Asked on Mar 12, 2015

Cleaning vintage military canvas

by Barbara
Greetings all! I have my Dad's [ '50's] military duffle bag; I would like to use; but is in need of SERIOUS cleaning! Whats the best way, to maintain canvas integrity? TIA!
  3 answers
  • Gosh this is a great question, but the stuff (mobility bag, duffel bag) I had in the military (back to the early 90s) is pretty dang hard-core. Looks as new as the day I got it. Best of luck! What are you planning on doing with it?
    • See 2 previous
    • Barbara Barbara on Mar 12, 2015
      @RCooper @ Thank you! No kids here either; & canvas is SO durable. Yet we've had it 'disintegrate' over time [think canvas tents!] That's why I'm looking for a 'safe' way to clean before use; if all else fails, I MAY just have to wash it as a 'woolen'; delicate cycle. Want it *fresh* before use, since it dates to the 50's!
  • TinaLouise TinaLouise on Mar 13, 2015
    I have found that you can use the regular Dawn dishwashing liquid to clean anything and everything. It is gentle but I would test a little area because I'm anal like that :) I have used it to clean thrift store chairs made of fabric with great results as well as used it to remove stains from carpet, clothing, tablecloths, you name it. It even gets out old stains from oils.
    • Barbara Barbara on Mar 13, 2015
      @TinaLouise Thank you Tina! I may have to give it a try! I DO wish to leave this question a wee bit longer; as who knows what may pop up!
  • Jim Mansfield Jim Mansfield on Aug 11, 2017

    I've successfully cleaned and reconditioned some old web gear that came out nice after cleaning it. It's always a gamble though, depending on the condition of the fabric and thread. If the thread is rotted, cleaning it may ruin it. I guess if it's so bad already you can't use it, or it won't display well, you wouldn't be losing a lot anyway. Most military gear from that period was well made, and unless it's rotten it will hold up to gentle washing.

    I use Woolite and cold water to soak dirty, or 'hard' smaller items items. If you have a bucket large enough you can put the item in the mixture and let it soak. I've done this and kept the bucket near me while watching TV or something and use a stick or my hands to stir it around every so often. Then after several hours rinse it off well in the bathtub. The cold water and Woolite hasn't removed markings on the items I've cleaned, and sometimes make them more visible when dirt is washed off.

    It's a bigger gamble, but on a larger and dirtier item my washing machine has an extremely gentle cycle called "Hand Wash" that has actually worked very well to restore flexibility and clean items. Same as washing in a bucket, use cold water and Woolite. Let air dry when done - don't use the dryer.