MYSTERY STAIN – A Story in Pictures: How to Care for Vintage Linens & Lace

Well, I started this Vintage Linen Care series, so I’m sticking with it.  To those of you who are sticking with it, too … and enjoying it … I’m really glad.  Thank you!  It’s a doozie to write!  And for those of you who aren’t into vintage linens, hang in there with us a little longer.  There’s a promised tablescape coming this week … and a 31-day series I think we’ll all enjoy coming in October.  More about that soon.
So far in this series, we’ve covered washing, drying, ironing, storage stain removal, and mystery stain removal (our term for any old, non-oxidation stains). If you’ve missed anything – or want to review – click the Vintage Linens tab above.
In my last post about mystery stains, I told you that after years of looking at stains on linens, I can usually make an educated guess about what a stain is.  Recently, however, I came across a stain that was truly a mystery stain.  Here’s what happened …
A friend came across a bag of old linens while cleaning out the store room of a recently-deceased elderly neighbor. She waited for me before digging through them.  What a fantastic friend! (But I already knew that.)

This beauty was the exception … Believe me!

Virtually all of the linens were covered with a rust-colored stain I’d never seen before … and I felt a challenge coming on!

I took a few of the nasty pieces home to play with!

Obviously, if you’ve been a visitor here for any time at all, you know I pulled out the Restoration Linen Cleaner first.

I started with two little dresser pieces.  One was in perfect condition (except for the stains), and the other had a few holes … but I was challenging myself to get out the mystery stain, and holes didn’t matter.

A long soak in Restoration removed all of the oxidation stains … and none of the mystery stain … but it let me get a better look at it.  I decided it must be rust.

I didn’t want to use up all of my go-to Carbona Stain Devils #9 I told you about HERE, so I did the next soak in this.  I once had several sturdy damask tablecloths that were covered in rust; I put them in the washer with this product and got pretty good results.

I knew if the Iron Out lightened the stain at all, I could be sure the problem was rust.

But it didn’t … so it wasn’t … Or was it?  Was the color a tiny bit lighter?  It really looked like rust.

I pulled out the big gun:  Whink. This is a very concentrated rust remover that I use on rare occasions.

The stain didn’t budge.  Definitely not rust.

Feeling like I was back in high school Chemistry, I lined up the Carbona Stain Devilsall nine formulations … since every stain is supposed to fall into one of the nine categories.

I cut up the already-ruined mystery stain linen … the one with holes … and placed each little square of fabric into a plastic tray I’d saved for “someday.”  Then I conducted a little experiment … walking away for several hours.  The SW is Stain Wizard that I told you about in my last post of this series.  #10 is a different product.

Upon my return, I learned that Stain Devils #1 dissolves plastic … which makes sense because it also removes adhesive, glue, and candlewax.  Obviously, the mystery stain was none of those.

But I also learned that Stain Devils #8 was removing the stain!

Then I was curious …

What could the mystery stain found in a partially-open bag of old stored linens be?

Take a look at some of the possibilities for #8 and see what you think.  I’m thinking Eewwwww …

I’m also thinking …
All’s well that ends well!

In memory of Isabel …

Thanks, Stain Devils, for coming through for me again!

* * * * *

Next time we’ll talk about how to remove common everyday stains that get on vintage linens…
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Remember …

The best thing you can do for your vintage linens

is use them!


  1. Hi Susan – I just found your blog after another search for Restoration linen Cleaner. I started using this product about a year ago after discovering it on a vintage linens blog and loved it. When I was ready to purchase more, I went back to the original blog, just to check for updates, and found the blogger was now recommending Le Blanc’s Linen Wash. I tried to ask the blog owner for some feedback as to why she was now recommending Linen Wash over Restoration, but I have not been able get a response. I have ALWAYS had great results with Restoration and am inclined to continue to use it on my vintage linens; do you know anything about Linen Wash? I have bookmarked your blog and can’t wait to start reading through ALL your posts!! Thanks for your help, Barbie

    • Barbie, welcome to My Place to Yours!

      To answer your question… I am familiar with Le Blanc’s Linen Wash but have never tried it. (I found Restoration first!) However, I just did a little research, and the primary difference I see is that (unlike Restoration) Le Blanc’s is designed to work in COLD water. While I suppose that could have possible advantages with a few items, the vast majority of the vintage linens I’ve washed have had storage/oxidation stains — and Restoration is an excellent product for removing those. Once I find something that works, I’m a pretty loyal customer, so I’ll be sticking with Restoration — and keep making it available in my Etsy shop:

      I hope this helps!