How to Remove Stains From Antique Linens

Written by michelle powell-smith
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Antique linens are a beautiful and functional accent for your home. Vintage and antique tablecloths and napkins are quite affordable, but may need a good laundering to remove yellowing from age, embedded brown stains and general discolouration. You will also need to launder your antique linens if you use them regularly. Washing vintage linen and cotton textiles does not require specialised supplies or skills, but it is a time consuming process requiring patience and care.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Biz non-chlorine bleach or Oxyclean
  • Large tub, washbasin, sink or bathtub
  • Lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • Clean white towel

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  1. 1

    Mix one cup of Biz or Oxyclean with a small amount of very hot water to remove stains from antique linens. Stir well to dissolve, then add to a large quantity of tepid water. Allow to cool to lukewarm if necessary.

  2. 2

    Wet your antique linens with cold water to check for colour fastness of any embroidery. Be especially careful with colourful embroideries; however, the same cleaning strategies can be used if the dye does not bleed.

  3. 3

    Carefully place your antique linens into the prepared solution. Lower them into the soaking tub gently and handle them with care, especially when wet, as the old fabric can be fragile.

  4. 4

    Allow your antique linens to soak for several hours to whiten them and remove stains. If necessary, soak for as much as two to three days to completely remove stains from antique linens. Change your soaking solution periodically if the linens are heavily soiled.

  5. 5

    Lift the piece out of the tub, supporting the fabric as much as possible. Lay onto a clean, white towel. Roll the towel and blot away as much moisture as possible.

  6. 6

    Rinse well in clean, cool water. Be sure to rinse until the water runs completely clear.

  7. 7

    Examine your vintage linens for remaining stains. Make a paste of equal parts lemon juice and coarse kosher salt. Apply this to any remaining brown stains. Let this mixture sit for thirty minutes to one hour, preferably in the sun, then rinse well.

  8. 8

    Repeat the soaking process if any stains remain on your antique linens. Dry antique linens in the sunlight for the whitest and cleanest finish.

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