I have a fondness for vintage linens and textiles and just can’t help myself when I discover them at garage sales…even those tired fabrics that are yellowed with age or frayed around the edges.
These are lovely when used for their intended purpose but they also make great cutters for assorted crafts (cutting around any permanent marks and tears).
I’ve seen gorgeous handbags made from bedspread chenille, dainty cushions made from doilies, aprons sewn from embroidered tablecloths, kitschy potholders quilted out of tea towels…so many creative ways to repurpose these textiles!
Most will likely need more than a quick spot cleaning to brighten them up and bring them back to life, so I’ve compiled some great recipes that are suitable for treating the entire piece.
Check a small section first to make sure the recipe won’t damage the fabric or affect colors before submerging the entire article.
When finishing off in the sun, lay them directly on the grass instead of hanging them–the weight of hanging wet items can warp or weaken the fibers.
After soaking in one of the treatments below, rinse well before regular laundering and drying to remove all traces of solution.
- After washing, give them a good vinegar rinse to remove as much of the residue as possible. Ratio is one cup of white vinegar per gallon of water. Then do it again with plain water a time or two.
1/4 cup Kosher or Sea salt
Gallon hot water
- Cover piece entirely and soak for at least 48 hours. Lay out in the sun to dry. See notes below for method.
- In a large roaster or pot, fill with hot water and several slices of lemon. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and add your linens. Take a wooden spoon and push them down until they become completely submerged and saturated. Cover the pot and leave overnight.
- Wash with mild detergent as usual and then lay the items out in the sun.
1 Quart Buttermilk
1 Gallon Water
1 TBS Fresh Lemon Juice
- Immerse articles in the mixture for up to 24 hours then launder as usual.
Biz & Oxyclean – #4
1 Scoop* Biz
1 Scoop* Oxyclean
1 Gallon Hot Water
- Submerse for up to 48 hours, launder as usual.
- *Use the oxyclean scoop
And here’s another spot treater:
3/4 cup rubbing alcohol
1/4 cup water
10 drops mild dish detergent
How Long To Let Soak?
A few days if they are heavily yellowed and the solutions aren’t giving you the results you want. Just replace with fresh hot water + recipe every day or two.
Here’s a formula for removing stains out of old linens, spot test first:
2 quarts distilled water
1/4 C. bleach
1/4 C. shaved Ivory Soap bar
- Mix ingredients and soak item for approximately one hour.
- Dry in sun.
- Repeat again if necessary (you can still use the original bleach mixture you used the first time–just store til needed).
Old vintage textiles are lovely, but they can yellow in spots as well as hold stains. Here’s a formula to help brighten things up:
1 Gallon warm water
2 TBS Ivory Soap (grated)
1 TBS Bleach
- Mix and let sit to cool until liquid has gelled a bit. Apply to stain.
- You can leave linens in this solution for several days (even colored embroidered pieces).
- As with all old pieces, rinse very well, over and over, to remove every trace of soap.
*Important: Make sure to test a small area first
Caring For Vintage Quilts
Here’s an article I found in a very old household notebook that I was lucky enough to come in possession of, it gives helpful information for caring for aged quilts.
Note: Don’t dry clean since the weight of the fluid may place more stress on delicate fabric.
- Washing in mild soap and warm water will brighten the colors, or you might use dish (not dishwasher) detergent. Most blankets can take a short, gentle machine agitation. Rinse thoroughly.
- If the item is age-marked, immerse in a solution of one quart buttermilk and one tablespoon white vinegar to each gallon of water before washing. This shouldn’t damage cotton.
- Hang it wet over two lines to distribute weight while drying. You can finish by a short fluffing on warm temperature in the dryer.
- If fortunate enough to have an all-white beauty, try sunbleaching. Our grandmothers placed white garments on grass and the sun–not a detergent product–did the job.
- Don’t store in plastic; it may cause discoloration. Instead, wrap in clean paper and then wrap with several sheets of newspaper to prevent mildew.
- Store singly in boxes as stacking quilts will weaken the fabric at the folds.