Should quilts be stored in plastic?

Quilts are beautiful works of art that can last for generations when properly cared for. One of the most important aspects of quilt care is how they are stored. Many quilt owners wonder if plastic storage is the best option for protecting their quilted treasures. There are pros and cons to using plastic to store quilts that must be weighed carefully.

Should You Store Quilts in Plastic?

Plastic storage bags and containers are commonly used for storing quilts. Plastic protects quilts from dust, dirt, bugs, and humidity. However, plastic has some significant downsides as a quilt storage method.

Pros of Plastic Quilt Storage

Here are some potential benefits of using plastic to store quilts:

  • Keeps out dust, dirt, and bugs – Plastic creates a sealed environment that prevents quilts from being exposed to particles that can soil and damage the fabric over time.
  • Provides protection from moisture – Plastic blocks humidity and moisture that can cause mildew or mold growth on natural fibers like cotton and wool.
  • Clear plastic allows visibility – Clear plastic bags or containers allow you to see the quilt inside so you can identify and access it easily.
  • Lightweight and portable – Plastic storage options are lightweight and can be easily moved or stacked to maximize storage space.
  • Low cost – Plastic bags and bins are often inexpensive solutions for protecting textiles.

For these reasons, many quilt owners opt to use plastic as a convenient, affordable way to protect quilts from dirt, moisture, and damage from the environment.

Cons of Plastic Quilt Storage

However, there are some significant drawbacks to relying solely on plastic for storing quilts long-term:

  • Can trap moisture against fabrics – Plastic can create a greenhouse effect that traps in moisture, which can lead to mildew growth on natural fibers.
  • Can promote fabric degradation – Plastic storage bags prevent air circulation, which cotton and wool fibers need to breathe naturally. Lack of airflow can weaken fibers over time.
  • Can cause fabric discoloration – Plastic can leach chemicals onto fabric or catalyze reactions between dyes and fibers, causing permanent discoloration or stains.
  • Can attract insects – Plastic bags can develop microscopic tears or holes that allow insects like carpet beetles to get in and damage quilts.
  • Difficult to clean – It is hard to vacuum seal or clean a quilt inside a plastic bag without taking it out. Removing a large quilt from plastic can be difficult.

The biggest risks of long-term plastic storage are mildew, premature aging of fabrics, staining, and insect damage. For irreplaceable antique or heirloom textiles, these risks often outweigh plastic’s benefits.

Best Practices for Storing Quilts in Plastic

If you do choose to use plastic storage bags or containers for your quilts, here are some tips to minimize risks:

  • Use archival quality plastics – Choose specialized plastic designed for long-term storage. Avoid plastic bags with plasticizers that can leach chemicals onto fabrics.
  • Allow breathability – Make sure quilts are loose in bags and air can circulate. Avoid vacuum compression or airtight seals.
  • Open bags regularly – Open plastic bags once a month to allow fresh air exchange and monitor for any signs of mold or insects.
  • Limit light exposure – Store plastic containers or bags away from light sources to prevent UV damage and fading.
  • Monitor temperature and humidity – Storage areas should be cool and dry to prevent mildew. Consider adding silica gel packs to absorb excess moisture.
  • Watch for warning signs – If you see color changes, stiffness, brittleness or holes in fabrics, take the quilt out of the plastic immediately.

Taking active precautions allows plastic to provide protection against dust and dirt without putting fabrics at undue risk. But even with best practices, plastic may not be the best permanent storage solution for heirloom or fragile antique quilts.

Alternative Storage Options for Quilts

If the limitations of plastic storage concern you, what are the options? Here are some other ways to protect quilts:

Acid-Free Tissue Paper

Wrapping quilts loosely in acid-free, lignin-free tissue paper allows air circulation while preventing dust and abrasion. The paper also buffers humidity changes. Change the tissue paper at least once a year.

Cotton Sheets

100% cotton sheets make excellent quilt storage wraps. Cotton allows fabrics to breathe while keeping out environmental contaminants. White cotton avoids any risk of dye transfer. Change and launder sheets regularly.

Acid-Free Boxes

Archival quality cardboard boxes with lids offer rigid support and stack easily. Look for acid-free corrugated board or lignen-free boxes. Avoid wood storage chests or boxes as they can emit harmful acids.

Cedar Chests

Cedar chests with cedar lining have natural insect and humidity repelling properties ideal for textiles. Ensure the cedar is not aromatic and place quilts loosely in unsealed chests. The wood should be untreated to avoid chemical exposure.

Museum Mounting

For special quilts, professional museum mounting is the gold standard. Quilts are custom mounted onto acid-free boards and stored flat, preventing creases. However, this is an expensive option reserved for high value heritage quilts.

The best storage solutions allow air exchange while preventing dirt, insects, and humidity damage. Avoid airtight plastic when possible.

How to Store Different Types of Quilts

Certain types of quilts may require specialized storage protocols. Follow these best practices for different quilt fabrics and formats:

Cotton Quilts

Most quilts are cotton, which is vulnerable to mildew and stains. Cotton needs air circulation. Refold in acid-free tissue every 1-2 years. Avoid vacuumed plastic storage.

