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Washing Marks Out

Sandra Hatch

Washing Marks Out

Jo has a problem. "Our church quilting group just finished a whole-cloth quilt. The quilting lines were marked in blue. When we washed the quilt the marks did not come out. Help! What can we do to get the marks out?"

I would have suggested washing, but you already did that. Did you soak it first? Is it all white? If so, perhaps you could try a gentle bleach. Make a test first. Use the same blue marker and the same white fabric. Mark it up; let it set a few days and try soaking. If that doesn't work, try the gentle bleach. If that doesn’t work, I don't have any suggestion. Orvus paste is recommended for washing quilts, but I would try a separate test sample with this. If you have already used other products on your sample, it might not work. If any Quilt Connections readers have other suggestions, please send them along for me to share.

Karla writes: "Just wanted to say that some inks will come out of fabric if you spray it with hair spray and then wash. This may take several washings but the lines usually fade with each one. I usually apply the hair spray, let it set for 30 minutes and then wash. If it doesn't come out, I repeat the process until it does. Don't dry it until all the ink is gone. Good luck!"

Ann says, "Have you tried soaking the project in OxyClean? I know this will remove the yellow caused by aging from vintage crochet pieces, but it takes about three days of changing the water and adding the OxyClean every day. Do tests first to see if this will work for you."

Tammy has a great solution: "For the blue markings on a quilt, try using Synthrapol soap. I am a hand dyer of quilt fabric and use this soap to wash the newly dyed fabric all together. I have saved some bled-on fabric by applying Synthrapol directly to the bled-on area, then washing the piece in cold water. Synthrapol is available at"

Gail adds: "In reply to the quilter who couldn't get the blue marks out of a white-on-white quilt her group had done. Many newer quilters may not know that you cannot iron on the blue marks or wash with soap; this sets the blue color. I have two techniques that have always worked so far. Clean the bathtub of any soap residue, place a sheet in the bottom of the tub and then put in the quilt. Fill the tub with water and carefully swish the quilt around. I have also turned on the shower and let it "rain" on the quilt, letting the water drain out of the tub. Continue this process until the blue disappears. I have been told the blue chemical goes down into the batting. The sheet in the bottom allows the wet, heavy quilt to be lifted out by the sheet without putting stress on the quilting stitches. The second technique I have used is to secure a sheet over four lawn chairs. Place the quilt on the sheet and then use the garden hose, from the top, to flush the blue marks out."

Jessie writes: "In response to Jo's problem getting the markings out of her whole-cloth quilt, I had the same problem several years ago with a purchased marked whole-cloth quilt piece. I contacted the manufacturer who said they had since changed their marking process because of the difficulty of removing. They advised washing, scrubbing with laundry spot remover and laying in the sun to bleach. I finally got most of it out, but was never totally successful. The spot removers are much better now than they were then, so hopefully that will work for you."

Faye advises: "To remove the blue markings on my quilt I found the Tide Pen works well. It is a pen-type spot remover developed to keep in your purse for those food drips. I keep one in my sewing room."

Jan has a simple solution: "I have found lemon juice works great to remove blue marks."

Margaret recommends: "I marked the pockets on a linen jacket with a blue wash-out marker and then forgot and pressed it before I removed the marks. A good sponging with hydrogen peroxide removed the marks without taking any of the color out. I have used this method since and always have great results."

Helen says, "Try OxyClean, a versatile washing powder meant for stain removal. I would first try it on a small area, first wetting the area and making a paste. I use this product to whiten and brighten."

Pauline's hint: "Try to rub the marks with rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab, and they will disappear. The same method works when you have ink on a shirt. Everything goes away and doesn't leave any mark."

Gloria shares her hint about removing quilt markings. "In the May/June 2006 issue of Designs in Machine Embroidery the same question was addressed. The answer was that the new Spray & Wash two-ingredient squirt formula did a good job. Try it on a sample piece of fabric."

Virginia's advice: "I smiled when I read Jo's comment regarding the blue marking lines that wouldn't come out. I, too, have had this problem. After these appeared on a quilt that had been commissioned I had to make a choice. I could either make another for my customer or find a way to hide the marks. I chose the later solution. Since the marks were visible enough, I had no problem seeing them. They only showed on the white pieces. I used embroidery floss and chain-stitched along each line in blue. This worked beautifully and my customer was thrilled with the extra touch."

Dinnene sent this message: "For Jo with the blue-mark problem on her quilt, I have used a bar soap called FelNaptha (found in the laundry-soap area) for numerous stains. I just use a soft brush and scrub it on or simply rub the bar onto the fabric and scrub with the soft brush. It has removed every stain I have encountered except grease or oil, in which case I use waterless hand cleaner. Another thing to try is to soak the quilt in Spic-n-Span. Good luck."

Judith shares a hint: "Regarding how to get the blue markings out of a whole-cloth quilt: I work in a store that deals with vintage linens and restoration work. We use a product called Linen Wash. The list of stains that it will remove is impressive. It is a soaking process that is safe for vintage fabrics, also quilts. We do not recommend using bleach for removing anything. A diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide (one part peroxide to 10 parts water), applied with a Q-tip or soft cloth, and a clear rinse after can also be used. Fels-Naptha bar soap is another good cleaning agent. It can be rubbed on using the bar, or shaved and mixed with water to form a paste. Items can be soaked in a washer, but do not agitate. It is OK to spin out the water, then dry appropriately."

I have used Linen Wash and it does a fine job. I would not wash a valuable antique quilt in the washer. I wash mine in the tub using a sheet for a sling to get it out of the water after the rinsing process. Even lifting the quilt while wet can damage the fabric and break stitches. I do wash new quilts in my washer and dry in the dryer when necessary.

John writes: "I learned about making quilts when I was 8-10 years old. I'm 75 years old now, and I have been waiting more than 50 years to tell the following story.

"I learned by watching my mother, grandmother and aunt make quilts. They were innovators. One of their innovations was what they called a "patchwork" quilt. They began by mounting a background piece the size of the entire top on the quilting frame by sewing it to strips of canvas running the length of the rollers. Then they made it taut. They chose various prints of different things such as trees, flowers, animals, etc., and sewed them onto the background to make scenes. They appeared to be like patches. Then they removed this piece and installed the muslin backing and the cotton batting with this piece on top. They basted these layers together using 3"-4"-long stitches spaced 4"-6" apart. A carpenter's chalk line was used to mark where they wanted to quilt in a crosshatch pattern. They took the whole thing off the frame and used a sewing machine to quilt it following the chalk lines. They then removed the basting stitches, added the edging, and finally washed it to get rid of the chalk lines.

"This is obviously a very different way to make a quilt, where the entire top is a big picture with no small pieces that have to be sewn together to make blocks, and so on.

"They had other innovations too, but I like this one best. They obtained their picture prints from bags of rags they bought from Goodwill and the Salvation Army. If they wanted a particular scene and could not find fabric for it, they embroidered it instead. The entire top of the quilt was a scene, like something Norman Rockwell or Grandma Moses might draw. They could even reproduce painting by old masters. Imagine sleeping under the Mona Lisa. This idea might appeal to others."

I have never heard of anyone doing this before, so thanks for sharing, John.