STORAGE: How to Care for Vintage Linens & Lace

Welcome!  Today, we’re going to cover proper storage of linens.  If you missed any of the other topics … washing, drying, ironing, storage stain removal and mystery stain removal, just click on the Vintage Linens tab above.


 
Whether you like to store your linens in a book-shelf style display cabinet, an 18th century linen press, or a traditional closet, there are some basic Dos and Don’ts if you want your linens to be around for generations to come.  I’m going to give you tips for how to give extremely good care to your linens … while telling you up front that I don’t follow my own advice 100% of the time.  My comfort level for time investment is probably closer to 90%.
 

General guidelines …

  • Store linens in a dry location.  Unless you have a good ventilation system (and use it!), the traditional bathroom linen closet is typically a very poor location for storing your fine linens.  Air circulation is often less than optimal … and dampness encourages mildew.
  • Store linens without starch.  Starch can attract insects and result in unwanted holes in your textile treasures.  Instead, it’s best to store items unstarched (even un-ironed) until ready for use.
  • Keep linens away from wood.  Acids in wood will leach out and stain linens.  You should either 1) line the wood surface of drawers, chests, closets, trunks, suitcases, etc. with acid-free tissue paper, white cotton fabric, or unbleached muslin or 2) loosely wrap your linens in white cotton or unbleached muslin before storing.  If you use wooden hangers, it’s a good idea to lay a piece of acid-free tissue paper over the hanger before hanging your tablecloth, runner, etc.
  • Never store linens in plastic.  Ever.  This includes plastic bags as well as bins.  Plastic traps moisture and may cause mildew that can ruin your linens.  This also includes vacuum-sealed bags.  Although moisture is unlikely to enter the bag, wrinkles in the fabric may become permanent.
  • When stacking, store the heaviest linens on the bottom … lightest on top.  Even the simple weight of other linens can put strain on a fabric’s fibers, so it’s best to avoid stacking heavy pieces on top of lighter ones.
  • Once a year, check all of your linens, refolding them to change the location of the creases.  As far as I’m concerned, this is the “in a perfect world” guideline.  If you’re willing to spend time doing it, your linens will thank you!  If, like me, however, you know in advance that it’s not going to happen, then I suggest you try to rotate the linens you use so they’ll get a rest from being folded.

 
There are some items such as vintage kitchen towels that I use until they’re worn out … and then I pull more from my stash.  In such instance, I’m not really worried about keeping them all circulated.  Find what works for you!


 

Long-term storage …

  • Store linens un-ironed.  Long-term storage of ironed/creased linens can cause the fabric to deteriorate along the folds.  It’s always best to lay pieces flat or loosely rolled.
  • Protect linens prior to storing.  Linens for long-term storage (or valuable pieces) should be wrapped loosely in acid-free tissue paper, clean white cotton, or unbleached muslin.  I buy my tissue paper in bulk from The Preservation Station.  I’ve also found that pillow cases are an easy way to store large tablecloth and napkin sets.
  • Avoid storing linens in cardboard boxes.  Linens stored in cardboard oxidize quickly, turning your linens brown.  For best long-term storage results, protect linens prior to storing as indicated and place into archival quality textile boxes.  Such care should ensure that your precious heirlooms will be enjoyed by you … and future generations.

 
Have I missed anything?  If you have a question, please be sure to leave a comment and ask it!  Someone else may have the same one…


 
Next time we’ll talk about mending

Comments

  1. I’m trying to get caught up with blog land, and I’m so excited to read this post.

    I guess it shouldn’t excite me to find out how much I’m doing wrong, but you know what I mean. I’ve been rearranging around here for a month, and I have moved my favorite linens to the side board and drawers in the china cabinet. I do NOT have acid free paper in there, and I am excited to read this tidbit so I can address that.

    I am going to have to read back and see what else I’ve missed when I finally get unlimited computer time.

  2. Dear Susan,
    wonderful post…I love…love vintage linens. Everyone tells me I was born in the wrong time…no, I was born, right when God wanted me to be born but I appreciate, drool, and find comfort in vintage linens. I will be reading your other articles.
    hugs and prayers

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