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The Cleaning Clothes (vintage or other) Thread

Discussion in 'The Powder Room' started by Dahlia, Sep 20, 2005.

  1. Dahlia

    Dahlia Familiar Face

    Hi all, I have a question... I have a dress that belonged to my step-grandmother, which she had owned since the 1940s. I'm not sure of the material, I just know that it is very light and is not cotton. My stepmom and I were wondering what would be the best way to clean it-it is slightly wrinkled since it's been in storage for such a long time, and there are perspiration stains on the underarms. What would all of you recommend for cleaning vintage clothing? I don't usually take my clothes to the dry cleaner, and so I'm not sure if they would be the best at handling vintage fabric. Obviously we want to make sure that no harm will come to it, as it meant a lot to my grandmother for her to keep it this long and it means a lot to us.

    I apologize if there have been similar topics like this; I did a search but couldn't find what I was looking for.

    If I can I will post of a picture of it... it really is one of the most lovely dresses I've seen. It's dark brown with a white flower pattern, with a matching belt. It has shoulder pads and a low v-neck, and it bunches up on each hip (sorry for my non-technical terms ;) ). We have pictures of my grandma and grandpa with my grandma wearing the dress when she was my age, and a picture of my stepmom wearing the dress when she was my age. It fits me very well and I would like to be able to wear it too.
  2. I hand wash most of my vintage items, depending on the fabric. Make sure the dye is color fast first; if it is not, then take the dress to a good cleaner (and there are some that specialize in vintage clothing.) You can also take the dress to someone who specializes in restoration work. I interviewed this woman for an article, and she was quite knowledgeable:

    Perspiration stains are usually permanent, especially if the garment has ever been treated with heat (i.e., thrown in the dryer or ironed.) However, I have used Fels Naptha soap with some success (the Queen of Clean recommends this soap, if you can believe it!) If you do a search on the Internet, you will come across a few sites that mention cleaning methods for vintage. For example, I've successfully removed rust spots (something that most people will say is permanent) when I found an old cleaning tip!
    Also, depending on the color/pattern of the fabric, some stains will not be too obvious and the garment can still be worn.

    Here are a couple of the sites that I have perused:
    queen of jacque likes this.
  3. Lauren

    Lauren Distinguished Service Award

    Hi! Sounds like a 40's dress to me :)
    I would only send it to the Lace House French Laundry. They have museams around the world send them their textiles and antique clothing. They are truly miracle workers (just don't get anything with sequins cleaned. They will melt! I have a prime example of this myself, but I was warned...). They have gotten age stains out of the Palm Beach suit Daniel owns. When I recieved it it was yellow all over and they got it a pristine white. Underarm stains are things I have fought for years... they almost never come out, but they removed them from an edwardian gown I have and now the thing looks brand new. I swear by them. The will ship in and out, and they can be a bit rude, but I'll put up with it because of their amazing work. I don't remember how much they charged- I'm guessing somewhere between 25-35 per dress. Here's their contact info:

    Lace House French Hand Laundry
    Address: 6080 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035
    Phone: (323) 653-4052
    queen of jacque likes this.
  4. I hand wash some things but NEVER hand wash vintage crepe. It shrinks terribly and tears when wet very easily. One of my favourite 1940s crepe tops was put in the washing by mistake by my boyfriend, and I swear, it shrunk to the size of the dolls shirt!! I was heart broken!

    I prefer to send things to the dry cleaner. Be sure to tell them it is vinatge though.
    queen of jacque likes this.
  5. I've successfully hand washed crepe--when wet it does shrink, but I wash the item gently and let it air dry. Then, I iron or steam the garment, and it returns to its original shape in a flash. However, the first time I washed a crepe dress I nearly had a heart attack when it shriveled up! I still have that dress though, and it is wearable to this day, even after several washings.
  6. rubyredlocks

    rubyredlocks Practically Family

    This has been so helpful!
    I never knew that some of these things could be handwashed.
  7. Lauren

    Lauren Distinguished Service Award

    Yup, handwashing is great! I use woolite to handwash my vintage items, then lay them flat to dry. I just got a 30's linen jacket with a yoked and pleated back (yummy!) but it had all over age spots. I first let it soak in woolite in my tub for nearly a day, with some agitation to the water. You should have seen the icky brown that came out! Then it still looked very aged, so I soaked it in really hot water and biz for nearly a day. That puppy had 40 years taken off! Still a little discolored here and there, but only if your nose is up to it!
    queen of jacque likes this.
  8. Dahlia

    Dahlia Familiar Face

    Thanks so much for all the ideas, ladies! When my stepmom and I were wondering how to clean the dress I knew I'd be able to come here for answers. :)
  9. You know, I read somewhere that Woolite is actually very harsh on fabrics--so I switched to Ivory soap. This may or may not be true, but this works just as well and it's cheaper too ;) For dainty items, sweet-smelling shampoo also works well.

