Pale brownish storage spots or marks in antique linens may seem scary but actually can be washed out. These pale brownish storage spots sometimes occur with antique fabrics that haven't been washed for decades. They don't wash out like normal dirt and dust does. However, I usually do get them out allright, even when the fabric is covered in them. Here is my recommendation how to get rid of them.
Please note: this is my experience, which I hope you find helpful, but it's not a guarantee for perfect results in your case.
This is handwoven linen (a linen roll, several meters), dating from 1900, unwashed since then with typical storage spots - The second pic shows the linen after the boiling hot handwash. All fine now!
How to boil them out
Yes, the best way to get rid of these spots or marks is to boil them out in hot water. I put a big pot on the stove, fill it with water, add washing powder and oxy (the one thats also good for coloured textiles), and put the linen in. It needs to boil for 5-15 minutes. Then you can see the spots disappear. Hurray! The fabric needs to be moved around in the water occasionally. In very serious cases the procedure needs to be repeated. When no stains are visible any more, I take the linen out and rinse it in the bath tub until the water is clean, then hang to dry on a line and I iron while its still damp. This procedure I have also given handwoven coloured checked items. If this is the first hot wash for the linen, the fabric will shrink and bleach to some extent.
By the way, if any of my items needs this treatment/has storage spots, I do put the information in the description. This is my store:
Linens with minor pale yellowish storage shades I have simply washed in a hot machine wash - very successfully: (see two identical vests, left original condition, the right photo shows a vest after one hot wash.
Washing linens in washing-machines
Oh yes, of course you can do it. I use a programme with lots of water and try to avoid spinning, especially if it is an unbleached linen roll and if it's the first wash ever.
Some unused linens really only need a soak over night and a rinse in the bath, then line drying, anyway.
are grateful for a long soak in the bath, or/and a hot wash in the machine. However, in many cases a 40 degrees wash will do the job already. Mangle cloths sometimes have black grease marks that result from the mangle machine that had to be oiled. These black marks usually wash out in a hot wash.
Oxy (the kind you use for coloured textiles) can always be added to the water and really helps, but I wouldn't recommend putting it directly on the fabric.
After the little extra care I give antique linens for their first wash ever, they are actually quite forgiving and easy to handle in the wash, and need no more extra treatment.
How to get the cream colour/natural colour back
If you prefer the cream and natural tones to white and natural whites you may want to try what the film set decorators do with the linens they use in film sets - They add tea to the last rinse in the washing machine. However, I haven't tried that myself yet, so I dont know how much tea you need and how even the results are.
Dyeing antique linen
Of course you can dye the linen into all kinds of colours - I had fantastic shades of lavender and deep blues, berry tones and all kinds of cream, brown, beige etc. I have done it in a big bucket and in a washing machine. Results were more professional/even in a bucket. A slightly messy but fun job!
I hope you find this helpful. Please feel free to share your experiences /comments with me - I am always happy to learn.
I truly enjoy sharing the love to fantastic antique textiles with you.
Best wishes, Ursula,
How to wash antique linens + remove storage spots
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26 May 2008
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