Do you pre-wash batting?

by Nicole

This weekend I conducted a little experiment by prewashing my cotton batting for the first time.

I’ve considered prewashing in the past, but have never wanted to be bothered since it seemed like too much work.

But I was curious about what the quilt would look like without the shrinking that happens after it goes through the wash.

I followed the instructions on the packaging – well, for the most part.

I did wash the batting by hand, although I wanted to stick it in the washer and see what would happen, but the package said in bold letters, DO NOT AGITATE IN THE WASHER. I had visions of me pulling out the batting in chunks and figured I’d play it safe.

I put the batting in the sink in my laundry room with a bit of detergent and let it sit for a bit.

I was surprised to see that the water turned brown. Seeing that brown water made me wonder about what is in the batting and of it sitting on all the quilts I’ve ever made but that I never prewashed the batting for. Yikes! If any of you know what would turn the water brown, please let me know, but then again, maybe I don’t want to know!

After letting the batting soak for about half an hour, I rinsed the batting and squeezed out as much water as I could and then put it in the washer to spin out the remaining water. I took a chance using the washer since that was not what the packaging recommended, but I didn’t want to use a bunch of towels to squeeze the water out of the batting as described in the instructions.

I set the machine to a low spin for about 10 minutes. At the end of the cycle, most of the water had drained out. I was relieved that the batting was still in one piece after taking a trip through the machine.

I put the batting in the dryer for about an hour on medium heat. When I took it out of the dryer, I pulled out the softest batting I have ever touched.

I’ll be quilting with it soon so I’ll keep you posted, but so far it seems like I may be on my way to becoming a batting prewasher! The prewashing didn’t take as long as I had imagined and it was a pretty simple process.

How about you? Do you prewash your batting? Why or why not?

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Books_Bound March 28, 2013 - 4:10 am

Yikes! That water is scary! Is that Warm and Natural?

I'm not a pre-washer, of batting or of fabric. Mostly, this is because I am lazy. It is also because I don't have a great place to do it, since I live in an apartment complex with a shared washer and dryer. Sure, it's possible, but it's even more hassle. If I tried to do it in the washer, I'd have to catch it before it started agitating, and our laundry room is scary and I don't want to sit and wait for it. If I soaked it in my bathtub, I'd have to haul it downstairs soaking wet.

Also, I like super crinkly quilts, and I think not pre-shrinking helps with that effect.

My next apartment is going to have a washer/dryer (I think), so maybe I'll give it a shot when it's a little more convenient!

Happier Than A Bird Quilts March 28, 2013 - 4:10 am

Wow the brown water freaks me out! I wonder what that is too, because it has never ended up on my white fabric. That is just crazy.

Flo @ Butterfly Quilting March 28, 2013 - 4:35 am

I have never pre washed batting, and don't pre wash fabric either. I am hoping that all that brown stuff washes out with the first wash???

Debbie March 28, 2013 - 4:53 am

I have never considered washing batt!?! So curious about the brown though. I'd probably email the manufacturer and ASK! šŸ˜‰ Anxious to here more about your little experiment!

Dree March 28, 2013 - 5:01 am

I have never pre-washed batting. I like my quilts crinkly, and I think having shrinking batting is important for that. I would also have to do it in my bathtub, and that does not sound like fun.

I do prewash my fabric, but have considered stopping this. I started out as a sewer though, so it is, possibly, an unbreakable habit. I also sew with quilting scraps and quilt with sewing scraps, so this could turn into a shrunken disaster, methinks, LOL.

Katarina March 28, 2013 - 5:56 am

Wow, that's an interesting experience! I prewash all of my fabrics but I've never considered washing the batting. Did you by any chance measure how much did it shrink?