Wool Quilts

Wool is susceptible to moths. Store wool quilts very loosely in unsealed plastic with cedar or lavender sachets. Refold with new sachets every 6 months. Keep in cool storage.

Silk Quilts

Silk quilts require extreme care as silk fibers are delicate. Wrap in acid-free tissue or cotton, not plastic. Keep in low humidity and avoid direct light exposure. Refold every 6-12 months.

Amish Quilts

Amish quilts have fragile dyes susceptible to bleeding. Avoid plastic. Store loosely folded between layers of white cotton sheets. Keep out of direct light.

Antique Quilts

Fragile antique/vintage quilts need specialized care. Consult a textile preservation expert. In general, store flat like a map folder, not folded. Avoid plastic.

Pressed Quilt Blocks

Pressed quilt blocks should be stored flat and evenly supported in acid-free boxes. Interleave with tissue paper and limit stacking to prevent creasing.

Baby/Child Quilts

Heavily used baby/child quilts may need washing. Place clean quilts in cotton pillowcases. When not in use, store flat or loosely folded in archival box.

Unfinished Quilt Tops

Store quilt tops flat like maps, interleaved with tissue. Do not fold. Avoid hanging as gravity can distort shapes. Keep away from direct light, heat, and humidity.

Where to Store Quilts

In addition to how you store a quilt, where you keep quilts long-term is equally important.

Here are the ideal conditions for quilt storage spaces:

  • Cool climate controlled room
  • Consistent temperature between 60-72 °F
  • Low humidity – 35-45% RH
  • Good air circulation
  • Dark or low light conditions
  • Archival storage materials and shelves
  • Monitored for pests with traps

Avoid attics, basements, or garages with extreme temperature and humidity swings. Never store quilts in high moisture areas prone to flooding. Ensure storage spaces stay sufficiently climate controlled year round.

Protecting Quilts When Displaying

Many quilters want to proudly display their quilts when not in use while still protecting the fabrics. Here are tips for safely showing quilts:

  • Rotate with seasons – Rotate quilts on display to prevent light damage from overexposure.
  • Use low UV lighting – Select low UV bulbs and filters to prevent fading.
  • Keep out of direct sunlight – Avoid hanging quilts in bright sunlit windows.
  • Allow airflow – Hang quilts loosely to allow breathing room between folds.
  • Use fabric backing – Back with cotton sheet or fabric when mounting to disperse weight.
  • Check for insects – Periodically inspect wall mounted quilts for any pest damage.

Limit light exposure to a few months at a time. Stitch mounts loosely so textiles can relax when not on display.

Cleaning and Caring for Used Quilts

Quilts that are actively used and slept under need periodic cleaning to prevent soiling, staining, and the build up of fabric degradation from body oils and environmental dirt. Here are tips for caring for used quilts:


Depending on fabric content, wash gently by hand or on a delicate cycle in cold water using a mild detergent or specialized product for laundering quilts. Avoid vigorous agitation. Air dry fully.

Spot Cleaning

Catch stains early and spot clean as needed with a damp cloth and minimal detergent. Avoid excessive rubbing or blotting. Consult a textile expert for ingrained stains.

Airing Out

Air quilts outdoors regularly to freshen fabrics and prevent musty odors. Drape over a clothesline or outdoor furniture on a dry, low humidity day.


Promptly repair any tears, holes or loose binding stitches to prevent further damage. Use only compatible cotton threads and needles. Seek professional help for structural damage or major repairs.

With consistent light cleaning and airing when used often, quilts can provide many years of warmth and enjoyment before needing more intensive restoration. The key is addressing issues immediately before they intensify or cause permanent discoloration, stains, or fabric breakdown.

Signs Your Quilt Needs Help from a Professional

While proactive care can prevent many issues, sometimes age, use, or undetected problems take a toll on even well maintained quilts. Look for these warning signs that a quilt needs professional intervention:

  • Pervasive yellowing, browning, or discoloration
  • Numerous moth holes or evidence of rodents
  • Major stains that resisted home treatments
  • Extensive fabric damage or dry rot
  • Loss of batting loft
  • Severe creasing or misshapen dimensions
  • Torn seams, shredded binding, or gaping holes
  • Blocking required to regain flat surface

A textile restoration expert can perform an assessment and recommend options ranging from specialized cleaning, stain removal, and repairs to complete quilt re-assembly and restoration. While costly, professional services preserve quilts with permanent damage or deterioration.


A quilt is more than just bedding – it’s often a meaningful work of art worthy of being passed down for generations. With some care and common sense, quilts can survive indefinitely, retaining their beauty, comfort, and sentimental value over decades of use. By avoiding unsuitable storage materials like plastic bags, monitoring quilts for signs of damage, cleaning gently when needed, and seeking help when problems arise, quilt lovers can treasure and pass down their stitched treasures for many generations to come. With just a little TLC, your favorite quilts can warm your family for a lifetime.

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