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Friday, February 26, 2010

Antique & Vintage Linen Care Tips

On the subject of caring for antique linens, it seems everyone I ask for advice has a different story. As a result I’ve tired most everything, and below you’ll find my thoughts on what works for me. I’m no linen care expert, so test anything first on a small piece to make sure it doesn’t react with the fabric. At Call Me Cordelia, linens are by far our biggest sellers. Most of the ones I buy are in good condition; but I feel the need to wash them first anyway. I enjoy washing mine by hand in an old tin tub, tucked away in a corner of the garden.
For your own linens, I’d suggest filling a tub with warm water and mild soap. Start out simply washing them by hand and seeing if the spots come out. If not, I like to leave my white linens soaking in the bathtub overnight with some Oxiclean. It really surprised me how easy it became to get the old yellow spots out. Only as a last resort would I use bleach. Never put it on a colored linen, and don’t use too much. The harshness will sometimes deteriorate the fabric, so I always dilute it with water and try to only apply it directly to the stain.
Next I’d rinse my linens several times and make sure all the soap was removed. Then wrap it in a towel to absorb the water and help it dry. Try not to wring them out as this is harmful to the antique threads. I always hang mine on the clothesline to dry. I’ve heard some ladies swear by bleaching them in the sun, and I’ve heard others say it is simply too harsh for linens. Personally, I’d never put them in the dryer, and hanging them in the sun has worked for me. I do try, however, not to place them in direct sun for any longer than is necessary.
I like to iron mine while they are still a little bit damp. If they are dry, then I mist the linens with water. Never use spray starch. This causes them to yellow, and starch also helps break down the fibers. In other words, it will cause them to rot faster. Spray starch also tends to attract bugs.
To store linens properly, use acid free tissue paper. Try to avoid cedar chests as they can stain fabrics. Never iron linens before storing, and never iron creases in linens. Those creases will weaken threads and cause them to deteriorate quickly along the crease. For the same reason, try to avoid folding linens in the same places. To avoid folds altogether, I’ve heard one lady say she rolls her tablecloths, and stores them in acid free tubes. I normally don’t store my linens. They sit out on display at all times, tucked on top of dressers, and under vases. I believe linens were meant to be enjoyed and loved.
I hope this has inspired you to drag out your own grandmother’s linens, and work them into your modern home. If I’ve left out anything, or you have comments on how you care for linens, I’m always open to new ideas. Feel free to leave a comment.

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