How to Take Care of Heirloom Blankets

Posted by Bethaney Wallace on 16th Sep 2013

Winter is just around the corner, and it’s that time again when colder items start making their way into everyday use. (While shorts and tank tops are packed away until spring.) The cooler weather also means a change in bedding, such as flannel sheets or additional blankets to help keep you warm at night. Including the one that Grandma knitted when you were a kid, or the patchwork quilt you inherited from Aunt Muriel. Whether laid across the bed, or folded on the end of the couch, heirloom blankets are a cozy alternative to cranking up the heat – and one that’s far more budget friendly.

When searching through the blanket stash, however, these handmade items often get shoved to the bottom of the stack. For fear of getting them dirty (or causing damage), many just opt to not use these handmade blankets at all. But isn’t that what they were made for? Your second cousin once removed would surely rather see her blanket put to good use – right? Besides, these blankets are often much heavier and warmer than their store-bought counterparts.

To keep these family heirlooms clean, follow these simple washing and care tips – no matter what type of blanket you have in tow.

Washing Knitted Blankets

Believe it or not, taking care of knitted (or crocheted) blankets is more about the yarn type rather than the sturdiness of the knit. (Though delicate blankets should certainly be given a little extra care.) When receiving the heirloom – whether as a gift or a hand-me-down – be sure to ask what type of yarn was used to construct the blanket.

For cotton, superwash wool, or acrylic blends, hand- or machine-wash (on gentle) with cold water. After several washes, it may be safe to use warm water, but proceed with caution. If synthetic, the blanket will be safe in the dryer as these materials do not shrink. For wool or cotton blends, lay flat to dry; don’t hang as it will stretch and deform the blanket.

For traditional or non-superwash wool, wash this blanket only by hand in cold water. If put into a machine, the blanket could “felt,” greatly changing the look and texture. (This is a crafting technique and will permanently alter the material.)


Whether hand washing or using a machine, it’s best to choose a gentle or mild detergent. Specialty wool formulas can be purchased, though mild options should work fine as well. Start the water and let detergent mix and foam before adding the blanket; even gentle options can bleach or harm fabrics when poured directly onto a garment.

Hand-Washing Tips

Never scrub, wring, or harshly handle the blanket. Instead, gently twist or turn it in the cold, soapy water. Next, rinse in clean water removing all soap from the fabric. Drain the sink or tub and press out excess water. Then, grab a clean town and roll the blanket until it is no longer dripping or excessively wet.

Now lay the blanket flat to dry. It may need to be flipped or adjusted after a few hours so it can dry evenly. [About]

Hand-Quilted Blankets

Generally, quilts are much easier to care for. Because they are made from fabrics rather than yarn, there should be little washing restrictions. Ask the maker if they have any tips, otherwise the quilt should wash up fine in any washer. Make sure the drum is large enough to hold the blanket (too-small models might rip or tear sections that don’t fit). It’s also a good idea to use cold water – at least until you’re sure no fabrics will bleed.

The quilt should also do fine in the dryer (on low), but laying flat to dry is also an easy option. Especially as this the dryer will take several hours on low. To save the most energy, let sit flat for 12-24 hours, then pop into the dryer to soften up any wrinkles or edges.

With these instructions, heirloom blankets are nothing to be afraid of. Remember to take care of each item correctly, and you and your family is sure to enjoy them for years to come.