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Cleaning Vintage Linens

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An Antique Linen Dealer shared her secret with me, over 25 years ago, for cleaning vintage linens. This was before Oxygen cleaners and many spot treatments were readily available. I would try the newer ones first. If they do not work, this has worked for me. Please note, always test a small area first. If you are happy with the results, proceed with caution, at your own risk.
An antique linen dealer shared her secret with me, over 25 years ago, for cleaning vintage linens.The first step was soaking in Biz, a powdered detergent. I soaked this crocheted tablecloth overnight in Biz. Directions are on the box.
Since stubborn stains remained, I moved onto the next step. I brought water to a gentle boil, not rolling and added powdered Cascade. Depending on the size of your item and pot will determine the amount of product you need to add.
I used a lobster pot, so I added 1/2 cup of Cascade. I turned the eye off before I tested a tiny area to decide if I should proceed. Next, I added the entire tablecloth and stirred constantly. I used tongs to help check the stains.
If you determine that this method may work for you. Always test a tiny area first.Then, proceed with caution, at your own risk. Only you know the age, type of fabric, size and condition of your piece. Note, rinse by hand and line dry.
This worked beautifully on my tablecloth. The stains are gone. For me, this was unusable before cleaning it. It didn't respond to Oxygen cleaners or pre-treatment cleaners. I have successfully used this method for 25+years.

To see more: http://coastal-colors.blogspot.com/2013/11/cleaning-vintage-and-antique-linens-tip.html

