One of my favorite things to collect and to sell at T-Party are vintage linens. Not the precious, fragile, lacy ones; I love the sturdy floral tablecloths and napkins from the 1940s and 50s. These beautifully designed textiles were usually made of heavyweight cotton which has allowed them to withstand the test of time. And since they have been well loved and well used, often times they are stained or have yellowed. I work hard to revive these beauties before I bring them in to sell at T-Party.
Which brings us to the question our shoppers, and also Clarice of Storybook Woods, have asked . . .
How do you get stains out of vintage linens?
I usually don’t let stains deter me from purchasing old floral tablecloths or napkins. If I like the design, I will always try to rescue them. Here’s an assortment, below, that I found earlier this week.
They have the usual food stains along with foxing (discoloration) at the creases. My secret weapon is Biz detergent. First I fill up my laundry sink with very hot water and a healthy dose of Biz.
In go all of the linens together. You don’t have to worry about colors running as the dyes used in most vintage cloths were made to be colorfast. Let them soak for a good long time.
After a while, the water will be less bubbly and will turn yellow which means the detergent is removing the stains. I then drain the sink and refill with more Biz and very hot water for additional soaking. Sometimes I’ll soak for a few hours, sometimes all day; it depends on how stubborn the stains are! Then into the washing machine (with regular laundry detergent), then the dryer and soon they’ll be ready to iron.
Alas, some stains are too stubborn and refuse to come out. But these floral textiles can still be enjoyed, so I’ll use their spot-free areas to make tea cozies, napkins, toaster covers, tea towels and pillows.
Vintage linens are perfect on a porch or for a picnic. So don’t be afraid to use them just because they may get soiled. Fresh stains are so much easier to get out than 50 year old ones! (A spritz of Shout will usually suffice.) While out thrifting, I hope you will find some cheerful vintage linens to use and enjoy this summer.