washing, storing and caring for antique linens and caring for your vintage textiles (2022)

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washing, storing and caring for antique linens

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If you discover, inherit or buy antique linens, you will eventually need to launder them. I hope that the following tips will contribute to your ability to use and enjoy your items. I love laundering antique linens and I hope that you will come to love it, too! Or, at the very least, you will not worry so much about it.

Old textiles are usually very sturdy and most are far more colorfast than some of the dyes we have today. (though sometimes not.) They were intended to last an entire lifetime, and often outlasted their original owner and were passed down for the next generation to use. When linens are stored, they invariably develop "age" or "storage stains" which has nothing to do with whether they were put away clean.


Some items already suffer from dry rot, mouse nibbles and destructive rust. You will not be able to save these things if the fibers are already compromised. If you tug on two sides of a handkerchief, towel or pillowcase and it comes apart without much effort, your item has dry rot and has reached the end of its useful life. It may have looked pretty good, but it was already damaged. Throw it away, mourn it, move on.
Sometimes, you must let go.

Gallon of White Vinegar
Rust Remover
Bleach pen
Laundry detergent (simple soap, nothing added)

washing, storing and caring for antique linens and caring for your vintage textiles (4) Order "RESTORATION" and its even-more-gentle companion, "Quilt Wash" from the manufacturer, Engleside Products of Lancaster, PA. (englesideproducts.com) Oxyclean is similar, widely available and less expensive; I prefer Restoration.

(Video) How to Care for Vintage Linens | ANTIQUE LINENS | Cleaning Quilts | How to Store Linens

"Restoration" and white vinegar are my preferred products. When, in August of 2007, I acquired and then needed to launder priceless napkins from the estate of the King of Italy, I fearlessly treated these fabulous heirlooms with "Restoration" due to my trust in this product. Read the label and use common sense.

It will remove horrible storage grime but it is so effective that you may reach for it more often. I add "Restoration" in the washing machine with my family's laundry, too. It removes odors, age spots, storage stains, label stains and often, but not always, some rust. If it does not remove the rust, I use "Whink Rust & Stain Remover." Be aware that if rust has already eaten away the fibers that, by dissolving the rust with a rust treatment, you may be left with a hole where the rust had been. As with most products, I use less than the manufacturer recommends and I repeat the treatment on very stubborn stains or rust. You will be rewarded for your patience.

In the past, I tried almost anything that anyone had ever suggested or that I ever read about on very bad stains on whites. I've used (with varying results) automatic dishwasher detergent, white toothpaste, lemon juice with sunshine, stain sticks, sprays and bleach. After all that experimenting, I now use "Restoration" first and, if stains remain after two or three sessions with it, I put the dampened piece outside on the lawn in bright sunshine for a day. This is a magical solution; often horrible stains will disappear within an hour. The magical part is that I have been off doing something else! If the item comes back inside and the stains persist, I may resort to using bleach with laundry detergent. I like to have a bleach pen on hand because it allows me to pinpoint where I apply the bleach. After using bleach, always rinse with white vinegar, then rinse again with clear water.

Some Examples:
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How-To Wash Whites, Step-by-Step:

Step 1. Use hot water with "Restoration" until the water turns clear. (approx. 4- 6 hours or overnight) If the water is not clear after overnight soak, repeat this step. Extremely filthy items may require several soakings.

Step 2. Drain and refill container with water; add white vinegar (a splash or a cup, depending on container size); swish around and soak for 10-20 minutes.

Step 3. Drain and refill with lots of clear water; swish around and soak for 15 minutes. Done!

If stains remain, repeat entire process.
If there is rust, use rust remover on wet fabric, then repeat from Step 2.

If stains remain, lay wet/damp item outdoors on grass in sunshine.

If stains remain, soak with laundry detergent and small amount of bleach. I am loathe to use bleach but if it is between making something usable or not, I will try bleach. Or use a bleach pen on small stains. It is better to soak longer using very little bleach. Rinse well.

(Video) How to wash Antique Linens

I know you already know this, but don't mix chemical treatments. Pre-rinse items that may have bleach or detergent residue with vinegar to neutralize the bleach and then rinse twice in clear water before trying another treatment. Do not bleach anything after using Oxyclean or peroxide or any other chemical treatment. Your items may turn permanently blue (or worse.) Rinse really, really well before trying any other product.