Ask the creator about this project

    • Lay flat if you can or fold and lay flat.
    • If doing this in the summer, I recommend laying out in the sun with a white sheet under it. You could also cover it with another sheet to keep the bugs and possible bird doodoo off. The sun will help bleach it to get the final remaining stains out. I have used this method of drying successfully.
      Rutt Rutt  Manheim, PA · answered on Feb 18, 2017 ·
    Add an answer...
    • @Muggins Brehan Hi Muggins. You can call up Cascade and Biz at Amazon.com to see what they are - just detergent powders. I have used the Oxy Clean powder successfully to get heavily yellowed vintage pillowcases snowy white. Also to get the black asphalt and tire marks off vintage tea towels (the postal man ran over them.) I put a lot of the powder in very hot water and soaked an item overnight. I had to repeat this several times but eventually succeeded in removing these stains. If your powder does not work on something, perhaps you can obtain the Cascade and Biz products via the "amazon international shipping direct" site. It states "almost everything" can be shipped to 75 countries and France is on the list.
      Drgoodie Drgoodie  Cypress, TX · answered on Feb 5, 2016 ·
    • I wonder why Amazon won't ship Biz and Cascade to France. Well, I think there may be bleach in Cascade, but not sure. frankly, I didn't know they made Biz anymore. biz is a laundry detergent and Cascade is used to clean dishes in an automatic dishwasher. I have used Cascade to clean stains. Not antique fabrics, but stains in table cloths and napkins. Works great.
      Sandra Sandra  Titusville, FL · answered on Mar 2, 2016 ·
    • I learned about this in 1966 from a college instructor. I use the same methods to get formula stains out of baby clothes. I have had amazing results.
      Wanda Wanda  Kingston, GA · answered on Apr 13, 2016 ·
    • I want Muggins mailing address, I will mail her what I can get for cleaning her linens !! Thx Barbara
    • If you look on Pinterest, you can get your own recipe for making your own laundry detergent. I know it's a total pain in the Patootie! But if you really are having that much of hard time getting it shipped, and are impatient. Give it a try, at least you know what's in it! Good luck friends!
    • I buy Biz at Walmart. The only place I can find it here in South Carolina.
    • Bless you Barbara!
      Ida Ida  Culpeper, VA · answered on Feb 1, 2017 ·
    • Muggins if you don't have Cascade dishwasher detergent perhaps you have a local brand you could use. Just be careful as it will be a very strong bleaching agent. Test a small area first! I tried to clean one of my husband's shirts with Cascade and it ate a hole in it! Good thing it wasn't vintage. Good luck!
    • cascade is a powdered, machine dishwashing detergent.
    Add an answer...
    • @Jeanne B. Yes- I think so. There are also many great suggestions throughout the comments too. Good luck.
      B B · answered on Jan 24, 2016 ·
    • Jackie Jackie  Panama City, FL · answered on Feb 4, 2016 ·
    • I bought a cardboard box of imported Irish lace curtains at a neighbor's yard sale. The glue from tape on the box had discolored areas of the curtains as they sat for years in the hot attic here in FL. I paid her $5, and after soaking in BIZ and hot water for hours and drying them on top of towels over my shrimp plant bushes outdoors, they were gorgeous! I returned the inexpensive lace curtains from Kmart I'd only just hung in my living room and used these. They were so pretty!
      Jackie Jackie  Panama City, FL · answered on Feb 4, 2016 ·
    • Hi Jackie. Thanks for sharing the story. They sound lovely. I will stop by Target and check it out.
    • Great news! Thanks for sharing this!
      B B · answered on Feb 11, 2016 ·
    • Try Walmart for Biz - the only place I can find it.
    • I found it at my Publix in Florida!
    • I did get Biz at Target and now all of a sudden I am seeing it other places. I now use it as an addition to my regular laundry soap and I think it makes everything look and smell cleaner.
    • My mother in law used this same procedure for my father in laws white t-shirts. He took meds that made them look yellow. They turned out great as well.. I had been looking for the amounts of product to use. Thanks for the great hints.
    • Use Oxi Clean. Soak over night, It works Great
    Add an answer...
    • No, I haven't. I have only used it on cotton items that aren't really fragile. There are many great suggestions form others throughout the comments. You might find a better answer there.
      B B · answered on Feb 11, 2016 ·
    • I used it on beautiful French lace curtains that had been handed down for generations. It worked wonderfully.
      Sarah Sarah  Lawrence, KS · answered on Nov 18, 2016 ·
    • I use Biz on antique laces all the time. If the first soaking doesn't get it clean, rinse and o it again. I've been known to do this fir a week or more to clean old laces - some over 100 years old and they are cotton.
    • Hi! Beverly, when you say "for a week or more" do you mean soaking for a week? or repeat the cleaning cycle often in the span of a week?
    • Hi! Beverly, when you say "for a week or more" do you mean soaking for a week? or repeat the cleaning cycle often in the span of a week?
    • Hi! Beverly, when you say "for a week or more" do you mean soaking for a week? or repeat the cleaning cycle often in the span of a week?
    • I usually soak aday or two, then rinse to see what's happening. If they are not clean I put in fresh hot water and more Biz and soak another day or two. Been known to soak for up to two weeks but I've never had to give up. Everything I've used it on came clean eventually.
    Add an answer...
    • @Victoria Howard No, I soak in Biz first and hope the stain will come out.
      B B · answered on Dec 29, 2015 ·
    • No, I use Biz first. Cascade it the stain was stubborn.
      B B · answered on Feb 11, 2016 ·
    • An idea from a Dutch Museum in Pella , Iowa is to use denture cleansing tablets. They get all sorts of stains out...makes sense---they get stains off of dentures.
    • Be careful using Cascade. The formula has changed. Congress made them remove the phosphates. (Which is why you have film on your glasses you can't get off). So the formula you used for cleaning linens is not the same.
    • Thank you! I had no idea.
      B B · answered on Apr 3, 2016 ·
    • I just use Biz.
    Add an answer...
  • Miriam I
    Miriam I Bay Shore, NY
    on Jan 5, 2014

    Thanks for sharing this again, Betsy! :)

    • B
      B
      on Jan 5, 2014

      @Miriam I Thank you! You're so thoughtful!