Kelli March 28, 2013 - 6:23 am

I have never prewashed batting.. it seems like so much work. Will be interested to see the final product with it and hear how it all turns out. šŸ™‚ xo

Andrea March 28, 2013 - 7:11 am

Hi! I prewash everything. Fabric I usually just mix in with the rest of the laundry. I'm not a fan of super crinkly quilts (but a little crinkle is ok!), so usually prewash batting by itself. We have a newer HE washer, and I've always put the batting in there and run it on delicate cycle and have never had a problem. Never watched the water drain though, so not sure about that brown water. Ugh! I usually dry the batting on med heat afterwards. And it's super soft! The final quilt after washing does still wrinkle up a bit, but not as much as I think it would without the prewash. Curious to see how yours will turn out!

Donna March 28, 2013 - 4:20 pm

Andrea, thanks for the HE washing instructions. I'll try it!

Stephanie Pettengell March 28, 2013 - 8:39 am

I always prewash my wadding/batting, I use an 80/20 cotton/poly mix batting and prewash on any machine wash cycle that I am going to wash the finished article in. If it is a quilt it is going to be washed on a 30/40 degree wool type was and that on my washing machine gives a 1000 spin. The batting/wadding always comes out fine and just needs to be draped over something to dry naturally. I have used the dryer occasionally, and that is fine but usually just leave it to dry naturally over night.

Laura C @ littleandlots March 28, 2013 - 11:57 am

I don't prewash ANYTHING. (Once, ok, I pre washed some Kona Tomato that I was using as a binding fabric.) That brown water is so gross! I love quilt crinkle, and find that the sizing on quilting cottons makes the fabrics easier to cut. I am so interested to see what happens with your pre washed batting!

Frances Welch March 28, 2013 - 12:18 pm

I always pre wash batting(80/20 cotton poly) and so far no disasters it really cuts down the crickling and I find it makes any hand quilting I do easier. I soak for as long as I can then very slow spin and allow to dry naturely over night

Annabella March 28, 2013 - 1:44 pm

I've only washed once when I was making a Liberty tana commission quilt – I'm not sure why I did now *puzzled*.

regan March 28, 2013 - 1:54 pm

I prewash my fabrics, but not my batting. I love the crinkled look of antique quilts, and I don't want to lose that. Was that batt you washed Warm & Natural? I've only used that batt once, and it bearded so much through my black fabric that I vowed I'd never use it again. I'd be interested to know what that yucky brown stuff was……oy!

Lisle July 25, 2014 - 1:35 pm

Bearding on dark quilts has been a common enough problem that they started making black batts a number of years back. Some quilt shops carry them, but they're mostly available online.

Britt G. March 28, 2013 - 3:08 pm

I pre-wash all my fabric – just a habit from garment sewing for my daughter. I haven't pre-washed my batting yet (I have only made two complete quilts so far), but was think about it for my next one. I will be interested to see how the final quilt comes out now that you pre-washed. My washer is an old-school agitator so I wonder if it would be a too much of a beating even on a gentle spin cycle.

Samantha March 28, 2013 - 3:38 pm

That water is gross! I have prewashed fabrics esp. darker colors but never batting.

Sandy March 28, 2013 - 4:01 pm

This is definitely a thread I want to follow. I always wash my fabric to remove the chemical smell if for no other reason. Seems other sewers have washed their batting, too. I will give this a try based on what you do and your recommendation.

Donna March 28, 2013 - 4:18 pm

Very interesting discussion. I always prewash fabrics and have wondered about prewashing batting but haven't tried it. I love the idea of controlling the amount of shrinkage (wrinkling) depending on the quilt, so I'll give it a go. The scary brown water is a little unsettling.

{ HeatherK @ AReformedHeath'n } March 28, 2013 - 4:22 pm

You've got my complete attention now … I'd love to see the answers to the questions from other comments above … I'll be waiting to see your project šŸ™‚

cyndiofthevortex March 28, 2013 - 4:57 pm

I am definitely going to try this. Thanks for the idea. I have a large batt and two twin quilts to quilt. I think I'll quilt one with the washed batting and one with the unwashed section and compare the two after finishing them.