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I fill my Victorian clawfoot tub with very hot water and allow items to soak for at least six hours with "Restoration." You can use a bucket, your bathtub or sink. I often add a teakettle full of boiling water to make it even hotter. The hotter, the better. I use a wooden stirrer to poke and swish them. Then I drain the water. My preferred method is hand washing, soaking in a tub or bucket, which may or may not be right for you. That's my tub, above, with a bucket inside to keep some smaller items separated. Using a washing machine on the gentlest cycle and without a spin cycle is an alternative.

I refill my tub with warm water and a cup of white vinegar added to pull any remaining soap or chemical residue from the fibers. Then, I drain again and refill for another rinse or, sometimes two. After the final rinse, I drape my items against the tub walls to drip. Or, I let them sit in the empty tub for a while to let as much water drain as possible. They get piled on top of one another and may drip there for a day, or even two days until I find time to deal with them.

Boiling used to be quite common, but when I think about it, who has a boiler big enough to hold a large and heavy linen sheet or a large tablecloth? I can't quite imagine doing it on the stove in a pasta pot!

Trickier. And never guaranteed. Do not wash them if you are not prepared to lose them. Completely dissolve a generous amount of salt in cold water, then gradually add detergent, then your colored items. This is supposed to prevent bleeding. However, I have discovered that nothing is foolproof. Since some cleaning products work better in warmer (or HOT) water, I may add some. Don't mix colors. I launder colored items individually.
Alternatively, soak an item for 5 minutes in cold water into which white vinegar has been added. "Restoration" can be used on colors, but always test for color-fastness first. If the dyes are fugitive, meaning not colorfast, nothing with water will work. If an item is filthy, smelly and can't be used or displayed the way it is, I just take the risk. Yes, I lose some.

Small or delicate items should be washed separately. Handle very gently. Launder them inside mesh pouches, pillowcases or zippered pillowcovers. Squeeze to remove water, do not twist or wring. Or, soak and rinse it with a layer of fabric beneath it; when you are ready to lift it from the water, lift by the fabric which will support the item.

Large items are hard to handle and get even harder and heavier when they are wet. I washed a fragile mid-19th century white wedding quilt using a cotton sheet underneath it to support it. That wet fabric with the wet quilt on top was brutally heavy and hard to handle... but it worked. Fabric is heavy; add water (which weighs 2.2 lbs per liter, or 8.34 lbs per gallon) to the fabric and, yikes! that's heavy!

Tangled fringe is scary looking! But restoring fringe it is not as difficult as it looks. Rule #1 is to be patient. Do not even attempt it until you are in the right mood.

Here are my suggestions:

1. Before washing, pull the fringe into a pony tail with a fabric-covered elastic hair band. if there is fringe on two ends such as on a show towel, tie each end separately. You want to keep the fringe from co-mingling. Let it get nearly dry and remove the band(s) just before ironing. Keep a wide-tooth comb handy. I have an impossibly patient friend who will sit with a pin and "pick out" the fringes thread by thread. You are welcome to do this!

2. This method is more of a pain, but when done well it produces nearly new-looking fringe. Float your item in the bathtub, arranging it in the water so that you can maneuver it to drip onto the tub wall. If there is fringe on two ends, fold the item NOT in half so that the fringes of each end do not intermix. In other words, you want to end up with the fringe of one end hanging directly above the fringe on the other end. Carefully pull the item up and over the side of the tub so that the fringe falls straight down and plasters itself to the inside side of the tub. If some of the fringe is in disarray, pour water on it from above. This floats the fringe down into straight, separate threads. Tuck the folded fabric over itself so that it drips inside the tub as much as possible. Leave it in position until it is nearly dry.

3. Use creme rinse/detangler in a rinse; it can be helpful. Follow with a rinse of plain water.

Keep white vinegar on hand and use it in the first rinse. It will pull any remaining residue from the fibers. Follow with a clear rinse. (or two)

Hanging to dry is my preferred method, often from my shower head if the weather does not allow me to hang them outside or to lay them on my lawn. Another benefit of hanging them to drip dry is the moisture they add to the air during winter. I love to lay things on the lawn. When a friend googled my house once, my backyard had weird white shapes: the google maps satelite photo was taken on a day that I had oodles of laundry out drying on my lawn. We got a great laugh out of that!

