How to Clean your Vintage Clothes


Image by Jessica Kay Murray

It’s likely your vintage dress, jeans or jacket have been around for a few years and will have seen better days. However, like an antique it’s got its own history and belongs to a different era with the charm and style of that time.

It could have accumulated some odours or marks through years of use even by different owners before landing in your wardrobe.

So what can you do to bring it back to use without disintegrating it or jeopardising it’s condition and value?

Some fabrics don’t wash that easily especially after years of use. A vintage fabric has likely aged and weakened with time and wear and will not be suitable for the repeated rotations of a washing machine or the dry heat of a tumble dryer.

More often than not a gentle hand wash and an outdoor drip dry will do the trick, weather permitting.

For the deodorant and light staining or odors you can dab or soak the offending areas of fabric with white vinegar or lemon juice. You can also try using a paste made from salt and baking soda mixed with a little water. You can leave the paste on the stain for about twenty minutes, which should be long enough to take effect before rinsing. For the more stubborn stains you can try commercial cleaning products but you’d be advised to use them on some old fabrics to test the strength and effectiveness first.

Shampoo can be used for removing marks from collars. Just apply shampoo and rub it in and leave it for 5 or 10 minutes followed my rinsing.

Materials like cotton, nylon, wool and silks generally respond well to washing but other fabrics like rayon and lace can shrink. Make sure you check the label of your garment or get a second opinion from your local laundrette before proceeding. Avoid dryers at all costs and direct sunlight.

In some cases for a really special garment you might want to leave it with a specialist cleaning service. Sometimes the peace of mind is worth the investment alone.

Once you’re happy you should store your item in fabric dress bags, which are breathable covers. Never store your cherished clothes in a plastic bag. Natural fabrics like wool and cotton need to breathe so need circulating air. Throw in some sachets of rosemary and mint to repel moths and insects and you’ll have given your item a new lease of life.

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