Sunday, February 25, 2007

'Wash Day' Blues?


I hope that this post doesn't sound like I am trying to teach your Granny to suck eggs! - But it is aimed at anyone who may have walked past those piles of fabulous embroidered vintage linens at a flea market, because they looked a little sad and grey, or yellowed with age.

I recently purchased several pieces of hand crochet work and yellowed linens. (Hope that shows in the photo.) They can be rescued very easily and bought back to their original glistening white.
Bring half a large saucepan of water up to the boil. (I use this old enamelware casserole pan for the job.) Then when it is at a rolling boil, turn down the heat for a moment and add a washing powder tablet. It will fizz, so take care that it doesn't boil over. When it has calmed down, turn the heat back up and add the vintage textiles. You need to keep it boiling, as this is what will lift out the discolourations.

It should only need to boil for about 5 minutes and you will be able to see the transformation. Remove the items from the pan and rinse in cold water.

This method will sometimes work to remove stains from the colourful embroidered tablecloths of the 1950's. I am not suggesting that you should try this with anything precious or antique, but it is worth trying on a vintage item that you are ashamed to use, as it looks dingy; it may just rescue it from it's embarrassment. Or try the ones that can be picked up for pennies at car boot sales, because they have tea stains....
They deserve a second chance!
UPDATE: Sunday pm.
I have had several comments from my American friends, who do not know what I mean when I say washing powder tablets. You could use a spoonful of washing powder instead - The sort for the laundry, not the dishwasher. But PLEASE don't try it on anything precious, just cottons and linens that you would have otherwise discarded.

Hope this helps, Niki. x

37 comments:

  1. We vintage lovin' ladies sure do have a way of seeing past those old yellow stains, don't we? As a matter of fact, while reading this post, I have a batch of vintage white hankies taking a bath in a bowl of hot water and cleanser! Your linens are gorgeous - I have a serious penchant for white on whites!

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  2. That is a great tip! I've just got some vintage linen clothes from a friend and they have this yellowish/brownish colour. I'll sure try cleaning it after your easy cooking method! Thanks Niki xox

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  3. Wonderful tip - thank you! As for the antique linens, it's getting to the point in Paris that only a few dry cleaners will even accept hand-embroidered old linens, for fear of damaging them.

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  4. Niki,
    Thanks for the laundry lesson. Just one question. Do we have laundry tablets in the states or is that an English thing? So does it have to be tablets that fizz to boil the heck of of the stains?
    NANCY JO

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  5. Oh yes, my Nan always used to "boil her whites" but not for long because apparently that could yellow them. She also used to add Borax to the water and used a Blue bag in the final rinse. Anyway she had a "boiler" to do her's in, they would then be transferred to the washing machine and eventually mangled. I expect you can imagine her delight the day she got an autonatic washing machine.

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  6. Yes I often boil old linens Niki, and dont they come up a treat? Iron mould however I find a bit more of a challenge!

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  7. great tips! i just wish i could fit my old quilts inside a pan! ;)

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  8. I am a born linen-aholic. I love your suggestion on how to clean stained or old linens. I live in the U.S., so I want to be sure I am understanding your instructions. Are you suggesting using the tablets that are used for Dishwashers?

    Just want to double check before I turn my kitchen into a giant washing machine!

    Cathy

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  9. Amazing tip! I have just recently begun the fun trips to antique shops and have seen yellowed linens
    and of course passed them by...((let me at them now)) that you have shared this valuable tip!
    Thank you! LoVed the doll you sent ~Carol~.. the details and time you spend on each creation..just beautiful!!hugs NG

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  10. How beautiful and white everything became after a dip in the boiling pan. I have also used lemon juice on a stain and set it out in the sun as per Grandma's instructions!

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  11. You know what? You're going to think I'm nuts, but sometimes I like it if they are a little yellowed and worn. Kind of like age spots on the backs of hands, tels a story...you know?

    But thanks for the tip-my grandmother just gave me a huge box of old crocheted lace doilies from my grandfather's mother, over 90 years old! Pure bliss! I'm going to try your advice on some of them!

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  12. You know what? You're going to think I'm nuts, but sometimes I like it if they are a little yellowed and worn. Kind of like age spots on the backs of hands, tells a story...you know?