(Video) EASY FIX! Removing yellow from vintage or antique lace linens like a boss

washing, storing and caring for antique linens and caring for your vintage textiles (12) In fair weather, I often scoop the sheets directly from the lawn and pop them back on my bed without ironing. They "lawn dry" surprisingly flat. Since I don't often find time to iron my own sheets and I don't mind the slightly disheveled look, it works for me. If I need to, I will resort to using my dryer but it is my least favorite method as everything wrinkles.

In case it has crossed your mind, lawn drying does have its hazards. My neighbor's cat once thought I put the tablecloth out for him and I found him plopped down in the middle of it. Rewash!
Birds sometimes poop on the item. Rewash!
Insects sometimes poop on the item. Rewash!
Insects sometimes end up in the item and get smashed. Rewash!

To sum up your drying options...
Either hang things to dry over a tub or shower, hang them on a line, lay them on the grass or fold them against the bathtub to drip inside the tub. I have layered a few dozen wet napkins and waited for them to slowly dry over the course of a day or two in preparation for ironing. I may put items in the dryer for a few minutes when I am desperate, but I try to pull them out while they are fairly damp. I do not do this often and I hesitate to even mention it but I know my intrepid readers will question it, too.

The dryer "sets" wrinkles and it becomes more work to iron them out. I find that sheets that have dried on the grass look good enough (to me) to be put back on beds without being ironed. Try it if you do not require perfection. If something is fragile, soak and rinse it with a sheet of fabric beneath it; when you are ready to lift it from the water, lift the fabric which will support the item.

Ironing has been a chore for thousands of years since the Chinese discovered that "smoothing" an item gave it a particularly nice appearance. The Chinese first did it cold, though. Hot irons were impossibly hot and heavy and dangerous and we are incredibly lucky to have electricity to make it much easier, but ironing can still be a chore. If I had any one complaint about ironing, it is that today's irons do not get hot enough. I use a mid-20th century mangle iron which gets dangerously hot. Mine is a vintage "IronRite" mangle iron. I even press my jeans on it.

The goal is to iron your items until they are completely dry. It may not always be possible but that is the goal. If they are left ever-so-slightly damp, they happily wrinkle themselves as they dry. After ironing, hang them on drying racks for a few hours so that any residual dampness has a chance to completely evaporate while they are still in "formation." The drying rack could be a true drying rack, a towel bar, a stair rail, lying flat across a bed, over the back of a chair, etc. Let them "exude" for a few hours; then store them.

Iron items with the wrong side facing the iron. I don't think this matters except for items with embroidery which you want to plump up instead of squish down. Iron your items while they are damp. The heavier the linen, the damper it needs to be in order to get out all the wrinkles. Try to time it so that items are still damp from washing (best, because they are then evenly damp throughout) or dampen them with a spray bottle. Freezing the damp things is supposed to make ironing easier. Wrap them in plastic and leave them in the freezer overnight or put them outside during the winter. Cover them with dry cleaner's plastic in your basket as you are ironing to keep them evenly dampened. It is nearly impossible to completely iron smooth some very heavy linen unless it is nearly soaking wet. Take a deep breath and start, then just keep at it until it is as dry as possible.

Turn off the steam in your iron and let it dry out completely. Two reasons: you avoid the dirty seepage that exudes from the press plate, even from new irons, and, since the goal of ironing is to get an item completely DRY, it makes no sense to add more water, prolonging the drying time. Iron with a dry iron at the hottest temperature you can get. (for linens and cottons, of course. Use lower temperatures for silks, wool or man-made fibers.)

If you are going to use an item or display it, you can starch it while ironing. Starch is a personal preference and it does add a measure of protection against stains. If I use starch, I use a liquid starch called "Linit" which I mix with water in a spray bottle. However, I rarely starch my items. It's one more step and I do not care! Old-time starch was cooked from potatoes and could attract insects which gobbled the textile fibers as they were going for the starch. So when you hear that insects and moths eat fabrics, mostly they were eating the starch and the fabric got in the way. Some moths do eat wool, though.

I was once disappointed to find that the smell of the expensive French lavender-scented water dissipated almost immediately once the pieces dried, but fragrance is a personal preference. I do not usually like added fragrance in anything. Laundry or otherwise.

