Functional – wraps, table cloths, clothing, ‘blanket’ = pre-wash, because sooner or later they will need washing.

Display – wall hanging. bed cover for show only, table topper for display not use = no pre-washing

Anne Sidell

I started out prewashing but have quit. It is too time consuming (especially the pressing afterwards). It’s also wasteful of water. Since I live in an area where drought is a consideration, pre-washing seems very unkind to the watertable, I have never had a problem with colors running (I do use color catchers when I wash them for the first time though, just to be sure). I have never had a problem with my applique either, but I only do machine applique – I have no knowledge of how washing vs not washing affects hand applique.


I made the cutest smocked dress for a customer. It was white and I made blue piping as trim. The blue dye ran and RUINED the dress. Consequently, I always prewash all washable fabrics. It was a sad lesson to learn the hard way!


I don’t prewash. I prefer the crispness of unwashed fabric because it cuts easier and more accurately. I also watched a special on the making of batik not long ago. That fabric is washed and rinsed a number of times so why wash it again? On really dark colors of regular fabrics, I will prewash. On fat quarters, if you will cut a small notch on one corner before washing, the fabric won’t unravel.


I only prewash batiks and red or deep purple fabrics….I prewashed top quality red fabrics for a quilt (I prewashed them all for that quilt) and still had bleeding issues with the red fabrics….no guarantee. I do not prewash any other fabrics.

Judy Murdoch

I go with not pre-washing, like the crispness and handling when cutting and piecing. I am also appalled at the idea of using a dryer to dry the fabric in this day and age when there is need to save energy for the sake of our planet, I air dry anything I wash.


I’ve been quilting for 10 years and rarely pre-wash.

I actually wrote a blog post about this for my customers recently explaining what I do.

For new quilters I do advise pre-washing as if you get into the habit of it early it is easier to stick to it.
This debate has been going on for years and I think both sides are right – so I sit on the fence and do what my instincts tell me as working with fabric for as long as I have gives you a bit of a knack of predicting what’s going to happen.

Patti Vajda

If I am mixing fabrics, like a baby blanket that is flannel on one side and minkee on the other, I definitely pre-wash. If I am doing all 100% cotton fabrics, I either pre-wash all or don’t pre-wash any of them. It is all or nothing, no mixing unwashed and pre-washed. If there are any reds or purples, or any really vibrant colors it is a good idea to pre-wash, just in case, and use the Color Catchers.

Turid Bakken

I never prewash my fabrics, unless I make a baby quilt. Even then I can sometimes wait until the quilt is totally finished to wash it.

Barb R

I always pre-wash. I find the formaldehyde irritating to my hands. So I wash, dry, and fold without ironing unless there is a particularly badly creased edge. Ironing is NOT on the top of my list of fun activities, so why bother doing it twice – once out of the dryer and again to remove folds and creases when I’m finally going to use it.

When it comes time to use that fabric (usually after a proper period of aging in my stash), I whack off the length I think I’ll need, use a lot of starch and iron until it’s nice and flat and stiff. Nothing better than working with nice crisp fabric!

June Britt

I am a relatively new quilter. I always wash my fabric. I buy my fabric from shops
that cater to quilters but I have still had some fabrics bleed. After all the time and effort it takes to make a quilt I just don’t want to take a chance. I would be so disappointed to have my quilt ruined after the first washing. The Guild I belong to prefers that we wash all our fabrics.


Personally I prefer to wash my fabrics before using them. That way I know there will not be any problems of colors running, or shrinkage. I have, too many times in my life, regretted taking a faster route – only to find out that proper preparation for any project would have been the better choice!!

Charlene Cairn

I wash as soon as I bring home new fabric as I sometimes have it for years before I use it and couldn’t remember whether or not it’s washed. Now I know that it has been washed. I sort according to colour and shade and SOAK in hot water with salt added. This releases any loose dye and shrinks the fabric. Then I rinse thoroughly, put fabric in lingerie bags or pillow cases according to size, and wash in the machine along with my normal washing. It’s line dried and ironed, and it’s ready to use without risk of further shrinkage or dye loss. Sometimes with very dark fabrics it takes many rinses and more than one wash to stop the colour bleed, but it’s unlikely to run once it’s in a quilt. My quilts are mostly made for the beds and sofas of my family, and they need to stand up to a lot of washing, I haven’t been told of any colour running after the above treatment.

