How to clean vintage clothes!
Caring for vintage clothing can be a rather daunting and nerve-wracking experience. In particular the cleaning part.
Not so long ago, I wrote an in-depth article about “How to store vintage clothing like a pro”, and I hope that it will help answer a lot of questions regarding the dos and don’ts of storing your precious vintage pieces the proper way. For the purpose of giving my readers the best advice on storing vintage that one possibly could give, I interviewed a textile conservator with over twenty-five years of experience in handling antique textiles in museums.
Cleaning vintage clothing has been for me a process of trial and error.
Despite the knowledge, I have gained over the years, there are cases where I find it too risky to attempt to clean a vintage piece, so I send it off to a dry cleaner I trust.
I ALWAYS wear a Kleinert’s dress shield under vintage clothes. It’s easy to wash and I never have to worry about perspiration stains.
You will find a few extra tips on caring for vintage in my article “How to take care of vintage clothes”
- I urge anyone new to the world of vintage clothing, to get a recommendation from a well established local vintage seller, as to the best dry-cleaners, experienced in handling antique and vintage garments!
- I send most of my 1940s and 1950s skirt suits to the dry cleaner. The only exception is the 1952 Handmatcher suit with a decorative collar. Thankfully it was in a mint condition when I bought it, and someone braver than myself, cleaned or at least refreshed it beautifully, without causing any damage.
Not Everything Can Be Handwashed
- If you are not sure about the fabric that your vintage garment is made of, and you attempt to clean it yourself, you might accidentally ruin it, if handled inappropriately! Fabric shrinkage and bleeding are the two main catastrophes that may occur when cleaning vintage clothing the wrong way.
Never use water on velvet, crepe or sequins ( especially if they are made of gelatine), because they will melt!!!
- I’m always extremely careful even when I know that the garment can be hand-washed but mistakes happen, even to me. I didn’t think to do a test on the actual label attached to my 1950s dress and of course, a bleed occurred. Luckily, only the inner side of the white-collar suffered from the red tag attack. I took a close-up picture of the damage to show you what happens when you don’t think pink when washing white clothes with red details.
My favourite natural laundry detergent for washing vintage clothes.
- Someone asked me recently about the type of detergent I use on vintage clothes that can be hand-washed, such as cotton. I love and can wholeheartedly recommend Eucalan Wrapture. It smells divine and doesn’t require rinsing! I also use it to wash all my precious lingerie.
*Tip for making your clothes smell fresh! I put a tiny amount of Eucalan into a travel-size spray bottle, mix it with water, and gently spray all my clothes hanging in the wardrobe. Avoid spraying it on silk or you might end up with a water ring.
I find that the best way to freshen up a vintage or antique velvet gown or cape is to hang it in a steamed bathroom. I always place a bowl filled with vinegar under the garment (I make sure that the clothing is not touching the liquid!) to get rid of bad odour. It’s not always with a 100% success rate but it definitely helps. This method is good for any type of fabric as long as it’s not in direct contact with the vinegar. Baking soda is another little miracle worker in getting rid of smells.
Some people advocate spraying clothes with vodka in order to get rid of bad odour. I’ve recently heard that in the long run, it can cause damage to the fabric. I will definitely update this information when I gather more reliable data.
How to clean vintage clothes!
The long-anticipated book, Wear Vintage Now! by Margaret Wilds is finally out! And it’s filled with incredibly useful tips on removing different types for spots, odour and wrinkles from vintage clothes. It’s a must-read for all the ladies who are starting their adventure in wearing vintage!
Here are just a few examples from the Wear Vintage Now! book.
Stain removal tips!
Please, be very careful when implementing any of the tips provided in this or any other article on itsbeondmycontrol.com. If you are not sure about the content of the fabric, that your garment is made of, speak to an experienced dry cleaner. I’ve been wearing and writing about vintage clothes, from the 1930s-1950s, for many years now. I pride myself on being very diligent in doing extensive research before I put pen to paper. Believe it or not, I do have a couple of museum curators and textile conservators on my speed dial. 🙂 I don’t lack the passion or even the knowledge on the topic of vintage fashion, but I don’t have a degree in textile conservation.