Historically, tracking, inventorying and keeping sets together and laundry separated from the laundry of others has been a challenge. I do not know a lot about this but when people sent all of their laundry to Holland or to the West Indies (or even to the local laundress) to be laundered, there had to be a way for each item to come back to them. I am fascinated by all the types of laundry marks that have come through my hands. Items have come to me with indelible ink marks, embroidered marks, stamped marks, sewn-in woven tags, labels and iron-on tape. They also come with metal clamps, which used to horrify me, but now amuse me simply because I have gotten used to them.

My suggestion is to start a system of organization now no matter how small or large your linen collection is. You can keep track of your acquisitions in a notebook, on your computer or simply by saving your receipts. Definitely write a note about the item and keep it with the item. Note the item name, the date acquired, the price, the size and description and the circa date of its making. Especially with your family items, this information can be priceless. If you do keep your inventory notes in your computer, you can also keep a digital photo with it. My personal pet peeve is finding notes attached with huge safety pins that rusted over the years... hence I try to not puncture my items.

A general rule, (which is not always possible, I know, I know!) is to iron items just before you are ready to use them. Do not iron them if you plan to store them for a long time. If you do plan to store things for any length of time, store them clean, unstarched, unironed and loosely rolled in acid free tissue or in white cotton. Storing them ironed can cause creases to form or crack. Do not store them in plastic. Never. Got that? No plastic, NOT EVER.

Do not store them in wooden drawers, chests, trunks, suitcases or closets where the fabric can touch the wood. Wrap them loosely in clean cotton. Or, line the drawers with acid-free tissue paper or the acids in the wood fibers (even very old wood fibers) will leach out and stain your linens. You will be surprised how quickly they can turn yellow or brown and you will be dismayed by the fact that they need to be re-laundered.

(Video) How to Care for (& Clean!) Antique Clothing

Roll or wrap your "long-term storage" and valuable linens in acid-free tissue paper (which can be bought on-line from The Preservation Station, preservesmart.com.) Or, wrap them loosely in clean cotton. Old sheets and pillowcases work well for this. I hang my ironed pieces because they take up less space and they don't wrinkle but rolling them or loosely folding them is less stressful to the fibers. Store them dry, out of the light, but never damp and never in a damp place. Make sure they are thoroughly dry before you put them away. Have I said "dry" enough times?

Go through your linens once a year or so to take stock, check them and enjoy them. If you store things folded and stacked, re-fold them with different creases. Stack heavier items on the bottom with the delicate ones on top. Rotate your items, too, so that one item does not get all the use and wear out. Although this is another strategy. If you like to wear out something completely and then use your backup, that's okay, too! In other words, be true to yourself.


It really doesn't matter which detergent you use. Use what you have on hand but use a vinegar rinse to remove residue and rinse again very well after that. Soak your linens for a long time when they are really soiled. Pretreat stains with a stain remover. If you can, leave them to soak overnight, or longer. If you feel comfortable with your washer on a gentle cycle, you can use it. But be aware that fragile embroidery, hemstitching or drawnwork can tear under the strain of swishing and spinning.


Sunshine Method

This is the least invasive method; it is effective and it's free. It also sanitizes.
However, sunlight does bleach and weaken fibers over time. Sunlight is destructive so I am not suggesting that you constantly subject your fragile items to sunlight. This method, used once or twice on a piece that would otherwise need to be thrown away, can be very helpful. It can remove stubborn stains and make a difference in the useability of your item. You can lay things outside in any season; winter snow is also effective. I'd caution against doing it in "mud season," though. You know who you are if you live in a place with mud season. If you don't know what mud season is, trust me, it is better to be ignorant.

The dry method:

This is for exceptionally fragile or delicate items which can not be immersed in water. Lay item on the grass in the sun and leave it for a few hours. Stains will lighten and will sometimes completely disappear. Turn over and leave again for a few hours. Repeat if necessary. Also, you can use a spray bottle to spray a very light mist on the item. Do not dampen. This will sometimes remove disagreeable odors.

The damp method:

Pretreat any stains, rinse and lay outside on the grass in the early morning or even the night before. Leave item in the sun. Visit it frequently to check it, turn it and dampen it with a spray bottle of water. You can soak it with your spray bottle. The sun does the work, interacting with the water and the chlorophyl in the grass. This also deoderizes and sanitizes. Bird or insect droppings are a downside to this method and I have had an occasional racoon or cat sitting or walking on them, too, but 95% of the time I can bring my sheets inside and pop them directly on the beds without a problem. And the fresh air smell is wonderful. The smell even lasts through ironing.

washing, storing and caring for antique linens and caring for your vintage textiles (13)

This painting illustrates the long history of this kind of care. It is "Flemish Market and Washhouse" by Pieter Bruegel (c. 1520-1569) and it is in the Prado in Madrid, Spain.

