How to Wash Your Cotton Blanket

7 min read

women washing a cotton blanket standing in front of a washing machine

How To Wash Cotton Blankets Without Ruining Them

Some form of cotton can be found in most homes globally because it's such a durable fabric and has remained one of the most popular fabric choices for millennia. 

Cotton blankets are soft, warm, and comfortable, but there is a kink in their durable armor when it comes to washing and caring for them.

The characteristics of cotton make it a preferred fabric choice in most households, and using cotton blankets begins with our most precious gift – our newborn babies. 

When we think about babies, we are immediately reminded of the constant cleaning and washing of anything our little ones come into contact with; This includes those little cotton baby blankets used to swaddle and wipe up all the fun mess that comes with kids.

The cleaning and washing of blankets don't end there but continue into adulthood and old age. Cotton blankets have consistently stood the test of time and, if treated with care, will last a lifetime or beyond.

It is incredible to think that something as simple as cotton can be woven into the fabric that makes us myriad different products, like blankets, clothes, curtains, bath towels, beach towels, face cloths, nappies, shoe uppers, and much more, with all these products that cotton makes, it is without question that learning how best to care for cotton is a necessary discussion.

How to wash a cotton blanket women infront of washing machine holding cotton blanket

Cotton blanket characteristics.

Cotton blankets are mostly four-season blankets, but this depends on whether the blanket in question is 100% cotton or a blended cotton blanket and, naturally, the thickness of the blanket. 

The characteristics of pure cotton make it the most breathable fabric, second only to wool, and this factor plus its softness and lightweight features are why cotton is so popular.

Cotton blend blankets may have different washing instructions to 100% pure cotton blankets. Still, the blend usually enhances the quality of the blanket, making it less prone to shrinkage when washed in warm or hot water. 

How to wash a cotton blanket close up of protea pinstripe blanket

Where cotton is the main fabric in a blend, the general characteristics like breathability will still benefit. Still, the blend percentage may influence its hypoallergenic and other factors that may swing slightly on both ends of the scale. 

Polyester is a typical blend choice, and with excessive use and frequent washes, the breathability may be reduced by clogging and breaking of the fibers. 

Blends also influence the thermoregulation that makes 100% cotton a four-season fabric.

100% cotton is prone to shrinking when washed. Shrinking is the biggest concern among cotton lovers, and it is also why blended cotton has become so sought after. 

Blended cotton dramatically reduces the possibility of shrinking, but if you insist on 100% cotton, there is a trademarked process that pre-shrinks the fabric. 

Sanforized cotton and no that's not a typo

Sanforized is a word that appears on many 100% cotton fabric labels. The fabric has gone through the Sanforized process and is pre-shrunk making it safe to be washed and dried without further shrinkage.

Caring for your cotton blankets

Always read the washing instruction label on your cotton blanket

It is essential to read the label on any cotton item you purchase as it will give you valuable information on the fabric plus the washing (caring) instructions. However, there are a few tricks of the trade not mentioned on labels that will improve the longevity of your cotton blanket.

The label on your cotton blanket may indicate that it's safe to machine wash in cold/warm water and tumble dry on low heat, which is all fine and well, but the drying process can be altered slightly to improve longevity. 

Tumble dry to slightly damp then air dry the rest

Instead of completely drying the blanket in the tumble dryer on the lowest heat setting, dry it until it is free of moisture but still a little damp, and then air dry it outside until completely dry. This easy hack will make a big difference in the long run.

Washing your cotton blankets will not reduce the expected lifespan, but this is on the condition that you stick to the washing instructions printed on the label.

how to wash your cotton blanket women on beach with young child  

Washing helps keep your blanket hypoallergenic

Washing helps maintain the hypoallergenic quality of your blanket, but if there are no liquid spills or severe dirt stains from pets or children, then vigorous shake and air your blanket outside for a couple of hours work very well.

Cotton will still shrink by about 5% over time, but it also stretches when wet, which accounts for the blanket's shape distorting if the washing instructions are not adhered to. Cotton is highly absorbent and can absorb twice its weight in water. 

