Antique linens can be a beautiful addition to a design theme. They add a touch of elegance and traditional charm. Antique linens may come in the form of tablecloths or old bed linens, with ruffled edges and decorative patterns. Many people love to collect these old linens. They are found at antique stores, charity shops and garage sales. Unfortunately the white antique linens are prone to yellowing, resulting in stains or a dulling of brightness. There are some easy ways to restore antique linens back to their former glory, to be used and enjoyed for years to come.
Clean antique linens in a utility tub, never wash them in a washer machine. The material is too delicate, and may become ruined if washed by machine, even on the gentle cycle. Always wash by hand.
Use gentle bleach when cleaning thicker antique linens. Never use bleach on fragile antique linens. Choose an oxygen bleach, and not one that is heavily diluted, to protect the fabric from damage. Use one cup of powder bleach, such as Tide. Soak linen in the utility tub filled halfway with warm water first, before adding bleach. This helps to loosen the fabric and removes surface dirt before whitening steps are taken.
Soak linens for one to two hours in bleach and water. Rinse out the utility tub, and remove antique linens. Place them on a dry towel on the side. Refill utility tub with very hot water, and add three cups of gentle whitening detergent under the tap as the tub is being filled halfway, to get the water soapy.
Place multiple linens into the water, one item at a time, and stir into soapy hot water. Use a clean stirring stick used for paint or a utensil, so as not to burn your hands. Kitchen tongs are ideal for maneuvering linens in soapy water, just make sure the tongs do not pierce any delicate fabric or edge lacing. Soak the linens for two days, stirring the linens in the soapy water throughout the day.
Use vinegar as an alternative to bleach to whiten linens. Instead of adding bleach to the utility tub, add 2 cups of white vinegar, plus one-quarter cup of salt, then one cup of lemon juice to a half a tub of cool water. Pre-wash stained areas with the lemon juice and salt prior to soaking the entire linen item. Soak for two days, and repeat process in clean water for an additional two days, if necessary.
Rinse linens under running, clear warm water. Rinse twice, to make sure all the detergent is washed out. Pat dry the fabric in a towel, by placing the fabric inside a large clean towel, and squeeze it gently. Never wring out fabric by hands. Line dry the fabric–weather permitting–making sure the fabric doesn’t touch the ground and get dirty while it dries. Things You’ll Need
- Utility tub
- Dry towels
- Gentle whitening detergent
- Stirring stick, utensil or kitchen tongs
- Lemon juice