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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.

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

Have a question about this project?

6 questions
  • Victoria Howard
    on Dec 25, 2015

    CLEANING VINTAGE TABLE CLOTHS AND LINENS : Do you use Biz and Cascade powders together?

    • B
      on Dec 29, 2015

      @Victoria Howard No, I soak in Biz first and hope the stain will come out.

    • B
      on Feb 11, 2016

      No, I use Biz first. Cascade it the stain was stubborn.

    • K. Marshall
      on Mar 27, 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.

    • Kay3196219
      on Mar 27, 2016

      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.

    • B
      on Apr 3, 2016

      Thank you! I had no idea.

    • Beverly Clement
      on Dec 31, 2016

      I just use Biz.

  • Jacqueline Giannotti-Lovorn
    on Jan 18, 2016

    Hi! I have my mother's mantilla (Spanish lace veil) and would like to use your method of cleaning it since it is over 60 years old and has never been professionally cleaned. Have you ever used your cleaning method for a lace veil?

    • B
      on Feb 11, 2016

      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.

    • Sarah
      on Nov 18, 2016

      I used it on beautiful French lace curtains that had been handed down for generations. It worked wonderfully.

    • Beverly Clement
      on Dec 31, 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?

    • Beverly Clement
      on Jan 13, 2017

      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.

  • Jeanne B.
    on Jan 24, 2016

    If I can't find Biz can I jump right to the Cascade step?

    • B
      on Jan 24, 2016

      @Jeanne B. Yes- I think so. There are also many great suggestions throughout the comments too. Good luck.

    • Jackie
      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!

    • Jeanne B.
      on Feb 4, 2016

      Hi Jackie. Thanks for sharing the story. They sound lovely. I will stop by Target and check it out.

    • B
      on Feb 11, 2016

      Great news! Thanks for sharing this!

    • Beverly Clement
      on Dec 31, 2016

      Try Walmart for Biz - the only place I can find it.

    • Karen
      on Jan 11, 2017

      I found it at my Publix in Florida!

    • Jeanne B.
      on Jan 11, 2017

      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.

    • Judy Noel
      on Jun 10, 2017

      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.
    • Ban12965921
      on Jun 15, 2017

      Use Oxi Clean. Soak over night, It works Great
    • Joan Stanley
      on Nov 22, 2018

      Biz is in HEB in Texas. Usually on a bottom shelf. Biz is good for "eating" stains like blood if its not set in by previous washing.

      Testing is necessary because lace and ratting were made using many various types of thread. My grandmother said she had seen women take threads from old clothing, bind them together and use it for tatting. So, many fabrics.

  • Muggins Brehan
    on Feb 4, 2016

    I cannot buy Restoration in France and Amazon will not send it here. The makers have not replied to my requests so I am unable to get it. What is Cascade and Biz please? I use Oxygen based powders and very, very hot water to soak and wash my antique bed linens.

    • Drgoodie
      on Feb 5, 2016

      @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.

    • Sandra
      on Mar 2, 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.

    • Wanda
      on Apr 13, 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.

    • Barbara Morgan
      on May 4, 2016

      I want Muggins mailing address, I will mail her what I can get for cleaning her linens !! Thx Barbara

    • Jessica Cossin
      on Nov 25, 2016

      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!

    • Beverly Clement
      on Dec 31, 2016

      I buy Biz at Walmart. The only place I can find it here in South Carolina.

    • Ida
      on Feb 1, 2017

      Bless you Barbara!

    • Sylvia Candler
      on Mar 20, 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!

    • Victoria Matus
      on Apr 12, 2017

      cascade is a powdered, machine dishwashing detergent.
    • Jemilly
      on Mar 15, 2019

      Cascade is a dishwasher detergent. I believe is specifically to use on glass to keep it from getting water stains as they dry.

  • M. M..
    on Dec 11, 2016

    Is the wet lace too heavy to hang dry? Or would I need to have several lines supporting it?It seems like it would tear or stretch out of shape with the wet weight of it all.. Thank you!

    • Beverly Clement
      on Jan 1, 2017

      Lay flat if you can or fold and lay flat.

    • Rutt
      on Feb 18, 2017

      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.

    • Sara
      on Dec 18, 2018

      Place a bed sheet over the clothes line first pegging it to several lines. Then place your lace table cloth over it, so the sheet supports the lace and helps to prevent it from warping out of shape.

    • Lisa
      on Feb 12, 2019

      I have a crocheted antique bedspread my grandmother made. I have laid it out flat on top of a bedsheet on my lawn. Then placed another sheet on top. I put small rocks on the corners so the wind didn’t blow it away. Drys great!

  • Andrea Bunny
    on Feb 2, 2019

    Anyone know what she's talking about when she says, "I turned the eye off?"

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