Friday, June 3, 2011
Cleaning Your Vintage Linens
When it comes to cleaning vintage linens, the question I always ask myself is: "Should I try removing the stain and risk ruining the fabric?" After all, the little spots and stains are all part of the charm and beauty of a vintage linen. Then again, it would be wonderful to bring it back to its original splendor.
There are many different opinions as to the best way to clean your vintage linens and I think I've tried them all. What I've found to be true is that different methods work on different stains and fabrics. What is the perfect solution for one just doesn't seem to work for another.
The one thing I think everyone will agree upon is that you must be patient. It takes time to rid a stain that has been on the fabric for decades. Sometimes it can take three days of soaking and resoaking to finally lift a stain. And you will need to change the water several times as the stain slowly lifts. I find that hot water is key. I would also suggest hand washing all your vintage linens. The washing machine can damage the delicate fibers of the fabric.
Pretreating some greasy yellow type stains with Dawn dishwashing liquid can often be successful. For rust stains Whink usually works reallly well. It's very strong so just a drop or two should do the trick. You'll be surprised how quickly it works.
Adding lemon juice and salt to the hot water is another way to remove the stain. This has worked well for me on many occassions. Rock salt is another choice. In combination with baking soda it makes a good substitute for the harsh choice of chlorine bleach. It will gently lift the stain and leave the fabric looking brighter. Just use a 5 to 1 solution of rock salt to baking soda in the hot water.
I would only use chlorine bleach as a last resort and only on sturdier linens. It is just much too harsh. A good tip to help neutralize the bleach is to add about 1/2 cup of vinegar to the water. But again, I would only do this as a last resort.
Rinsing , rinsing, and rinsing again is extremely important. Leaving any residue on the fabric can be very damaging to the fibers. And I would always rinse in cool water.
Of all the methods to clean linens, I think the old fashioned way is the best and most effective way to go. Sun bleaching. After you have soaked and rinsed your linens, gently wrap them in a dry towel to absorb the excess moisture. Never wring out your linens. It can be stressful to the old fabric. Bring them outside and lay them directly in the sun. You can keep them on the towel or put them right on the grass. It's better not to hang them up as they don't get as much direct sunlight. You'll have wonderful success with this tried and true method.
None of these methods should be used on your delicate linens. They are just too fragile. For these you should just accept all their spots and stains as part of the beauty of a vintage linen and enjoy!