Are You AFRAID of Vintage Linens?

It’s always a pleasure to get emails from blog friends, but occasionally they contain a story I’d really rather not read.  Like this one … written in response to my recent Restoration Linen Cleaner giveaway question:  What item do you want to restore if you’re the lucky winner?  I’m sharing the answer, of course, with the author’s permission. The email began …

Oh Susan, I have TRUNKS in my attic just waiting to be brightened up.

She went on to tell me her “funny/sad story” about finding the “most gorgeous lacy antique sheets” she had ever seen. Because their “Shades of Old” (I love that description!) were significant, the shop owner allowed the woman to take them home and wash them before purchase.  Depending on their final condition, they would agree on a price.  Of course, that sounded like a fair deal, so my reader friend headed home to do some laundry.

I must tell you I’m a perfectionist that came from the generation that had a Mom that used “Elbow Grease” and a wringer washer… so there I was at the kitchen sink with my best detergent and my muscles FLEXED…

Do you know where this is going?
The next day she returned to the little local shop with good news … and bad news.  The good news:  The stains were gone!  The bad news:  So was the fabric!

Susan, I wanted to CRY!  She let me keep those sheets, and they are still in my attic.  I have never attempted another wash with all my antique linens… and when I tell you I have have LOTS, I could open a museum with all I have from all over the world.

Whether or not you’ve ever actually experienced a similar catastrophe, I suspect many of you are afraid to clean the old beauties.  I was the same way until several years ago when I stumbled upon a huge box of fantastic old linens at a thrift store in England.  The price was so ridiculously cheap that I had to buy them and try to salvage them.  Most were in beautiful condition except for their “shades of Old.”  I reasoned that even if I ruined a few pieces while learning how to clean them, I hadn’t lost anything but time.
As it turns out, I learned a lot about caring for the linens of yesteryear while working on those pretties (and didn’t ruin any of them although I have ruined a piece or two since).  It gave me the confidence I needed to tackle some of my own family pieces.  Except for silk and wool, there are now very few old pieces I’m afraid to tackle, so perhaps it’s time to pass on a few tips.I’m working on a series of posts that will hopefully take away your fears, build your confidence, and help you to return your vintage linens to pristine condition.
Trust me …  If I can do it, you can too!
But I need your help …
Before you leave here today, please leave a comment and tell me your laundry fears.  Ask your questions — all of them.  I’ll do my best to answer every question … or find someone who can.
You can even send me pics of your “dirty laundry” if you want to.  Even dirty old linens are beautiful!  I may be able to use them as examples.
Coming soon …

I’ll be joining
Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch
Mosaic Monday at Little Red House


  1. I’ll be looking for new tips and tricks. As you know, I love our antique linens. Cherry Kay

  2. Oh- that is sad about all those linens she has stored. I do pretty well cleaning our old linens but will gladly take any tips you have to offer- xo Diana

  3. Just something I’ve hear recently; if you can find BIZ or if they make it any more, soaking vintage linens in this product will produce results but sometimes takes 10-15 days at a time~ Anyone ever heard of this technique?

  4. I would love to hear some tips and tricks! I collect vintage linens and while I haven’t ruined any yet, I often pass up vintage linens that are stained heavily for fear I won’t be able to get the stains out or I’m not sure the best way to handle them. I typically handwash/soak my vintage linens and I use Dreft or Fels-Naptha soap.

  5. I just bought in an estate sale a vintage table napkin and I saw this vintage tablecloth and it has a stained I did not buy it now I am sorry for not buying it!! Can’t wait to read your tips and tricks! ^_^


  6. I have a handwoven (very tight weave), wool blanket that I’m afraid to wash. It’s is probably from the late 1800’s, double bed size and seamed up the middle. I’ve thought of asking the dry cleaner if they can clean it. Any tips of what I should do? ~ Maureen

  7. I do fairly well laundering when the lace is all intact, but I cringe when I think I’m going to unravel something, even with a gentle soak or hand wash. I’m just not good at mending or any fine needlework.

  8. Anonymous says:

    My fear- candle wax removal… even if you can get the wax out sometimes the candle color remains.

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