Enjoy Your Textile Treasures.

(Video) Wash day! Caring for vintage linens.

Copyrightwashing, storing and caring for antique linens and caring for your vintage textiles (14) 1998-2020, Cynthia Y. Cooper, Cynthia's Antique Linens.


How do you store antique linens? ›

Storing: Store textiles in a cool, dry location. Avoid using trunks or boxes in hot attics or in damp basements or garages. Damp conditions can encourage the growth of mold as well as attract insects. An environment comfortable for people is suitable for textiles.

How do you clean vintage linens and fabric? ›

Start by rubbing lemon juice and salt on your linens and hang them outside to air dry. Once dry, rinse them with warm, clean water and air dry one more time. Your linens won't look new new, but they'll be whiter than before.

How do you care for vintage fabric? ›

How to Wash Vintage Fabric
  1. Do not wash old fabrics in a machine or put them in the dryer.
  2. Gentle hand washing is best for old fabrics.
  3. Avoid harsh chemicals, detergents, and bleach when laundering antique or vintage textiles.
  4. Use soap flakes or gentle cleaners like Dreft or Woolite.

How do you clean vintage sheets? ›

Wash. Fill a tub with tepid water and mild laundry detergent, as well as powdered oxygen bleach, such as OxiClean ($12.98, amazon.com) (see the soaps' labels for the proportions). Wearing rubber gloves, slosh the linens around gently. Rinse well.

Grandma didn't give them to you to leave them in a drawer.

Use your linens sparingly Sure, your linens are meant to be used, but that doesn’t mean you should use them every single day.. You might be able to clean a fresh smear of chocolate fudge cake out of your tablecloth–we’ll get to cleaning linens in a moment–but wine, coffee and tomato sauce stains are more likely to set in and ruin your linens for good.. Iron only before you use your linens Grandma’s linens may be old, but if they’ve been well-preserved, you can still iron them with the best iron .. Simply lay your linens on an ironing board, spritz them with water, and smooth the iron over your tablecloth or napkin.. Some experts believe ironing your linens immediately after you wash them will keep them looking crisp, but the starch you use during ironing breaks down and can turn your linens yellow.. Soak embroidered linens Cleaning vintage linens poses a problem.. Wrap and store your linens with care Want to pass down Grandma’s linens to your kids?

13 products to help you clean and extend the life of your most precious pieces.

But mostly, I should have known that the garment should not have been dry cleaned at all.. “All hanging pieces should be stored in breathable garment bags.. Never use the dry cleaner bags for storage—in fact, take them off immediately when you bring them home from the dry cleaner.. Store these items flat in a breathable garment box or folded with acid-free tissue to avoid creasing.. Use the tissue to eliminate creasing, pad shoulders, stuff sleeves and/or handbags to maintain their shape.. The best dry cleaners clean many items by hand and use different solvents and machinery for different fabrics; most dry cleaners use only one cleaning solvent, which may or may not be the best for your particular garment.. Before you entrust a cleaner with a precious garment, ask them about solvents and cleaning processes.

Treat your old, fragile vintage clothes with great care and respect and they will last for many more years. Learn how to clean, repair, store and care for all of your vintage clothing items. Find out how to remove the 'granny smell' from old fabrics, too, and freshen up just about any old fabric.

Cardboard boxes are also very good for storing smaller items of clothing, put a few small air holes in the lid to prevent clothes from smelling musty.. The same thing applies to any vintage clothes that have been cleaned by washing.. If you decide that your vintage clothes need more attention to make them clean enough to be wearable then washing will be in order.. Vintage clothes from the fifties and sixties were often made from materials such as nylon, crimplene and polyester, all things that need a little extra care when cleaning.. Dry the vintage clothes on a line outside or over the bathtub, but be careful to only use plastic pegs as the wooden ones can leave a nasty brown mark on your wet clothes.. Now that you know how to clean, repair, store and care for your vintage clothes, I hope they give you many years of happy wear.. Vintage clothes from the fifties and sixties really need some special care when cleaning as these were made from special materials.

Learn more about How do I store antique textiles at home?