Karen Murray

I used to always pre wash but don’t anymore -too time consuming and I hate ironing the fabric-I use 100% cotton batting so would prefer all the layers of the finished quilt to shrink together when washed- and use colour catchers to stop dye run


Fabrics come to us with chemicals in them. Often LOTS of chemicals to keep the fabric crisp and to keep it from mildewing along the way. Many quilters who do NOT prewash start to develop symptoms like dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, lethargy (any or all of these symptoms), and have no idea it is because the “fumes” from these chemicals have been building in their quilt rooms due to unwashed fabric.

Not all people will react to this buildup of noxious chemicals, but those with sensitive systems often will (and those with super sensitive systems surely will at some point).

Also, many of us have children and/or pets that spend time with us in our quilt rooms. They are just as prone as we are (often much more so, actually) to the problems of breathing in these chemicals.

So just a couple of things to consider when you are deciding whether to be a prewasher or not.

Pat S

I don’t pre-wash but I always wash my quilts when they are finished. One of the first quilts I ever made was a kit from Quilts For Kids. It had some very bright reds as well as blacks in it and I was concerned about running so I emailed them. They advised me to use the Color Catchers. That’s what I did and I’ve never had a problem.

Yes, I know I may regret it someday.

Martha Oliver

I began sewing my own clothing in Jr. High. The habit of pre washing before any type of sewing is ingrained.

Susan Lipp

I am a new quilter and so far have only used small project kits. I haven’t been prewashing them, but now wonder if I should start. There are just so many quilters on each side of the coin that I just remain confused!

Tammy Day

I used to quilt a lot years ago and I always pre washed my fabric. Now, getting back into quilting and becoming familiar with “jelly rolls” and “charms” and “fat quarters” that have ‘do not prewash’ instructions, I, too, am confused. I guess I will only make a quilt using fabric that has ALL been prewashed or NONE has been. I really hate limiting myself to choices in my stash on whether it’s been washed or not, but I don’t see a safe alternative for shrinkage or color running. So, I guess it’s ALL washed for a project, or NONE.


I have a comment that I have not seen here: some fabric has been cut not true to the grain and it may shift after washing a completed project. Therefore, I pre-wash and straighten the grain as it is air drying and also when pressing. Yes, I may lose some centimetres of potential use, but I am more confident of the project’s straightness. I had one batik that dipped about 2 inches at the centre fold! Unfortunately, this also happens to printed plaids and stripes, and drives me nuts finding one true to the plaid. In the case of one which is NOT true, I would not wash, but preferably not even use! I have not used pre-cuts for just this reason. I must say that I do quilts to be used, not to hang.


I’ve been quilting for about 12 years. Originally I would wash fabric or not before I used it in a quilt, depending on the look I wanted when it was done – crinkly and antique or smooth and modern. Several years ago I developed an allergy to the chemicals in the fabric. Like the worst hay fever you ever saw, with nose running and eyes watering beyond belief. At that point I had to quarantine and then wash my entire stash. So now all new fabric is washed, smoothed out and folded before it’s put away away. And ironed only when I’m ready to use it. As long as I do that, my nose and eyes behave.

At my age, my body is under enough stress. I don’t need to annoy it further with more chemicals.


I always pre wash fabric before quilting. Fraying can be prevented by snipping the corners of the
fabric diagonally before washing.

Anita Zierman

My only experience pre-washing left my fabric wrinkly even when I took it out immediately and ironed it. It never retained that smooth feel. Consequently, I stopped pre-washing. Now I wash my finished quilts with a color-catcher, and they turn out wonderful! This debate sounds similar to discussions I’ve heard about what kind of batting is best. Oh my goodness!


I always prewash my fabrics for 3 reasons: 1. to remove the chemicals that are used in the dying process; 2. to reduce chance of colors bleeding after the quilt is made (I use Color Catchers when prewashing); and 3. to “straighten” the fabric. The fabric gets distorted when it’s wrapped on the bolt. Prewashing “straightens” the cross-grain and “straightens” the design/pattern in the fabric. I use lingerie bags for anything smaller than a half yard cut.

Jeannie Schultz

I don’t prewash my fabric for quilting. I like the look of it better have it’s put together and then washed. However, I do wash the quilts in cold water in a gentle cycle and then tumble dry them on low to avoid color runging. If I’m sewing clothes, then I always prewash my fabric.


I pre-wash so that when I use the fabric my eyes don’t sting and my face won’t swell. I use the gentle cycle on the washer which helps to eliminate the strings. I also use a dye-catching cloth. Big creases are avoided by drying until just barely dry and folding right away.


Some fabrics will really shrink, and unless you pull them back when you iron, your quilt will turn out strange. For example, one thicker fabric shrunk from 42″ wide to 36″ wide. However, if you pulled when you ironed the fabric, it came back to 41″ wide. After washing it was almost like a thin flannel.