  • Peggy W
    Peggy W Kokomo, IN
    on Jan 5, 2014

    Thank you so very much for sharing this again! It definitely will be something I use in the future! Have a wonderful day!

    • B
      B
      on Jan 5, 2014

      @Peggy W You're welcome! Thank you for commenting! I had to edit some things; I'm sorry for the inconvenience.

  • Hugh Foshee
    Hugh Foshee Troy, AL
    on Jan 5, 2014

    Thanks for this info. I just inherited many old linens and need to despot them. jfoshee

    • B
      B
      on Jan 5, 2014

      @Hugh Foshee Thank you. I would try the pre-treatments and Oxygen products first. If they don't help, perhaps, this will.

  • Margo Fogg
    Margo Fogg Searsmont, ME
    on Jan 5, 2014

    Can you still get powdered Cascade?

    • B
      B
      on Jan 5, 2014

      @Margo Fogg You can- in the green box.

  • Jan
    Jan Elkhorn, WI
    on Jan 5, 2014

    I have some pieces my mom crocheted that need this! Thank you!

    • B
      B
      on Jan 5, 2014

      @Jan You're welcome! I hope this helps!

  • Nance Anderson
    Nance Anderson Cottage Grove, MN
    on Jan 5, 2014

    I have lots of old crocheted items my grandma made, some have stains. I hope this works. Thanks for the help.

  • Trev Sherrod
    Trev Sherrod Winnsboro, SC
    on Jan 5, 2014

    i have had success with hydrogen peroxide using same method. For super tough stains I have had to repeat process. Sometimes I add a little TSP.

    • B
      B
      on Jan 5, 2014

      @Trev Sherrod I have to give this a try! Thank you!

  • Chris T
    Chris T Tonawanda, NY
    on Jan 5, 2014

    I too have some old linens....I knew about the dish washer detergent trick....I sometimes do lots of really yellowy looking things together and if the Oxy doesn't work with the white cap bottle of detergent I just use the dish washer detergent and let it soak for a while....maybe overnight....and then I do a couple of rinses.....most times I put the linens into a mesh bag for washing delicate things....you can get small or very large ones for that purpose.

    • B
      B
      on Jan 5, 2014

      @Chris T Thank you, Chris! I'll give this a try too. I appreciate this tip!

  • Debby
    Debby Cincinnati, OH
    on Jan 5, 2014

    I have another secret shared w me by a 90 yr old doll dealer, you soak it in denture tablet solution. You can buy polident, but had just as good of results w Dollar store brand. i used to clean the doll given to me by someone who smoked Heavily,and they came out beautifully, then used it on a whole box of linens that had been stored in a tote, drawn moisture and had those "rust" stains on many of the pieces, and it removed grease stains from cotton and linen tablecloths. depending on size of item, place in warm, not hot water, immerse the item, throw in tablets, i allowed all to soak between 4 and 12 hrs. rinse well, hang to dry, do not wring esp. dolls clothing. If dealing w nicotine, i even used the tablet in an bowl and used to clean all parts of doll skin and wash the hair, the water got nasty, had to rinse several times. Good Luck, hope it works, just use your best judgement.

    • B
      B
      on Jan 5, 2014

      @Debb Wow, great tip! Thank you! I have never heard of using denture tablets! I'm going to give this a try!

  • Joan Santa Cruz
    Joan Santa Cruz Ocean Springs, MS
    on Jan 6, 2014

    Thanks so much ~ I plan to try these techniques on some vintage linens soon~!

    • B
      B
      on Jan 6, 2014

      @Joan Santa Cruz Good luck! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Leslie Parker
    Leslie Parker New Britain, CT
    on Jan 6, 2014

    i have used this for years, and also soaking in denture cleaning tablets! linens should be hung outside to dry at night, where a chemical reaction to the air helps eliminate stains!

