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Cleaning Vintage Linens

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.
  • the right way to clean vintage linens, cleaning tips
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.
  • the right way to clean vintage linens, cleaning tips
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.
  • the right way to clean vintage linens, cleaning tips
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.
  • the right way to clean vintage linens, cleaning tips
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.
  • the right way to clean vintage linens, cleaning tips
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

Got a question 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...
  • Lori Siska
    Lori Siska Grand Rapids, MI

    This is good to know, I just inherited a boat load of vintage linens from my mother that have been in storage for years (I don't recall seeing a lot of these in my lifetime!) Thank you for the tips, can't wait to see what I can revive!

    • B

      @Lori Siska there are many great suggestions throughout the comments too. You might find one your like there too. Thanks you!

  • Mary Zeringue Wrigley

    Another solution is to make a heavy soapy paste with the regular ivory bar soap. Let it some till almost dry and rinse well. If you have rust stains put lemon juice on the stain and then rub with salt, leave on and put in sun. After stain is gone,

    • B

      @Mary Zeringue Wrigley Thank you!

  • Gail
    Gail Lakemont, GA

    I have just inherited boxes full of vintage linens that I know some of them are more than 100 years old. Is this safe on colored needlework or will it remove the color from the colored threads as it removes the yellowing and stains?

    • Marcia Strode
      Marcia Strode Kansas City, MO

      @B I've used it on colored needlework, but each one is different. Your best bet is to try a weak solution as possible in a less visible place & keep your fingers crossed. I'd never soak just dip and lay out on an abosorbant towel and watch for color

  • Kathie taylor
    Kathie taylor Largo, FL

    I was told by professional dry cleaners...Dial soap (old yellow bar kind) and COLD water will remove any stain. Some times it requires soaking up to three days. Cascade contains bleach and a degreaser.
    I inherited the same and used a little bleach in

    • B

      @Kathie taylor Thank you.

  • Suzanne Crowther

    thanks for this I have been buying some when I see them but for some odd reason some second hand shops here are wanting from $10 to $20 dollars s for one crappy looking doily . Wow to the girls who just got heaps you are so very lucky and blessed to

  • Barbara
    Barbara Avondale, AZ

    How long do you boil the article in the cascade solution? Thanks

    • Jsiei
      Jsiei Virginia Beach, VA

      Turn the eye off means to turn off the heat ( on an electric stove with coil heating rings).

  • B

    I turn the stove off

  • Debi53
    Debi53 Broadway, NC

    Thanks for sharing a great tip.

  • Throckmorton40

    My girlfriend and I used to buy old stained brocade table linens and other items. For years I used spray oven cleaner to remove stains with 100% success and it seldom took very long to get the stains out. I have also used this to get heavy traffic

  • B

    Wow, that's amazing! Thank you for sharing this tip!

  • Cholesa

    I have used this on soiled cross stitch projects. it worked beautifully.
    I also have whitened things in Cascade in my crockpot overnight!!

  • Colleen Jury
    Colleen Jury Bothell, WA

    I have an antique linsey-woolsey coverlet in black, moss green, cream, and red. I'm interested in cleaning it, but don't want to kill it! It's heavy and large (queen size, at least). Could I grate some Fels Naphtha soap into my bathtub and soak it?

    • Mary Anne Bolis Krohn

      I would really, REALLY hesitate to wash linsey woolsey, especially as this is an antique. Linsey woolsey is a fabric made using linen for the warp and wool for the weft. Most "old" wool WILL shrink. And in this case, since the weft is wool and

  • Kathy Klekar
    Kathy Klekar Katy, TX

    I have two old dressy dresses that my girls wore for Christmas when they were kids. They have been hanging in my closet for about 20-25 yrs. the lace has some stains on it that wasn't there before. The basic fabric on the dresses is velvet. Would it

    • Darlene Odom
      Darlene Odom Grand Bay, AL

      I had my daughter's velvet/lace dress professionally cleaned because the lace was yellowed and they totally ruined the velvet. I would not try washing the velvet. You could remove the lace to wash it .

  • Throckmorton40

    Maureen, after spraying, you launder carefully, either by hand or machine if the linen will withstand it, then dry nd iron, if needed.

  • NancyMaria
    NancyMaria Elko, NV

    Just a CAUTION note; Cascade now comes with Clorox bleach in the mix, so be sure which box you get and READ the labels!

  • Oemiller

    Sure will!

  • Nancy Ludwig
    Nancy Ludwig Spanaway, WA

    I love any idea that saves the old hand made doilies. To think of the time and effort our great grandmothers and grandmothers took to make them. Some are so beautiful. This is an idea I have seen and love it. The other version I saw was to dye them

  • Cindy
    Cindy Saint Joseph, MO

    My mother used Biz for a multitude of things growing up. She could get any stain out imaginable with it. Wonderful stuff

  • Donna Lord

    I have soaked my 50 yr old christening dress that was yellowed/browned from age with an area of spit up stain discoloration in a bowl with cool water Arm & Hammer soda wash with a tablespoon of blue Dawn dish detergent. I let it sit overnight. Rinsed

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