    But thanks for the tip-my grandmother just gave me a huge box of old crocheted lace doilies from my grandfather's mother, over 90 years old! Pure bliss! I'm going to try your advice on some of them!

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  13. Great tip Niki, It's very easy to be put off from the yellowish that some vintage linens have.
    Take care.
    x

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  14. Hi Niki, A brilliant tip!thank you! I think Sue (Vintage to Victorian) has had some experience of cleaning up linen items in a similar way, but I don't know if she uses the tablets. It's amazing just how robust the old linens etc., can be, isn't it?

    Clare x

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  15. great tips Nikki...Thanks!

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  16. Niki this is such a super tip. Thank you so much. :0)

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  17. Thanx for this....I have a few sitting in the cupboard...didn`t know how to rescue them....will try this!!!

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  18. I never walk past yellowed linens! It's part of their charm (I think so anyway). Great tip for cleaning, though. We have those "tablets" here, they're round.

    Oh, and I love the linens in your photos!

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  19. That's a really great tip. I will definitely try it.

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  20. What a beautiful blog you have... I love little vintage goodies to!!!
    So lovely, I'll come back soon

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  21. Thanks for those tips on reviving whites.

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  22. Mona Vara4:19 pm

    Thanks for the tip. Can't wait to try it on some things my mother gave me.

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  23. I had to laugh when I saw your picture, it took me back years! I used to use those sort of tongs and a 'burco boiler' to boil up my son's terry nappies ( diapers to you american gals) when he was small! He is 27 now...I still boil up my yellow linens whenever I need to and I just love the fresh clean smell....

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  24. Thank you for the help on removing stains from old linen.

    I love all the pictures you posted and the little puppy washing clothes is adorable.

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  25. Thanks for the great tip. This week I will be pulling out the old linens and give it a try.

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  26. Hi Niki...so glad to have found your lovely blog! I actually just got a bunch of old linens, dresses, etc at an estate sale for free. They are all quite yellow. I did clean a few with very gentle handwash type detergent. thanks for the heads up! I love your talc tins gorgeous! Will add you to my blog's faves so I can visit often! Cherry

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  27. Yes, missing you to be sure....will have to try to not walk past any more piles of linens....

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  28. Great tip! I will try it on our old linens at home. I can't wait to try it out. Thank you so much

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  29. Hi,
    completely out of context, i like your blue saucepan it would go really well with our kitchen!
    Toby
    x

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  30. Hi,
    completely out of context, i like your blue saucepan it would go really well with our kitchen!
    Toby
    x

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  31. Hi Niki - I tried to leave a comment yesterday but couldn't for some reason!

    I boil my linens too (enamel pan and tongs of course!), but I use powder (Persil Automatic non-bio) and a scoop of OxyClean. It's amazing how filthy the water becomes, and I often repeat the process, especially with some of the pillowcases which are often so awful you wonder whether they'll ever look good again.

    I have a product for removing rust spots but it doesn't appear to have a name. Someone bought it for me from a commercial cleaners supplier in Taunton. It's applied to a washed item and the rust spots disappear in front of your eyes. It's then a case of very thorough rinsing and I sometimes re-wash as the linen turns yellow temporarily (quite offputting the first time it happens!).

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  32. Andrea2:31 am

    oh, thanks for the tip! I love little bits of advice like this!

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  33. You sure gave a great tip, and I'm sure going to try it.
    Thanks!
    Monique.

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  34. Great tips Niki but just thought I ought to add a word of warning. I was so pleased to see a rust line disappearing from the end of a pillowcase that I didn't notice I had set the other edge of it alight on the gas hob! The mark has disappeared though! Also some grey lace edgings from people using those blue bags are now a beautiful white.
    Best wishes
    Ruth

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  35. Hi.

    I have a great utility room and I have a picture frame with 9 windows which I'd like to hang in there, filled with images of washday products, artefacts and women washing the family clothes.

    Would you know where I might be able to find some?

    Many thanks,

    Jacquie

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  36. Definitely some great tips here, interesting too in the 'old school' approach.

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  37. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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Thank you for finding the time to visit me...
Niki xx