    Here's an important thing to remember--make sure there are no metal buttons (these often sneak in as fabric covered buttons) or studs on the garment, because if you soak them, they will rust and leave nasty spots on the fabric!

    Incidentally, to remove rust from a garment, soak the spot in lemon juice, and then make a paste of salt or cream of tartar on top of the lemon juice. Set the garment in the sun and let it dry--when it is done, the rust stain should be gone. If not, repeat until clean. Then wash the item as usual to remove the residue.
    queen of jacque likes this.
  10. decodoll

    decodoll Practically Family

    Uncoloured shampoo is the best for wool items. It's a fiber much like your own hair. Just don't agitate or scrub too hard. Agitation is what causes the shrinkage, and if you scrub too hard, you're likely to end up with felt.

    Another product I've found to be good is Kiss Off. I got out a 60 year old lipstick stain with it in a jiffy!
    queen of jacque likes this.
  11. Lauren

    Lauren Distinguished Service Award

    Do you know if this works for colored items as well, or only whites? And NEVER put anything with rust in a biz soak, cause it will eat the fabric clean away where the rust is. It happened with a blouse I have from the teens. In fact, I wouldn't recommend a biz soak at all, unless the garment looks structurally very sound.
  12. I've used this method on colors as well as a cream/beige dress and didn't have any trouble with fabric bleaching/weakening.

    In terms of other stains, the product Zout was recommended to me. I haven't tested it out (and would always spot test it first), but she said it works wonders on all types of fabrics.
  13. whistlebait

    whistlebait One of the Regulars

    This advice was much needed! Thanks.
  14. I hope I posted this right...

    I would like to find out if anyone has experience with dying vintage fabrics. I am in the process of restoring an ornate beaded flapper dress. When I found her (she actually belonged to a member of the Hughson family my town was named after) She was a horrid and un-cared for, 3 faded shades of moss green. I decided to dye her black with RIT. She turned a solid death grey!:cry: Does anyone know of a decent fabric dye that will hopefully add some richness to her color? She is a multi-layered chiffon style crepe. Any help would be appreciated.
  15. Naama

    Naama Practically Family

    Dying something black is always hard, I think..... I don't have any experience, but also thought about dying some dresses, because there are so many dresses which look great, only with ugly colours, so if anyone has an idea how to do it (especially silk fabrics) please share! I actually learned how to dye fabrics in school, but I never really get it........ (to much calculating for me!)

  16. BettyValentine

    BettyValentine A-List Customer

    Zout is the BESTBESTBESTBESTBEST spot treater in the whole world!!!!

    Sorry. I've never used it for vintage, but I am really enthusiastic about my love of Zout. We ran Caesar for a few months and it was in modern dress and fake blood is problematic. Fake blood is easily washable, but not drycleanable, and you can't really wash men's wool suits so we had a *big* problem. The wardrobe crew tested 7 different types of stage blood and every different cleaner on the market. In the end we used a combination of Zout and Oxyclean with toothbrushes as a pre-treater and to try to get out the blood before drycleaning. It worked better than anything else. We ran out of Zout one show and had to use Shout instead and the suits from that performance had to be thrown away. (We threw away a bunch because even Zout isn't perfect, but it did extend the lives of the suits remarkably.)

    Zout and oxyclean are all I keep in my house for cleaning. Typically I get my vintage drycleaned at Couture Cleaners in Chicago. They're very nice with my stuff. I do try to avoid cleaning as much as possible, though. I just spray lightly with vodka if it maybe smells a little and I don't send it for cleaning unless a spot shows up.

    queen of jacque likes this.
  17. Cleaning Stockings and Such

    I was curious what all of you ladies use to clean your stockings and other unmentionables? I usually hand wash everything with a little mild shampoo and hang dry them. But is there a certain cleaner you use that seems to make everything cleaner, the elastic last longer, and keep everything in all over better condition?
  18. mysterygal

    mysterygal Call Me a Cab

    Stockings I hand wash then hang dry. Most of my unmentionables I just throw into the wash, but for the more delicate one's, I will hand wash them too.
  19. texasgirl

    texasgirl One Too Many

  20. Miss_Bella_Hell

    Miss_Bella_Hell My Mail is Forwarded Here

    I use hosiery mate, which I get at stockingstore.com


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