Textiles should be stored as clean as possible because dust particles can actually cut fibers through friction and abrasion.. Loose soil and dust can be removed by placing the textile on a flat surface, placing a piece of fiberglass screening between the textile and vacuum cleaner head, and then vacuuming with a weak-suction hand vacuum cleaner.. It is preferable to store textiles flat, subject to minimum abrasion, folding, and pressure.. If folding is necessary, avoid sharp folds by padding at the points of folds with strips of washed unbleached muslin or old sheets.. Instead, textiles can be wrapped in clean, white cotton cloth, such as an old sheet or pillowcase, or in muslin.. Storing them at the bottom of a drawer under heavy items can cause sharp folds, which may be difficult to remove and which may cause splits in the cloth.. Fragile fabrics (which may be light or heavy in weight), likely to wear thin along folds, should be rolled over cloth-covered cardboard tubes (mailing tubes are good; even paper towel tubes can be used for small items).. Painted textiles should not be rolled or folded; such treatment can cause the painted surface to crack.. Stored textiles should not be exposed to the light because the natural cellulose fibers (cotton and linen) and animal fibers (silk and wool), of which most antique textiles are made, are damaged by the sun's and indoor fixtures' light rays.. If the item has been folded, care should be taken to refold it, changing the position of the folds so that the same fibers are not subjected to the tension of folding, which can cause fiber breakage over a long period of time.. If a lined tapestry is to be stored over a long period of time and it has a good backing, which the owner wishes to retain, it might be wise to loosen the backing around the sides and bottom edge of the textile so both layers can be rolled without creases forming on the back.. It is especially important that costume items stored flat are not crushed by heavier textiles stored on top of them.

Heirloom linens can tell a wonderful story about your family's history. Here's how to preserve your antique lines for generations to come.

Today’s holiday table is more likely to be set with bamboo placemats than the carefully hand-stitched and ironed linens used by our great-grandmothers.. If the cloth was ironed and folded, be especially cautious handling fabric at the fold lines where weakened threads often break or tear.. Instead, gently spread out the item on a clean, dry surface.. Remember to launder or dry clean after use and store away from light and dust.. Cotton and linen fabrics are actually quite strong and made to last many years.. Depending on the item’s age and condition, it’s often better to “embrace” the history of your heirloom than to attempt home cleaning solutions.. Place the folded or rolled cloth inside a white cotton pillowcase to protect your treasure, and store special linens in a drawer or acid-free box away from harmful UV light, dust, and pests.. Share your family history this season by unpacking the heirloom linens and china for display or for your holiday table.. You have good instincts to roll the cloth—which prevents creases and breakage along fold lines—and store it away from harmful UV lighting.. It’s best to clean linens and textiles before storing, but avoid using detergents (including homemade ones) unless directed by a conservator.. Depending on the condition of your tablecloth, you may want to seek help from a professional textile conservator for repair or cleaning www.conservation-us.org .. Then place the item inside a 100 percent cotton pillowcase to protect it from dust and handling, and store it in a drawer or archival box (find suppliers listed at ).

How to wash and clean vintage clothing. Care instructions for cleaning and storing vintage clothing. Handwash, dry cleaning, and other tips and tricks for cleaning vintage clothes.

Read below to see how to wash and care for different types of vintage garments.. Only wash vintage clothes that have machine washing instructions.. Make sure to zip all zippers and fasten buttons before washing so that your clothes do not snag on each other.. Slowly push and pull the garment through the water, allowing the entire garment to become soaked.. When the water turns yellow, drain the water and press out excess water from the garment, do not wring out the garment.. When there are no suds or remaining soap residue, gently squeeze excess water from the garment – hang or lie flat to dry (depending on weight).. If you are washing a garment for the first time, make sure to test a hidden seam with water before soaking the entire garment.. If you garment has stains, research the best way to remove the stain before washing.. Make sure to reshape a garment before laying it flat to dry, otherwise you will end up with unwanted bulges and wrinkles in the garment.. Make sure your garment can be pressed before beginning, do not press fabrics such as velvet or crepe materials.. Steaming Vintage Clothes We recommend a handheld or professional steamer to remove wrinkles and pressing garments.. Note that any dry cleaner will make you sign off responsibility on vintage garments, so make sure you use a reputable cleaner in your area.