And if you use this fabric on the back of your quilt, because it will pull back into shape, you end up with a lot of puckers and tucks because the fabric pulled up in washing and wants to go back.

And bleeding should not be a problem with quilting cottons. So what if a fabric bleeds. It’s only going to stick to a fabric that is a dyable fabric. The rest of your quilting cottons should not be accepting dyes, they are not designed to do that. So unless you quilt with prepared for dying white cottons – which should be used for dying fabrics and then used for quilting, the dye that comes out of your fabrics should not stick to any other fabrics. I don’t know why there are so many discussions about fabric dyes running – those dyes shouldn’t stick to any other fabrics, if they do, there is a problem with those other fabrics! Ask any dyer about what you need to do to a regular fabric to prepare it for overdying.


I ALWAYS prewash. I have had lots of fabrics run but I am amazed at how much some fabrics shrink. I put so much time and energy into my work that I don’t want any surprises. I wash again after quilting and still get that krinkly look from the batting shrinking. I just preshrunk some fat quarters from a well known manufacturer and the shrunk a full inch width wise and a half inch lengthwise. That would be 2 inches width wise and an inch lengthwise per full yard. I would have had a real mess if my background did not shrink the same. Just my opinion.

Anne Schmitt

I pre wash fabrics by soaking in very warm salt water in an effort to set the dye and avoid future
bleeding. I always pre wash material for a baby quilt gift, as no new mother should be afraid to
“use or wash” the quilt.

LeeAnna Paylor

It takes one bleeding event to remind you of the heartbreak of ruining a quilt. Plus the chemicals used in production are no joke folks, especially breathing in these chemicals while ironing them., I get sick in a group setting when people don’t prewash and then iron pieced work. Imagine a large class where lots of people don’t prewash but are ironing these fabrics repeatedly. It’s not good for us and the effects are cumulative.
LeeAnna Paylor

AliceMay Schank

Most of the time I do not prewash, if the fabric looks suspect I will. When giving away a quilt, I’ll always include cleaning instructions. I learned the hard way on a Wall Hanging given to me without instructions, it bleed and I’m still trying to figure out how to fix it.


I find when I’m done with a quilt. When using for a coverup it leaks cold air thru the needle holes. How can I fix that with out wetting the quilt? joyce


If you buy non-BPA plastic bottles (or make any number of other healthy choices)for your family then why wouldn’t you wash your fabrics before using? Have you ever noticed the amount of off-gassing in a fabric store? I just think anything you are going to spend that much time handling should be clean — and it feels so much better! You are paying up to $12 a yard for high-quality quilters cotton so enjoy the hand-feel of it. Yes, pressing takes time but it can be meditative and I use (make) a spray starch with a couple of drops of lavender oil and it is like aromatherapy when I am pressing. Very relaxing. :-)


Prewashing also readies the fabric to accept fabric paints – great when you find a tiny flaw in the printing, or a white thread shows through, or you decide to add a personal touch afterwards. Another hint: toss fat quarters into a lingerie bag to help prevent fraying.

Joyce Young

I used to wash everything, but now I do not, but I wash everything I make with “Shout Color Catcher”. If I give as a gift, I also give them Color Catcher. I still wash red, black and navy.


I never prewash any of my fabrics. I love to use precuts and I like to incorporate the stash too. Color catcher sheets are no longer available in Canada, makes you wonder why? I make a minimum of 20 quilts a year. After they are quilted I prewash the quilt itself before giving it away. I have never had a problem yet. The sizing and other chemicals in your fabric is also to help stop it from rotting while it waits for you to use it.

Barbara Shafran

I absolutely always prewash. But I also add a little white vinegar to the rinse water to help set the colors. I even prewash the fabric that I am going to use for clothing. That way I am assured that the fabric will not be shrinking any more and that the colors stay vibrant.


I rarely ever pre-wash and I have been quilting for over 25 years. It is too much of a bother to me. Throw “color catchers” in the washing machine with the quilt and wash it several times if you need to and the color normally goes to it. Now yes occasionally I will have had a little bleed anyhow – if it is a small amount I actually baste a color catcher to the front and back of the spot and put it back in the washer and it came out great.


eu aprendi que devem ser lavados sempre, antes dos cortes.
Não faço grandes peças nem grandes quantidades, apenas para me divertir e presentear, mas amo fazer o patchwork
Obrigada pelas dicas,

Katrina Kahn

The article touched on chemicals in the fabrics but most people don’t realize that there are preservatives in the fabrics like formaldehyde! This is not something we want in our finished products. You don’t want it touching your skin and you don’t want to breath it in. Plus the chemicals wreak havoc with my eyes and skin if I don’t pre-wash. Now imagine a baby receiving one of your unwashed quilts? All fabric goes through the washer before it is put away in my house and my eyes and hands are much happier for it.


