- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Q: What is the best way to clean my comforter without having it pill?

A: Pilling results from rubbing and abrasion on fibers during use and care. Even though pilling may be more prominent after cleaning, some comforters may show slight pilling even before they are cleaned.

The degree of pilling that occurs will be dependent on the fiber type and yarn construction used in the fabric. Tightly twisted yarns will pill less readily than loosely twisted yarns. Additionally, tightly woven fabrics will experience less pilling than loosely woven fabrics because the yarns are tightly interlaced within the weave.

To minimize pilling on washable comforters, clean in front-loading commercial washers and dryers, which are much larger than the average home washer and dryer. This allows for free movement during washing and drying and prevents the material from rubbing continuously against itself. If the care label recommends dry cleaning, the comforter should be taken to a professional cleaner.

Q: I have a quilt my grandmother made for me. What is the best way to clean it?

A: Handmade quilts usually hold sentimental value, especially when they are precious heirlooms that have been handed down through the generations. Therefore, a professional cleaner should handle most heirloom items of this type. Also, it is beneficial to consult with a quilt conservator before washing heirloom quilts to get advice about the safest method of care.

If you decide to wash your handmade quilts on your own, do not use your washing machine. Fill your bathtub with cold water and add 1 to 2 ounces of mild detergent. Let the quilt soak for about five minutes and then knead the material lightly with your hands. This should remove any dirt or other soils present in the fabric.

Drain the tub and refill with cool water to rinse. Slowly work the detergent out of the material and then gently roll it to remove all excess water. Carefully remove the quilt from the tub, making sure to distribute the weight evenly to avoid rips and tears. Hang the quilt to dry in the shade or place it over several chairs to support its weight properly.

Use oscillating fans that flow directly over the surface to help the fabric dry. Flip the quilt over after a few hours to ensure even drying.

Q: My daughter recently got gum on her shirt. Will this come out in the washer?

A: Gum is soluble in solvent and will be removed easily in dry cleaning, but it will not be readily removed in washing. However, gum can be removed from washable fabrics by various methods.

One of the safest home methods is to hold an ice cube over the gum to “freeze” it or to place the garment itself in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Once the gum is frozen, you can scrape the area gently with the dull side of a butter knife or use your fingers to pick off the gum.

Another home method of removing gum is to rub peanut butter over the area. The oils in peanut butter release the “bond” between the gum and fabric. Once the bond has loosened, gently rub the area with the dull side of a butter knife or edge of a spoon to remove. Then, to remove the peanut butter, pre-treat the area with a home stain-removal product and launder in the hottest water safe for the color and fabric.

Finally, you can purchase solvent-based cleaning agents in the aisle with home detergents, bleaches and other home clothing care products at your local store. Place a few paper towels under the fabric where the gum is present and apply a teaspoon of the product over the gum. The solvent should start to loosen the gum from the fabric, so you can rub it off of the material. After the gum has been removed, launder as normal.

William E. Fisher is a board member of the FabriCare Foundation and is chief executive of the International Fabricare Institute in Laurel.

Chris Allsbrooks is an affiliate board member and spokeswoman for the FabriCare Foundation. She has 13 years’ experience as a textile analyst.

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