Continuing with my posts on caring for vintage, this one I hope should help answer the basic question of what and how to wash, and what (and how) to dry clean. Stain and odor removal, along with wrinkle removal, are topics for the next few posts.  In case you didn't catch the beginning of t

Soak the garment in cool to tepid water with very mild soap or a gentle shampoo, rinse well in cold water, then add a small amount (several tablespoonsful in a 5-gallon bucket) of white vinegar to clean rinse water.. Gently wash unembellished knits in cool water and Eucalan, which is a gentle no-rinse wash.. Dyed linen items can bleed color and unwashed linen can shrink, so some pieces are best washed in cool or cold water, otherwise, you can consider warm water.. A very light and delicate linen piece should be treated to a gentle hand wash, other pieces can stand a gentle cycle-machine wash, but as always, hand washing is easiest on the item.. Hand washing (not machine washing) in cool water will definitely help vintage nylon items last as long as possible.. I tend to cold wash and drip dry 1970s acetate knits shirts and other newer items (in accordance with their care tags), and dry clean the acetates so often made into formal wear prior to the ‘70s.. If cold water doesn’t budge the dye, don’t assume that warm water won’t—always test with what you will be using for your wash water.. If there are shoulder pads in a garment, I would not advise washing the item, even if the fabric seems washable, unless you are able to remove the pads and then tack them back in after washing.. At the same time, not all dry cleaners treat shoulder pads well either, so my recommendation is to remove and then re-tack shoulder pads of washable garments, and also find a dry cleaner you can really trust!. You may think that dry cleaning is the gentlest thing you can do for a vintage item, and you may be right, depending upon the dry cleaner and the garment.. An ideal dry cleaner will pre-spot, wash vintage items in fresh cleaning fluid without crowding them, and press with a knowledge of the original items’ characteristics.

Table linens often develop tough stains. Learn how to treat stains as well as wash, dry, and store tablecloths and linens to keep them fresh.

Fabric napkins need to be washed after each use.. How to Wash Tablecloths and Linens Detergent Regular or heavy-duty Water Temperature Cold to warm Cycle Type Permanent press Drying Cycle Type Low to medium heat Special Treatments Hand-wash beaded or embellished linens Iron Settings Varies by fabric Table linens, especially those made from synthetic fabrics, should be washed using the permanent press cycle .. Table linens can be washed using your regular laundry detergent.. Place your ironing board near a table when ironing large items such as tablecloths.. Turn the cloth over, and finish by pressing on the right side of the cloth.. After ironing the monogrammed part, finish by pressing the right side of the napkin, but iron around the monogram.. Always check table linens for stains before washing.. Using a padded hanger prevents wrinkles on permanent press or freshly ironed linens.. If they'll be stored for more than a week or so, make sure the cardboard is acid-free to prevent staining.

Antique quilts are treasures of the past that need special care. Follow these tips to properly clean, remove stains from, and care for your quilt.

Once it's cleaned, allow for additional drying time before storing your quilt.. How to Wash Vintage Quilts Detergent Gentle liquid Water Temperature Cold Cycle Type Hand-wash only Drying Cycle Type Air-dry only Special Treatments Wash alone Iron Settings Do not iron Begin by airing out your quilt outside on a sunny day to restore freshness.. Place the quilt in the water, and ensure that the entire quilt gets wet.. Drain the wash water, and fill the tub again with fresh water.. One of the best ways to store any quilt is to place it flat on an extra bed and cover it with a clean sheet or bedspread.. This type of box is usually made of safe acid-free paper.. hillwoman2 / Getty Images Before you clean an old quilt, repair any rips or tears in the fabric, which will also preserve the life of the quilt.. They can restore your quilt or tell you if the damage is beyond repair.. Mary Hockenbery / Getty Images If you have hard water or iron bacteria in your water source, use distilled water for washing a quilt.. You don’t want to risk having minerals stain the fabric.. You can dry a quilt outside by placing a sheet on the ground and then spreading the quilt on top.

How to wash vintage clothing, preventing problems, hand washing tips, and how to choose a dry cleaner.

