How to Clean Vintage Linens: Refresh & Brighten

woman hanging table cloth on clothesline

Find out how to clean vintage linens using a washing machine and handwashing. Explore how to get stains and yellowing out of vintage linens.

How to Clean Vintage Linens

Whether you have an old heirloom given to you by your grandmother or a great vintage steal you found at the flea market, sometimes your old lace and linens need to be cleaned. Not only will it be caked in dirt, but they have that age yellowing and possible nicotine marks. However, as fabrics age, they can get worn. Therefore, before you go about cleaning them, you want to check over the fabric. Look for spots where the threads are worn, tears, holes, loose threads, rotting, and anything else that might deteriorate as you wash it. For these or precious items, you might choose dry cleaning is more worth your while than trying to clean them at home. For the rest of your linens, you need to grab:

How to Get Stains Out of Vintage Linens

Prior to washing your fabrics, you need to check them for stains. You want to pre-treat these before washing your linens.

  1. Check for stains.

  2. Submerge the fabric in cold or warm water.

  3. Rub Fels-Naptha soap on the stain.

  4. Work it around with your fingers.

  5. Allow the fabric to soak in the water for several hours.

stains on vintage linens

Handwashing Fine Vintage Linens and Embroidery

Vintage linens can be delicate. Therefore, opt for handwashing rather than throwing them in the washer. Before washing any linen, test the colorfastness by dabbing a damp white washcloth onto the fabric's back to see if the color comes off. If any color gets on the cloth, take it to a dry cleaner.

  1. Fill a sink or tub with cold water.

  2. Add the recommended amount of detergent.

  3. Allow the fabrics to soak for several hours.

  4. Gently agitate the fabrics in the water.

  5. Rinse until the water runs clear.

  6. Fold the fabric so that it fits between two white towels.

  7. Press to dry.

  8. Lay on a flat surface to air dry or hang on a clothesline.

  9. Iron the linens while still slightly damp if you choose.

How to Machine Wash Vintage Linen

Pillowcases, hand towels, table runners, table cloths, and dresser scarves made after 1930 can be thrown in the washer if you so choose. However, you need to grab a mesh delicates bag to put in.

  • Allow the linen to soak for a few hours before running the cycle.

  • Use the gentle or delicate cycle on your washer.

  • You can wash these with other linens.

How to Clean Vintage Linens With OxiClean

OxiClean is a go-to for many to clean their vintage linens. It whitens yellowing stains on old linens with ease. While OxiClean doesn't contain any bleach, you want to do a colorfastness test before trying this cleaning method.

  1. Add a scoop of OxiClean.

  2. Add hot water to the sink.

  3. Allow the water to cool.

  4. Submerge the fabric into the water.

  5. Allow it to sit overnight.

  6. Rinse and allow it to air dry.

How to Remove Rust From Vintage Linens

Another problem that you'll find on vintage linens is rust. In this case, you need to reach for a rust remover like Whink Rust Stain Remover, which is safe for colorfast fabrics.

  1. Add a dab of the rust remover on a cotton swab.

  2. Tab at the stain.

  3. Submerge the fabric in water and allow it to soak for an hour or so.

  4. Reapply the rust remover if the stain remains.

  5. Rinse and allow to air dry.

Getting Vintage Linen Clean

It's never fun to do laundry. However, if you get a smashing deal on some vintage linens at a thrift store or have a family keepsake, it's important to keep them clean.

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How to Clean Vintage Linens: Refresh & Brighten