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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Basic Care of Vintage Linens

I often get asked how to care for linens. It’s pretty easy and not as scary as some people might think. So here are some very basic cleaning and storage tips for vintage linens that have worked for me. *

This first method is what I use when I bring home a new batch of linens. I feel that sanitation far out weighs any damage that might come to the linen. Most of the linens I find have been stored for years and years in attics, basements, etc. so I want to be sure they’re CLEAN before I bring them into my home and yours.

Washing vintage linens really depends on their age and condition. Pre-treat any spots with a commercial spot cleaner. (I use Spray N Wash or Shout) Soak if necessary- see recipe below. If the item is relatively new (40 year or newer) and there are no structural problems, I wash it in hot, hot water with Tide and oxy clean or Biz on the gentle cycle - slow agitation, slow spin, double rinse, and tumble dry on medium. I pull it out of the dryer while it's still hot and lay them flat so as to avoid as many wrinkles as possible.

Fresh out of the dryer

If the linens are yellowing or have age-related lines, pre-treat with a spot cleaner, and soak in hot water with equal parts of Tide with color safe bleach, Oxy-clean and (believe it or not) Cascade Automatic Dish Washing soap in powder form. Dissolve all the powders before adding your linens. Stir often with a heavy spoon, plastic broom handle, etc. Soak for up to 48 hours, stirring every so often. Then rinse really well, and launder as usual.

If you’re washing something you already own, hand washing is best, but washing on gentle in the machine is ok, too. To extend the life of your linens, it’s best to line dry until just damp, and then toss them into the dryer for a few minutes so that they’re nice and soft.

This darling towel clearly states my daily activity. It's a keeper!

It’s best to iron embroidered pieces from the wrong side. Turn pillowcases inside out and press on medium high heat. Turn them right side out and just do touch ups. Only use starch when you are going to use your linens right away. DO NOT store items that have been starched as it may cause yellowing, attract bugs and even cause fiber breakage. Don’t iron creases into linens, and fold them only after the fabric has cooled.

Stacks of sweet smelling, clean linens!

Store your linens inside where they won’t be exposed to moisture, too much heat or too much light. Never store linens in plastic bags or plastic bins as this may cause CFC gases to be released onto your linens which causes yellowing. (Citric acid – Lemon Juice – usually will take care of that, but why go through the bother). Also, plastic traps moisture which can lead to mold and mildew. Try not to fold your linens the same way every time. The best way to store linens for long periods of time is to roll them around acid free paper and wrap with acid free paper.

If you have a truly antique piece or a prized heirloom piece from Grandmother, please consult a professional.

*Please remember that although I deal with linens on a daily basis, I am not an expert and am just passing along what has worked for me over the years. These are merely suggestions and no guarantee is implied or stated. Sometimes, no matter what you do, little holes appear after cleaning and some stains just don’t want to come out.

(This adorable laundry bag hangs in my laundry room. It's another keeper that is just too cute to let go. I had trouble with it hanging straight so that the image was easy to see, until I had one of those "Ah Ha" moments. I just slipped a large piece of card stock in it. Now it hangs perfectly and I can enjoy it every day!)
Thanks for stopping by. Blessings!!
Patricia :o)


the rusty cupboard said...

Thank you for all the info, I have used the same ideas for care for mine.

Winter said...

Great info thanks for the share. Maybe I can get me some now that I know how to care for them.

Sophisticated Rose


anna said...

Thank you for the great washing tips!
very usefull!
greetz, Anna

Farm Chick Paula said...

Thanks for the info, Patricia!
And I LOVE the laundry bag!

Lea of Farmhouse Blessings said...

Thank you so much for all of those wonderful tips! I'm going to add your post to my tutorial sidebar so I don't lose it.

Love that laundry bag! Was it made from an vintage linen or purposedly begun as one. It's lovely just the same!


Lallee said...

What wonderful information! Thank you for taking the time to write this. I will mark it in my reader so I don't lose it.

Rose Haven said...

Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions!


Joyfulsister said...

Hi Pat,
Just wanted to drop by and say hello, and Happy valentines Day!! Thanks for dropping by and sharing your heart and encouragement with me. I need to get those photos to you as soon I get my camera . My tea linens are just sitting in a drawer lol. I will also keep these pointers from this post. I really want to know more about vintage.

Hugz Lorie

Mona said...

Hello my friend! :) My lovely little linen scarf came yesterday and it is so sweet. The tiny cross stitch work on it is exquisite. The crochet work on the edgings..everything is just a treasure. I will post a photo of where I use it and say where it came from as this is not the first time I have bought exquisite vintage linens from you. Always they are so sweetly wrapped AND the little added gift of a linen hanky put a smile on my face. The sweet little fact there as always! I feel blessed to have found you! You and Becky are much alike. No wonder you formed a bond! I am not a bit surprised!
Happy Valentines Day... :)

Kathleen Grace said...

Wrful tips! I always love looking at your treasure trove!

Kathleen from Eggs In My Pocket and Yesteryear Embroideries said...

Thanks for the helpful information! I am keeping this so that I can use it in the future! blessings,Kathleen

Sugarplum Cottage said...

If you ever sell that laundry bag I'd like to buy it. I don't blame you for keeping it yourself. You do know I adore anything embroidered. I wanted to invite you to my first ever "Project Friday", Feb. 27, and every Friday after that. This post would have made a wonderful project idea-showing how to take care of linens. I just know this will be a fun event each week and I'm also encourageing those that participate to offer their projects for sale. Must come on over and see if your interested in this idea. Hugs, Rosemarie

Bernideen's Tea Time Blog said...

What wonderfulinformation! Thanks for sharing things that will help people!

English Cottage in Georgia said...

Thanks for the wonderful laundering tips for vintage linens. I must admit, I would catch myself being distracted at the pics of your delightful linen collection :-)

Solange Belém said...

Hola mi amiga,
me gusta mucho de sus blogs Vintage... and Welcome Spring!
Son estupendos.


Julie said...

When you have time, please come read a story I posted about my husband and keep him in your prayers.