How to Wash Vintage Linens

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Some vintage linens can be spot cleaned, but most will require thorough washing to remove stains and yellowing from age before use. Learning how to wash your vintage napkins, tablecloths and other goods can help you to preserve and enjoy them.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Lemon juice
  • Buttermilk
  • Biz
  • OxiClean

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Examine the item carefully for structural integrity. Most vintage linens were made of durable fabrics and will stand up nicely to both gentle laundering and smart stain removal. For normal cleaning, hand wash your vintage table linens with a gentle soap or detergent and rinse thoroughly. Lay flat to dry.

  2. 2

    Spot test all cleaning recipes in an inconspicuous spot. While these cleaning methods should be safe for most vintage linens, spot testing will allow you to be sure that the fabric and threads are colorfast. Start with the gentlest stain removal solution methods first.

  3. 3

    Try lemon juice and sunlight for a natural stain removal solution on your vintage linens. Fill a large pot with water and cut several lemons into slices. Bring your lemon water to a boil and remove it from the heat. Gently add your linens and press into the water with a wooden spoon. Allow them to soak overnight. Rinse well and wash with mild soap. Lay flat on the grass in the sun to dry.

  4. 4

    Use buttermilk and lemon juice to clean and whiten your vintage linens. Combine 1 quart of buttermilk, 1 gallon of water and 1 tbsp. of lemon juice. Allow your vintage table linens to soak for up to 24 hours. Wash with gentle soap and rinse thoroughly. Drying flat in the sun may help to further whiten linens.

  5. 5

    If more natural solutions have failed, a mixture of Biz bleach and OxiClean may work to clean and whiten linens. Biz bleach is a peroxide bleach and typically quite safe for many fabrics. Combine equal amounts of Biz and OxiClean in 1 gallon of water. Use a scoop from the OxiClean tub to measure both, or around 2 tbsp. of each per gallon of hot water. Soak for up to two days, then rinse and wash as usual. Sunlight again may help with final whitening and stain removal.

Tips and warnings

  • Try these methods on modern cottons and linens to remove stains and whiten.

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