Any garment that could be deteriorated by a machine washing should be hand washed, or solve the problem with a repair before washing.. To set your water temperature , we usually use cool to mild water for natural fibers (linen, cotton and silk) and warm to hot water for synthetic fabrics and blends.. Some garments shrink or their dyes bleed if they're washed in water, especially warm or hot water.. These garments must be dry cleaned.. Linen - needs serious steaming or pressing if machine washed, sometimes it's easier to have this fabric professionally washed or dry cleaned. If you're washing a garment you've never washed before , test a hidden seam using the water temperature you think it will use.. To hand wash a garment , the same rules apply as far as water temperature and preparation of fabrics.. Add liquid detergent after the water is done, from a few drops for a lightly used garment to two tablespoons for a heavily soiled garment.. Add the garment in a coil or swirl shape, and gently push and move the garment to allow detergent to penetrate the entire garment.. Send in a garment with a very old stain, one that was probably stained from the era of the garment itself.. For fragile garments, anything that you wouldn't put in the dry cleaning equivalent of a washing machine, consider dry cleaning them by hand.. It takes some planning, but for fragile dry-clean-only garments, it's safer to do this than to arrive at the dry cleaner's and have them present you with a shredded remnant of your garment.. Some final precautions - You'll need to pretest garments to make sure their dyes won't bleed, just like it can happen sometimes with water washing.

By Pauline Weston Thomas for Fashion-Era.com Having moved into the world of vintage clothing you’ll need to decide on a policy for laundering.  This may well depend on whether you specialise in white goods and old lace or decorative items.  Whatever your final selections you need to be aware of some pitfalls to cleaning old …

Just as many people don't want the garments cleaned as those who do.. Do your clothes look as good after many washings?. Make sure you know your fabrics well before you wash silk or wool and even buy unusable silk thrift items just to try techniques of stain removal, washing and pressing.. Only wash one item at a time.. When the garment is dry or damp dry, press it carefully having first tested pressing on an inside facing.. With care like this, a vintage or new garment can last for many years.. Nor do we take any responsibility for any damage you may cause to your goods should you use any of the methods described here to renovate vintage goods.

Linens have always been the "lowest of the low" in the antiques world, they were "woman's work," household furnishings in the realm of housekeeping. Most have no particular value unless you have a buyer for them. (a provenance from royalty or museum quality importance may be an exception, but not always.) My main advice would be to keep and use anything that attracts or bedazzles you or that may be particularly useful such as old towels for dust cloths and have a tag sale with the rest.

WHAT'S GOOD :. Bigger is often better (although "too big" can be another problem); perfect is better; rare is better; gorgeous is better; unused condition is better; high quality is better and, often, older is better.. VALUES :. I encourage you to buy books on linens and laces and textiles and spend a little time becoming familiar withthem.. Most likely, you will not be thrilled by the prices of things but it is a great barometer for current prices and/or to see what is in demand.. • look for someone in your area who will appraise (yellow pages: appraisers, auction houses) or buy them outright. • visit local antiques shops and antique shows and look for someone who sells textiles.. • call a local used furniture / antiques dealer who specializes in clearing out houses.. • sell them on ebay.. I have opened dry cleaning bags that had tablecloths full of patches and holes; the former owner just needed the cloth to be clean and never worried about the holes.. Also, I have had the sad experience of opening a tablecloth that had been sent out to a commercial laundry but stains were still there.. Some important old cloths were bigger than rooms in our modern houses.. (Relatively) VALUABLE ITEMS :. Items that were made before 1900 (earlier is preferable: 1780-1850s) in impeccable condition.. monograms: a single letter is preferable than a monogram with two or three initials. linen pillowcases in superb condition that will fit queen/king sized pillows. handkerchiefs from the mid-1800s with handmade lace edging (that is not crocheted lace). paisley shawls: most desirable are hand woven kani weave or hand embroidered. old handmade lace from the 1600s and 1700s such as bobbin laces and needle laces. or things that just seem mesmerizing and beautiful. Every household had "Grandma's hand crocheted bedspread.. TO SUM UP :. In the past decade, droves of antique stores have gone out of business because "used things" are not in style.. Call a local auction house, sell things on ebay, get on with living and let them go without regret!


1. How I Remove Stains & Clean Vintage Linens
(Lakeside Treasures with JoJo)
2. Caring for Vintage Linens
(Cindy Wobbe Estates)
3. How to Clean, Repair, and Store a Vintage Quilt
(Welcome to Salem)
4. How I clean up rescue / vintage quilts before working on them
(Melanie Traylor)
5. Wash & Restore Old Linens
(The Balancing Act)
6. How I clean vintage linens
(Frugal Peanut )

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