Don't hang any blanket when fully wet

Hanging a soaking wet 100% cotton blanket on a single strand washing line will draw the water to the bottom of the blanket, and this may result in your blanket stretching under the weight of the water. It's best to remove most of the water using towels and not by ringing the blanket out before placing it flat on an elevated grid to air dry.

The best storage for your cotton blanket is on your bed

The best storage for a cotton blanket is on a bed, but if you must pack your cotton blankets away, it's best to use breathable cotton storage bags and store them in a dark, dry place to protect against mold and UV rays. Storage bags reduce the risk of damage from fish moths and other critters that thrive on natural fabrics.

Washing your cotton blanket

As mentioned earlier, it is important to follow the washing instructions on the label of your cotton blanket. 

Hot water equates to shrinking, so stick to washing your cotton blanket in cold or slightly warm (room temperature) water. 

A cold-water wash helps to prevent shrinkage and also keeps colors vibrant. Here are a few washing tips:

  • Cotton blankets can be washed frequently in cold water without showing wear.
  • For noticeable stains, selectively hand wash the area with warm water and diluted detergent, then cold wash the blanket in your washing machine.
  • Always make sure your blanket fits into your washing machine with room to move during the wash cycle.
  • Select a size setting larger than your blanket to ensure the blanket is completely covered with water.
  • Use gentle washing detergent and fabric softeners and be sure to predilute them to avoid concentrated detergent focused on only one part of the blanket.
  • Tumble dry your blanket on the lowest heat setting or have no heat setting if your tumble dryer has such a setting. Tumble dry until almost dry, and air dry your damp blanket placed flat on a raised drying platform. Be sure to clean the dryer filters immediately after every use.

Just a side note on liquid and other stains; deal with them the moment you see them because cotton is highly absorbent, and time will allow the stain to set. 

For pet or child urine stains, soak the blanket in warm water and white vinegar overnight or until the stain is no longer visible, then wash the blanket with a mild detergent in your washing machine.

How to wash your cotton blanket 2 kids sitting on cotton blankets at the beach

Hand Washing a cotton blanket.

Hand washing your cotton blanket is more time-consuming than a conventional machine wash but see it as a labor of love. 

A bathtub is ideal for hand-washing blankets as you have control of water coming in and going out. 

  • Begin by filling the bathtub to a third of its capacity; add and dissolve the detergent in the water but before you pop your blanket into the bath, take it outside and give it a good shake to get rid of the loose dust particles. 
  • You can now fold your blanket into the water and start pressing down and lifting the blanket. Avoid using vigorous rubbing strokes between your hand as you might end up damaging your blanket. Fold and lightly rub the blanket, push down, raise and fold again. Repeat this process until you're gone through the whole blanket a few times, then fold it up in the far corner of the bath and drain the soapy water. 
  • Push down on the blanket to drain excess water. Once you've removed most of the water, fill it up with clean cold water and rinse the blanket. It's best to repeat this process to rinse out all the detergent that may be trapped in the folds of the blanket. Press firmly down to drain most of the water. I know it will be tempting to ring the blanket out but refrain from this quick rinse method.
  • Treat your cotton blanket tenderly and use cotton towels pressed against your still, very wet blanket to absorb most of the water.
  • Transfer your blanket into a portable tub and lay it flat on a raised drying platform to air dry.

Treating your 100% cotton blanket with care will increase its longevity and maintain its new look as well as its natural characteristics.

How to wash cotton blanket family on the beach with cotton blanket

Conclusion.

Cotton blankets are soft, very comfortable, and easy to care for; following the care instructions on the label will ensure that you get the maximum beneficial use out of your blanket. 

This is especially important for people prone to allergies that stem from pets and dust. 

Regularly shaking out and airing your cotton blanket will limit the build-up of pet dander and household dust. 

Washing your blankets once or twice a month is great from a hygiene perspective, and people sensitive to dust mites will find it comforting to know that cotton blankets can be washed weekly or biweekly if need be. 

Occasional warm water washes may be necessary to deal with stubborn stains or dirt build-up. Still, if you have a regular care routine, cold water washes will ensure clean, great-looking cotton blankets become a trademark of your home.  

washing a Cotton blanket

Steve Watts
Steve Watts


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