Monday, October 19, 2015

How To Restore Vintage Linens & Things...

When the "s" hits the fan no matter how much toilet paper, paper plates, napkins and such you manage to store; eventually you will run out of paper products then the "s" could really be a problem. That's why it is important to think about storing cloth items now.
Don't get me wrong, I still store some paper products but I am actually storing a lot less now. I am converting to using cloth for a lot of everyday uses and working on skills like how to clean the stains.
Many of you may already be storing personal bathroom cloth. When I was getting rid of a bunch of clothes, I saved soft items in black, white and grey. I figured each would serve a defined purpose.

Then I happened across a large box of vintage linens.
Antique is mostly defined as more than 100 years old (unless it is a car). Vintage is a loosely used word - so for your edification my definition here, I am cleaning vintage 1940's linens from my MIL. As I transition from less paper to more cloth, I thought now would be great time to start work on cleaning the stains on these treasured linens.
One of the first steps for was determining just how important these napkins, tablecloths and hankies were. The only real value for me was sentimental, they are not antiques & I was planning on using them. So, I was willing to take chances and some losses were acceptable.
Like always I did a lot of reading. One of the most helpful things I read wasn't from a blogger, but from an anonymous comment:

I am a studied archival linen purchaser/collector and do not recommend any hydrogen peroxide or related peroxide products, +bleach, or any man-made definably chemical-based formulations to wash or treat linen and/or related fine cottons.
Use of these products creates irreparable hardship on the fibers and you will notice shortly thereafter that the texture of the article(s) will have changed (first detected to the touch, or ‘feel’ as it is deemed) then over time the fabric in question will begin to break and separate in the form of small holes, frayed/worn edges which often appear at the edge-seams or openings of your fabrics, garments or bedding material.
Vinegar, blueing liquid, buttermilk, lemon juice, salt soaks and mild ph detergent soaks (no extreme hot water temperatures must ever be employed) is best recommended. Wash fabrics on the gentle cycle of your washing machine using only a ph balanced soap like “Zero” or equivalent ph balanced soap.
Sun bleaching and/or hang drying is always best for archival fabrics, including natural linen or cotton. Caution: Never use Sun Bleaching if the fabric has been dyed–vegetable dyes will readily fade with sun exposure. Often antiquated quilts have depreciated in value considerably for oversights such as sun exposure and related sun bleaching.

Basically I started with the least harsh method I could find and worked my way up to soaking in bleach. The entire process took  a long time, but eventually I was able to set up a system.

Buttermilk (Step 1)

1 Gallon Water
1 Quart Buttermilk
1 TBS Fresh Lemon Juice

Soak items in the buttermilk recipe up to 24 hours. I added a plate in the pot to weight down the linens & to keep submerged in the solution. 
Rinse twice, then launder.

Step 2 When that method didn't work, I then used a gallon of water and Oxi-Clean. Soaked for 6 hours, rinsed twice, then laundered.

Step 3 Then I use an all fabric bleach and a gallon of water. Soaked for 6 hours, rinsed twice, then laundered.


By the time I reached this stage, I was all in. There were a lot of tough stains.
Step 4 I graduated to a bleach pen. I let that set for awhile and there wasn't any improvement I went directly to a cup of bleach in about two gallons of water. This was used of course with only the all white linens.


By this time, I manage to salvage almost all the linens. There are a few dots of stain left on a few of the linens and I lost about 4 pieces to deterioration of the fabric. Yet I would still be able to use these pieces. Since I went into this knowing I'd lose a few I was comfortable with the outcome.

Here is why I went to all that trouble. My picture parade of some of the fun and great pieces I am now going to be able to use.



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Some of the items I have used this week.


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