I would like to thank everyone for their comments to my post last week for Vintage Thingie Thursday. If you missed the original post you will find it HERE.
And because so many of you were interested in knowing how to clean your vintage linens, and you asked so sweetly, here is the post you asked for.
Warning....there are lots of pictures, and if that is annoying, I am sorry. I happen to like a lot of pictures when I want to learn how to do something. So, this is the method I will use to show you how to clean all of your vintage treasures so they sparkle like new.
These first two pictures are of some recent estate sale finds that were not in perfect shape. The top picture is of a set of napkins, and the napkins were yellowed especially around the creases and folds.
You can see in this piece of vintage fabric, the yellow spots in the middle of the picture. This fabric was a wonderful vintage find, but it was riddles with yellow spots from age. I was pretty certain I could fix this problem.
Important: You will need to spot test your fabric using the method below and make sure there will be damage to the fabric or colors before you soak the whole piece. I do this only on brightly colored items and so far, all have been fine using this method.
You will need the following things:
White Vinegar, Biz Detergent, Oxi-Clean, large bucket.
First measure one gallon of water. If you are going to be cleaning several items at once, you will need to measure out the water accordingly. I usually use about 4-5 gallons of water at a time and wash several pieces together.
Heat the water on the stove. You need to use hot water, not boiling water. This is about 4 gallons of water I used on this particular day. If I am going to be soaking mostly whites, I heat the water a bit longer than if I am soaking reds or darker colors. You will know if the water is warm enough if you can stick your finger in the water and it is not scalding. Like I said for whites, I heat the water almost to the boiling point.
Next: while the water is heating, pour your soaps into a large bucket or tub. I use this red tub from Wal-mart and it works really well.
You will use:
Per gallon of water
1 scoop of Oxi-clean
1 scoop of Biz (Use the Oxi-clean scoop, not the scoop in the Biz)If you are mixing up 4 gallons of water, like I did here, you will need to use this recipe times 4 for it to be the correct mixture:
4 gallons of water
4 scoops of Oxi-Clean
4 scoops of Biz - using the Oxi-Clean scoop
Once your water is heated, poor into the bucket and mix well. Warning....the first time I did this, I thought I would just pour the soaps into the water on the stove, stir and then add to bucket....DON'T DO THAT!! Why?? Well, this will bubble and expand and my stove top looked like a Science Fair experiment with soaps oozing and flowing out of the pots. Trust me...it was a mess!
Next, add your linens. Stir well and mix well. I use a old wooden spoon for this step. Soak all of the items well.
This is what your bucket should look like once everything is wet and mixed well. Leave the mixture alone and let it soak. This can soak for up to 48 hours. For whites, I usually soak the full 48 hours. If I am soaking colors like reds, I will check on them after about 24 hours and if they look clean, pull them from the mixture. Do not be alarmed if the water begins to look like this:
You will not believe what will be pulled out of the fabric. If the water turns too gross, I will repeat the process after the first 24 hours and let the linens soak another 24 hours in fresh soap mixed water.
This is what a batch looked like after I had a tablecloth soaking that had lots of red in the fabric. I don't really know if it was the red in the fabric or if it was just that this stuff was so dirty. I got scared none the less and thought I had ruined everything and pulled everything out and checked it. Nothing was ruined at all. I did re-mix the mixture to soak again, and soaked the red tablecloth by itself....still no damage to anything. Just a bunch of gross looking water. Can you just imagine the years of dirt and grime trapped in the fibers of this fabric?
Once you have soaked the linens for the instructed time frame, Gently squeeze the soapy water out of the fabric and rinse in the sink by hand in fresh water. You are going to rinse, rinse and rinse some more.
The key is to remove all of the soap from the fabric....so rinse...rinse....rinse.
If you are having still a lot of soap appear in the rinse water, you can use the following in only ONE of the rinse sinks and only use it one time.
Pour 2 cups of white vinegar to two gallons of fresh water.
Now, rinse all your linens by hand in the vinegar water. Follow with a rinse in plain fresh water.
I usually will rinse these about 4-5 times, some fabrics seem to hold more soap than others, you will be able to tell, you want the rinse water to be without soap residue before you go to the next step.
Now, take all of these freshly rinsed linens and put them into your washer. I use the hand wash cycle, double rinse option on my washer. Add a very mild detergent to wash your linens with. Be sure to check your last rinse cycle....If you rinse water looks like this.......
Rinse again. You want to remove all the soap from your fabrics before they are dried.
I line dry everything. Heavy tablecloths can be dried flat on the grass on top of large towels as can all vintage linens. I make sure everything is hung out straight on the line, the sun does wonders for whites.
Don't worry if you do not have a clothes line, this method of drying works the same way when you lay them out flat on towels to dry.
The final step would be to remove from drying method, and press with hot iron.
This seems like a lot of steps, but really it is not. The results are so worth the effort, trust me. This was a quilt block I acquired from an estate sale, the white was all yellowed and dingy. This is the final result after I removed it from the line. It is sparkly clean and white again, looks like new. I think this will make a really cute pillow.
All the spots came out of everything. If you have any rust spots, this will not remove the rust. I am working on finding the perfect solution for those spots.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on cleaning vintage linens....Be sure to report back here and tell me how it worked for you....I am quiet sure I know what you will have to say! I even used this method to soak a batch of vintage lace last week. You have to be very careful with the lace however, because it is so fragile when wet, but it worked well, and the lace came out very clean and bright.
Recipe for Cleaning Vintage Linens:
1 scoop of Oxi-Clean
1 scoop of Biz Detergent - use the Oxi-clean scoop
Soak in one gallon of hot, heated water for up to 48 hours.
Rinse well....Use 1 cup white vinegar to 1 gallon of water to rinse out soap residue
Wash in washer on gentle cycle using a mild detergent. Rinse well.
Line dry or dry in the sun. Press with iron if needed.
Now, go on and get your vintage treasure out of the closet, and give them a good cleaning...you will be so amazed at the results!