I do not pre-wash. But I learned something interesting from David Taylor, who pre-washes everything. He explains that factory sizing and pressing pulls new fabric so that the weft and warp are not vertcal and horizontal. You can tell if new fabric isn’t square by tearing it. It will look lopsided if it’s off. If you want your quilt to lie perfectly flat, it should be pre-washed. Or you can live dangerously…lol…and deal with the creative results.

Pat R

I prewash to remove the chemicals used in fabric manufacturing. I use Shout Color Catchers in the machine to catch any running dye. I try to fold the washed fabric without ironing because I always have to iron it again when I want to cut it. When I iron it I use starch.


Never prewash, but steam iron wkith at leaåst 6psi. That works a treat!

Lorette Van S.

I’ve developed lots of allergy reactions since I started quilting–watery, itchy eyes, sneezing, and stuffed-up sinuses…I need to use anti-histamines when I go to fabric shops. I cannot work with flannel at all due to all the lint/dust it emits when cutting it-even after it’s washed.I’m positive the chemicals in the fabrics are to blame so I always wash. The only fabrics I don’t wash are batiks as they are washed up to 10 times during production. But I cannot give up quilting !


I only prewash fabric I am going to make clothing with. I wash all quilts (except art quilts that are wall hangings only) before they are gifted or sold.I use color catchers now, but if you can’t get those–white terry cloth rags (you you can get cheap white wash rags at many large chain stores–wash them before you use them to catch color) will also catch any bleed.

And unless you are using 100% polyester batting, the batting shrinks too.


I don’t prewash except for reds. I still use a dyecatcher for washing.

Joyce Carter

I don’t prewash my fabric. I think it is a waste of time. I like the way the fabric feels and it is so much easier to cut and handle without washing it. I love the crispness of the fabric before hand. And I love the way it looks after the quilt is finished and washed. If I am concerned about the fabric fading, I use a color catcher. I made my grandson a red, black, and white quilt and this is what I did. I had no trouble with it bleeding.. It really looks great.


I always prewash my fabric. Some fabrics shrink quite a lot and mixing them with those that don’t is a recipe for disaster. I find the batting shrinks enough to make my quilts nice and crinkly anyway. I also don’t like the feel or smell of unwashed fabrics. I don’t like getting the chemicals on my skin and don’t want them in the air when I heat them with the iron. Peeeeuuuuw. :-)

I made a wall hanging for my DH back before I became such a strong advocate for prewashing. The purple border fabric I used in the wall hanging turned out to be unwashed. As I rinsed out my quilt markings with cold water in the powder room sink, I noticed the color running. The water was wicking all into the wall hanging and dripping all over the place. Then I looked down at my pants and the carpet on the floor and they looked like I’d poured grape juice down my front! What a disaster. That was the day I began washing through my stash. Every piece! :-)

Mati Hari

Great list — it still hasn’t persuaded me to prewash my quilt fabric, but at least now I go into the decision knowing the evils I am about to perpetrate.

Pat Ost

I usually prewash fabric for baby quilts because of the chemicals BUT I have made a fair number of Jelly roll quilts and prewashing is out of the question as in precut squares, once they are put together , I will wash them – where do I find color catcher (in Canada).

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I have never prewashed. My quilts are entirely flannel tops and either flannel or cotton sheet backing. Yes, the store clerks all warn prewashing because flannels shrink differently. I
However, I have never had problem with a quilt looking bad, bleeding, puckering or coming apart after washing.


I prewash–I’m very senstitive to the chemicals in new fabrics, especially when ironing them. I wash smaller precuts in a mesh bag. I’ve found trimming corners diagonally helps miminize fraying with many fabrics. I’ve used those frayed edges as decorative “cords” couched onto embroidery and crazy quilt projects with a funky look.

Mary Grady

I disagree with the statement that you can’t wash precuts. Yes, you can. Use a lingerie bag. It’s a simple mesh bag that can be purchased at Walmart, etc., and is designed to prevent a lot of abuse to fabrics. The point of washing is to remove loose dye and cause shrinkage, if it’s going to happen. To do this, I use a lingerie bag for anything smaller than a half yard. For ALL fabrics, I use hot water, light detergent and the delicate or hand wash cycle. The hot water accomplishes everything you need and the delicate cycle and lingerie bag prevents fraying, tangling, etc. There is no excuse not to wash.


Prewash using lingerie bags. Next to no fraying, and sets colors, etc. Essentially agree with Mary Grady. I use different size lingerie bags, depending on size of fabric(s).


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