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Thread: Help! Cleaning vintage linens

  1. #1
    Senior Member petpainter's Avatar
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    Help! Cleaning vintage linens

    I know this may be a bit off quilting(except I will use some parts for one)- but I'm going through my Mother's linens as they are moving into assisted living in two months. Some are perfect except a few light stains. They range from small tray liners to tablecloths. All of them are white. I know there are certain products that are used to clean these, but never really paid attention to the info about them since I didn't need to know. Please HELP so I can repourpose some of these 1900 linens! Thanks!!

  2. #2
    Super Member sewmom's Avatar
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    I love Oxyclean! I bought a doily that was supposed to be white and it was brown. I soaked it in Oxyclean for a couple of days and now it's beautiful! You can also research cleaning vintage linens on the internet. Different treatments may be required for different stains.
    A time to tear, And a time to sew;
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  3. #3
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    Retro Clean is a product for cleaning antique linens and lace.

  4. #4
    Senior Member amelia0607's Avatar
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    I used to sell vintage linens. I would use OxyClean. I have a special large glass "casserole" pan that I would put the linens in. Cover the linen with OxyClean water. Then I would put on my griddle burner on low. I would leave it there for a few hours. I found that the warm water was better.

    If it was a large piece, like a tablecloth, I would use the bath tub.

    Rinse it well and if possible, dry in the sun.


    This method definitely removes some stains and most yellowing.

  5. #5
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    I was going to suggest Oxyclean as well. Soaking sems to be the key to success.

  6. #6
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    http://www.retroclean.com is one option.

  7. #7
    Senior Member petpainter's Avatar
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    Thanks for the tips...I have oxyclean, but will find some retroclean to be sure to get them as clean as possible. Thanks to you all!!! Love this Board!

  8. #8
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    A lady who sells vintage linens at the big flea market in Canton, TX gives the following recipe and it works on most stains except old old blood stains. The recipe is 1 part dishwasher detergent(ex. cascade), 1 part clorox II, 1 part Biz. Dissolve these in hot water. Let cool to temp you want and soak dirty linens for however long you want or till stains are removed. You can soak them for weeks. Hope this helps you.

  9. #9
    Junior Member cpower's Avatar
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    Retro Clean! Gets blood stains out too! Love the stuff. I got mine at a quilt show.
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  10. #10
    Super Member buslady's Avatar
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    RETROCLEAN! Found a beautiful vintage quilt at an estate sale, soaked it in tub with retroclean for 2 days, yellow gone, and a couple of stains gone.
    Onalee Rose
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  11. #11
    Super Member Wanabee Quiltin's Avatar
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    Here is what I do and I was taught by a lady who sold linens at the flea market: Fill washing machine with very hot water. Add 1 cup Clorox II (color safe), 1 cup of BIZ and 1 cup of Cascade (dishwashing liquid) to the hot water Let washer agitate to mix thoroughly. Let water cool down to room temp Add all materials and agitate for a couple of minutes. Let soak 3 or 4 days.

    If you have a small amount of whites, use just the Cascade in a bucket and only 1/3 cup

  12. #12
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    Please do not use a chlorine bleach such as Clorox! If you have linen, bleaching puts tiny holes in the linen. Clorox also weakens the fibers in cottons as well. I have washed church linens for years and have had to discard expensive linens damaged by using Clorox. We use Biz or Oxy Clean or Linen Wash (usually sold in stores where antique linens are sold.) You can also use lemon juice. Soak them in Biz or Oxy Clean in a plastic bucket for 24 hours. You may soak again. Rinse and rinse again. I lay them flat to dry. Some lay them on the grass in the sun to dry, but I have cats and birds and a shady yard. I repeat...DO NOT use bleach!

    Martha Pullen who teaches heirloom sewing and collects antique garments uses Biz.

  13. #13
    Super Member ptquilts's Avatar
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    An all-fabric (not chlorine) bleach will usually do it. Sodium perborate is the ingredient you want. Some people re-package the dry chemical in a fancy bag and call it "Aunt Pittypat's vintage linen wash" or some such hooey, but it is the same chemical. You may have to soak it for a LONG time (2-3 days) to get results.

  14. #14
    Senior Member mshollysd's Avatar
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    The trick is soaking for longer time when needed. I got some great vintage blocks from another member here that were stained and yellowed. I soaked in Oxyclean with a bucket, every day I would agitate them, and every week I would look them over and if there was still stains on them, redid the water and started over. These were appliqued so after a couple of weeks, they were perfect.

  15. #15
    Super Member Tink's Mom's Avatar
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    I Love OXYCLEAN! It works on all kinds of fabrics and is gentle enough for baby things. I've used it many times on vintage linens and it works almost every time.
    Tink's Mom (My name is really Susie)

  16. #16
    Super Member clem55's Avatar
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    Used this method for soaking white socks, underpants and bloodied handkerchiefs. ( Guess whose?) I used really hit water, let them soak for as couple hours and they would look great.

  17. #17
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    I love, love Grandmas stain remover....

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