Deb@asimplelifequilts March 28, 2013 - 5:41 pm

I'm shocked by that brown water! I've never pre washed batting before – I wash my fabrics for several reasons but have always liked the crinkly look after washing.

Jennifer March 28, 2013 - 6:48 pm

The brown water is from the seeds in the batting. Cotton seeds are oily and the seeds give off a brown coloring…if there are lots of seeds in the cotton and you dry it in a high heat, they can also explose and leave brown coloring everywhere. It's a part of the refining process that makes the difference in battings, as well as the quality of the cotton used. The batting I use removes as many seeds as possible so that this discoloration doesn't take place. March 29, 2013 - 11:00 am

Thanks for explaining this Jennifer! I learn something new everyday!

Sheryll And Critters. February 26, 2014 - 10:32 pm

I was about to say the same thing as Jennifer. Only I was going to ask you if it was natural, unbleached, Cotton. If you have ever seen Cotton growing, it has a brown shell….. most things in nature are not extremely white. lol After saying this, I plan to use poly batting for my white duvet…. nothing fancy, just going to do some boxes on the sewing machine and hope it is good enough to not be embarressed. Also planning to make a plain white cover, only I am still deciding on shirring or pin tucking one side. Hey, if I did a REAL quilt at this point…… it may never get finished, cause I like the real old way of them being large enough to cover the bed and the entire sides and tuck my pillows too…… I am no longer 'into' those tons of pillows.

Jane July 25, 2016 - 1:10 pm

What kind of batting do u use?

Sheryll And Critters. February 26, 2014 - 10:35 pm

My long comment disappeared…. why I do not know…. but I agree with Jennifer. It is covering of the cotton seed…… if you have ever seen Cotton growing or tried to pick Cotton….. well, I don't think the brown is a problem unless you are doing white.

Katy Cameron March 28, 2013 - 7:49 pm

I never even thought you could lol Since I don't bother my backside to prewash my fabrics, I doubt I'll be rushing to it any time soon ;o)

What Jennifer said about the colour

Lisa in Port Hope March 28, 2013 - 11:42 pm

I've done one of each. I like the crinkly of the non-pre-washed, however I had done a lot of hand quilting on it that got totally lost. This has been an interesting think, I just bought some batting for a quilt for my niece and I'll have to decide whether to pre-wash or not.

Liz Gellert March 28, 2013 - 11:55 pm

Jennifer has it sussed – that's oil. I had the same thing with warm and natural. All the more reason to prewash that brand, but not so much others. I have a friend who said she didn't pre-wash a wool batting, and it was a complete disaster when it was washed after completion. The batting shrank so much that she had to unpick the whole quilt and rebaste and quilt it with cotton. What a nightmare. So cotton only for her now. I haven't tried bamboo but would be interested in what people think, as it is so sot and lovely.

Kate April 15, 2013 - 4:06 pm

Yikes! I just bought a wool batting for a queen-sized quilt I'm making! I hate to think it's going to be ruined the fist time it gets washed! Has anyone else had this problem when using wool batting?

Ruthann Grace June 30, 2015 - 7:04 pm

I've used both Hobbs Tuscany Wool and Quilter's Dream Wool and have washed and tried the quilts. They turned out crinkly (similar to a cotton bat) but fine.

pandchintz March 29, 2013 - 12:09 am

I'd never even thought about pre washing batting!! Like you I imagined it would fall apart in the machine with all the agitation. Having worked for a batting manufacturer, their advice is to NOT pre wash, so I've never done it. Besides I quite like the little shrinkage that happens. Most of the battings I use only have a 3%-5% shrinkage rate, so it's hardly discernible. Looking forward to seeing how it quilts up!

Michelle Watson March 29, 2013 - 12:10 am

I always pre-wash both my fabric and my batting. And I am not kind when I do it! My fabric and batting both get put through a normal hot wash in my machine – although I do them separately – fabric in one and batting by itself. I use 100% cotton batting. I dry both on warm in the tumble dryer. I want all the dye and shrinkage out before I make the quilt. I also don't like the super crinklley look. I will be machine washing and drying my quilts after I make them, so I want to minimize the surprises.

