EVERYDAY STAIN REMOVAL: How to Care for Vintage Linens & Lace

We’ve finally made it to the final stain removal post of this series.  If you missed any of the previous topics (washing, drying, ironing, storage stains, and mystery stains), just click on the Vintage Linens tab at the top of this blog to catch up.
 
Today I want to briefly cover some common everyday stains that tend to get on my vintage linens.  I suspect you have some of the same ones.  As with other types of stains, I have tried various removal methods through the years.  Sometimes they work.  Sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes they just “set” the stain so that it will never come out.  So frustrating!
 
In fact, if you do an online search for how to remove particular stains, very often you’ll find a suggestion followed by something like, If that doesn’t work, try …  When I discovered Carbona Stain Devils, I stopped all that trial-and-error foolishness and started getting stains out the first time.  As I’ve told you before, I don’t receive anything from Carbona; I’m just a very satisfied customer … and I’d like you to be as successful removing your stains as I am. 
 
Here is a list of the most common new stains that tend to get on my linens … and how I remove them.  For old stains, be sure to read my previous posts in this series.
 

Candlewax

When I get candlewax on a sturdy fabric (linen, cotton, damask, etc.) … I first place an ice cube on top of it to harden the wax, then I attempt to carefully separate the wax from the fabric, reapplying ice as necessary to keep the wax hard.If removal isn’t possible using my hands only, I sometimes use the flat edge of an unserrated knife.  Once the wax is removed, I treat the area with Stain Devils #1 until all residue/color is removed then launder as usual.
 
IF I see that the fabric is weak or threatening to tear when separating the wax from the fabric, I stop immediately and change my approach.  The method I then try is the same one I use for candlewax on a delicate fabric (lace, open-weave fabric, etc.)…
 
If I’m working with a large item like a tablecloth, I spread it out with the candlewax face down over the sink; small items can be spread out over a large bowl.  I then carefully and slowly pour boiling water on top of the fabric (on the back side of the candlewax).  The wax will melt but will leave a residue and/or color.  I then use Stain Devils #1 prior to laundering.  I once made the mistake of skipping the Stain Devils #1 when the candlewax was white because there didn’t appear to be any residue. But when I ironed it, I ended up causing a permanent wax stain that could have easily been removed.
 
For tips about how to avoid getting candlewax on linens in the first place, read my post, Taper Candles 101.
 

Oily stains

This type of stain is common on kitchen towels and roll covers.  I either pre-treat the stain with Stain Wizard or Stain Devils #5 (both from Carbona) and launder as usual in the hottest water appropriate for the fabric.
 

Coffee/tea/cola

Soak the stain in Stain Devils #8 then launder as usual.
 

Wine/fruit

Again — Stain Devils #8; launder as usual.
To see strawberry stains disappear from vintage linens, read How to Remove Berry Stains from Linens.
 

Lipstick

Apparently I only know two types of women:  those who won’t use my beautiful linen napkins for fear they will “ruin them,” and those who wipe their heavily-applied lipstick all over them.  I prefer the latter … because linens are to be used!  Stain Devils #6 applied and gently rubbed into the stain prior to laundering will do the trick with lipstick every time.
 

Blood

I use Stain Wizard or Stain Devils #4 then launder in the hottest water appropriate for the fabric.  Although you’ve probably been told to use cold water with blood stains, it’s best to launder in warm (or even hot) water after treating blood stains with either of the Carbona products.
 

Scorch

Occasionally it happens.  My iron is too hot for the fabric … or I didn’t rinse my fabric well enough before ironing … and I’ll get a light scorch mark on my linens.  When that happens, I immediately use hydrogen peroxide to remove the stain. Hydrogen peroxide acts as a very mild bleach, but it’s much more gentle on fabric than bleach.
 
Speaking of which, I told you in previous posts that I would cover bleach a bit more before we leave the topic of stain removal, so let’s do that now…
 
As I’ve said, generally, bleach is a “don’t” when it comes to stain removal.  It is a harsh product and causes fabric fibers to disintegrate more rapidly.  Obviously that is something to avoid when it comes to antique or vintage linens
 
Even so, I’m often asked if there are ever times when I use bleach. The answer is:  very, very rarely — but yes. Typically, it’s an old yellow stain — one I can’t identify. A soak in Restoration Linen Cleaner didn’t remove it.  A concentrated paste of Restoration didn’t remove it.  Carbona Stain Wizard didn’t remove it. At that point, I usually try hydrogen peroxide first.  If that doesn’t work, I go to the bleach.  If the stain is very small and can be addressed using a bleach pen, I go that route in order to saturate only a minimal amount of fabric.  If, however, the stain is larger, I wet the fabric with warm (or hot) water then pour a capful of bleach directly onto the stain.  Hopefully that will do the trick. Bleach works best when mixed with warm/hot water and only stays “active” for a short period of time, so it really serves no purpose to soak in bleach anyway. The most important thing after using bleach is to launder the item again to be sure that all bleach residue is removed.
 
If these aren’t your most common laundry stains, be sure to see the Carbona Stain Chart in my previous posts.  Every stain has a particular composition … and Carbona has its number!
 
One more thing while we’re talking about stains … Let me pass on a few general stain removal tips I’ve picked up along the way:
 

If you must rub a stain, be very gentle.  Use of excessive friction can damage fabric (or carpet).

 

When possible, work from the back side of a stain and “tap” (don’t rub) the stain to remove it.

For example, imagine an ink stain that you treat with Stain Devils #3 prior to laundering.  The ink begins to loosen, but you want to “put” it somewhere.  Lay the stain face down on a paper towel, then with your fingertip, “tap” the back of the stain.  Keep moving the stain to a clean location until the excess ink is transferred from the fabric to the paper towel.
 

When working the back side of a stain isn’t possible, work from the outside in.

This keeps the stain from spreading.
 

Next time we’ll talk about proper storage of linens.

Remember …
The best thing you can do for your vintage linens
is use them!

Comments

  1. I will have to look into this product, I’ve never heard of it! Hydrogen peroxide is what I sometimes use. Working in health, it is a great disinfectant. It kills AIDS, and is essential for needle sticks if you accidentally do that. It is really a bleach. I have used it on old linens that I thought there was no hope for and it worked.
    I’m FINALLY finding time to visit all my on line friends. It is nice to stop by again.

  2. What great information!
    Thank you-
    In my flea market shopping I sometimes hesitate to buy something stained.

    Thanks,

    Laura
    White Spray Paint

  3. Hi,
    I loved your series and was wondering which product you prefer; Restoration or Mama’s Miracle Soak?

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