  • Mary Insana
    Mary Insana Pittsburgh, PA
    on Jan 6, 2014

    I always used dish washer detergent on my sons white baseball pants. Other moms pre treated, soaked and scrubbed. Not me lol

    • B
      B
      on Jan 6, 2014

      @Mary I. Great suggestions! Thank you!

  • Barbara Brooks
    Barbara Brooks Quinlan, TX
    on Jan 6, 2014

    Does it work on items with color or does it bleach themm out. I have an adorable crib size chenille that is white with pink and blue designs that has yellowing on fold lines.

    • Starla Swanson
      Starla Swanson Cedar Rapids, IA
      on Jan 6, 2014

      @B You got lucky with this piece. It's simply gorgeous. The crochet thread in this case did not bleach out but it probably did change color a tiny bit. I've had many pieces in ecru and ivory that held their color when I had to bleach them as a last resort. And I do mean last. Bleach is caustic and will destroy the fibers. It will even wear down the gold in your rings. And the dishwasher detergent contains a bleaching agent. But when it's your last resort and you've tried everything else, you're forced to make a choice. Do keep in mind that oil stains have to be treated different than protein stains or general soil. Old oil stains almost never come out. There are some cleaning agents available, many times to be found in quilt shops, that can do wonders without harming the fibers.

  • Janet McCall
    Janet McCall Kennewick, WA
    on Jan 6, 2014

    Add to this post...I love old crochet pieces. My trick to starch them I plain elmers glue. Wash and leave piece damp. Mix glue with water about 50/50 enough to cover in a dish pan or small container let set in the glue for 3 minutes. Gently press excess glue from piece. I roll it a clean white towel. Spread item out on flat surface covered with thick clear plastic or wax paper for small items. Let dry completely. The glue acts like stain and water repellent.

    • B
      B
      on Jan 6, 2014

      @Janet McCall My Grandmother did that too! Thanks for sharing this!

  • Beverly Alley
    Beverly Alley Mesa, AZ
    on Jan 6, 2014

    denture tablets also clean your toilet bowls

    • B
      B
      on Jan 6, 2014

      @Beverly Alley I had no idea! Thanks for sharing this!

  • Dena
    Dena Bakersfield, CA
    on Jan 6, 2014

    Denture tablets will clean your Diamonds and make them just sparkle!!!

    • B
      B
      on Jan 6, 2014

      @Dena I had no idea! Wow, thanks for sharing this!

  • Ginnie
    Ginnie La Porte, TX
    on Jan 6, 2014

    I used peroxide and baking soda to remove the stains from old crocheted doilies and lace.

    • Sue Weiker
      Sue Weiker Napoleon, OH
      on Jan 6, 2014

      @Ginnie I use this method also. Works everytime, and gentler to particular threads than other methods. Depends on what you cleaning.

  • Buffy
    Buffy North Salem, NY
    on Jan 6, 2014

    Or do what I do sometimes and just tea-stain the whole thing :)

    • B
      B
      on Jan 6, 2014

      @Buffy great tip, thanks!

  • Vickie Ingle
    Vickie Ingle Petersburg, VA
    on Jan 6, 2014

    I need to ask........ I have an old table scarf that I believe is tie dyed velvet with fringe.....it needs some gentle cleaning but I don't know what to do to clean.

    • Linda Weeks
      Linda Weeks Street, MD
      on Jan 6, 2014

      @Vickie Ingle - how about asking your dry cleaner if they have any ideas. They do wonders for all sorts of fabrics. good luck

  • Karen
    Karen Evansville, IN
    on Jan 6, 2014

    Dishwasher detergents do work well because they still have phosphates in them. Years ago, our lovely laws had phosphates removed from laundry detergents. That's why cascade, etc work so well scrubbing baseball pants, etc. Also, using a bar of Fels Naptha soap rubbed on the spot can help. Find it in the same aisle in the grocery. You can add cascade to the laundry whites also.

    • B
      B
      on Jan 6, 2014

      @Karen Thanks! Great suggestion!

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