Sewjournal March 29, 2013 - 1:32 am

I never pre-wash batting but I wash my finished quilt as soon as it's completed.

Heidi Staples March 29, 2013 - 5:32 am

Gosh, you're brave, Nicole! It's never occurred to me to prewash batting before. I usually prewash my fabric, though.

Leanne March 29, 2013 - 5:43 am

I prewash all my fabrics but not the batting. Interesting about the cotton seeds. I am going to wash a bit of the kind I use and see what happens.

Beth March 29, 2013 - 11:37 pm

I've never prewashed batting either but I do prewash my fabric. But now I really want to know why it turned your water brown?!?

Sheri August 31, 2013 - 2:50 am

I always pre wash my batting. I only buy Warm and Natural and I always buy the queen size pkg of batting. The website says it may shrink up to 3% if not washed prior to quilting and I am not willing to give up 3% of my quilt size. I save my pieces and stitch together for smaller projects. I hand wash and squeeze out as much as I can and give it a quick spin (about 5 min) in the washer to get the rest out then dry on the gentle cycle in the dryer. I have never had a bad experience with Warm and Natural washed batting.

Monica at Buttoncounter November 3, 2014 - 9:40 pm

Cotton is a natural fiber…from a plant, like hemp, and linen. There will be brown unless it has been seriously bleached, and even then there may remain elements from the trash (parts of the plant that remain with the cotton fibers during the processing and manufacturing stages. This is why natural muslin is brown. Old quilts, like the antique and vintage quilts, had a lower grade cotton batting that resulted in forming small brown spots on the fabrics used making the quilt top and backing. If you go to a quilt museum, you will readily see them on the lighter fabrics. Cotton trash.

I like my quilts to be soft and cuddly. I like them to have that crinkly look as well. I have never failed to get that look from prewashed batting and fabric. Batting (and quilts) should not be agitated in the washing machine because that can destroy the shape of the batting, maybe even shred it. This is especially true of older quilts. Spin cycle is completely different. You can safely spin almost all current battings. Depending on your vintage quilts, I would consult a quilt historian or appraiser before tossing it in the wash….and if it is antique…never.

I hope this helps. What I didn't learn taking textiles in college, I learned from quilt historian, Kathleen McCrady taking her quilt history and study classes.

artsycraftsyivy June 30, 2015 - 7:25 pm

Hey, Nicole! It doesn't look like you ever blogged about this again. How did your quilt turn out? Crinkly or smooth? Did you become a prewashing convert? Thanks! šŸ™‚

Gail Koza November 25, 2015 - 2:17 pm

Hi there (2 years later) I'd love to know the answer as well. I have never pre-washed a batting and have not had a problem however I don't keep many of my own quilts so I'm interested to know the outcome as well. Thank you!

Melissa april June 17, 2016 - 11:24 am

Follow the instructions for washing batting very carefully! I didn’t. I bought just a yard of 100%natural cotton batting at my local walmart so I didn’t have the instructions with me since they are on the cardboard that holds the fabric at walmart. So I thought I was playing it safe by throwing it in the washer on delicate spin. …..when I opened up my washer after it was done I was about in tears. Spent 10$ for just 1 yard and it turned out in complete shreds!!! That is how I ended up on this blog. ..looking up online other people’s expertise with washing batting. I wish I had gotten on line before washing the batting. Now I have to get more batting after having wasted my own time and money over my own stupidity. Lessons learned

Nicole June 17, 2016 - 8:57 pm

Hi Melissa! I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. I was terrified that I’d find shambles in my washing machine when I tried it, but thankfully the batting was intact. Did you put it through the wash cycle? I soak mine in the sink and use the washer to spin out the excess water before I dry it. I’ve never had a problem. Go easy on yourself. I admire you for your boldness to try something new.

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