Whether it’s a well-loved quilt, a collection of damask napkins or a cherished christening gown handed down through the generations, many families own items made of vintage textiles. However, over the years the fabric weakens and extra attention must be given to the care and storage of these special things to keep them looking their best.
Many people hesitate to wash their vintage fabrics for fear of damaging them, but with the right precautions, a vintage item can be successfully cleaned at home. Hand washing is the best option for delicate vintage textiles because the older fabric is weaker and can be damaged in a washing machine.
- First soak the fabric in water with a gentle detergent.
- After soaking, gently stir the item around.
- Rinse the fabric several times to make sure all detergent is gone.
- When removing the vintage textile from the water, lift it from the bottom. Do not grab a corner and pull it out, since the weight of the waterlogged fabric could cause the item to tear.
Stains come out easier when they’re new, so be sure to remove stains when they occur. Stain removers can be used, but when using a stain remover on a colorful fabric, test it first on a less obvious spot to make sure it doesn’t fade the color or make it run. Avoid using bleach, which is much too harsh for delicate vintage fabrics. Drying fabrics in the sun will help whiten them. Spread a white towel out on the grass, or a sheet for larger items, and lay the wet textile on top of it. Do not put the vintage textile in the dryer, which can damage it.
Check back here on Friday for Caring for Vintage Textiles Part II, with information about ironing and storing your vintage textiles or newer textiles you wish to preserve.