How to wash your antique linens

Your heirloom and antique linens have already had long lives. Make them much longer by knowing how to wash and dry them with the special care they need.

How to wash your antique linens

Don't dry clean delicate fabrics

  • If at all possible, clean heirloom linens and other delicate fabrics at home.
  • Dry cleaning is not recommended, because the agitation, harsh chemicals, and heat used can damage them.

Try using the vacuum

  • To remove surface dirt and dust from your delicate antique linens, carefully vacuum the item on low suction.
  • For extra-delicate items, place a piece of tulle or fibreglass screen over them for protection, and vacuum through the screening.
  • Tulle, sold by the yard for making veils or tutus, is readily available in any fabric store.

Wash antique linens with special care

You probably already know that gentle handling is what it takes to keep your antique linens clean. Here's how to wash these precious linens without causing damage:

  • Test each item to see if it's colourfast by blotting with a white cloth dipped into a mild cleaning product. Ivory Liquid and similar products that say they're gentle or suitable for hand washing are recommended.
  • Once you determine that the soap solution you choose is suited to your cloth, gently immerse the linen into the liquid and carefully agitate it by hand. You can do this in the washing machine basin, but without turning the machine on. Or you can do it in a bucket or another type of basin or in a stoppered sink. Allow the cloth to sit in the suds for about five minutes.
  • Drain the soapy water, and run clear water over the item, swishing it and rinsing to remove all soap residue. You may need to do this rinse process several times as you manipulate the cloth to remove all suds. If your water is hard, consider using distilled water for the final rinse. Hard water may leave a mineral residue on your linens. Distilled water has been processed to remove those minerals.

Stir to distribute suds

When cleaning or removing a stain from a fine or antique linen in a tub or in the washer that you are using only as a vessel, stir the cloth in its soapy water with a wooden spoon to distribute the soap.

Towel-dry to remove excess water

  • Once you have finished soaking or washing your fine or antique linen, pat the cloth in a towel to remove excess water. Allow to dry on the towel.
  • Don't let the cloth hang unevenly, or it will dry misshapen.
  • If you can dry it outdoors, place it on a white cloth or bedsheet to reflect the sun, but be careful not to get grass stains on the cloth.
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