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How To Clean Old Linens: Pamela Wiggins 

Here's How:

  1. To remove surface dirt and dust, try carefully vacuuming the item on low suction with vents open.
  2. Before storing, examine each linen for food and grease that may attract damaging insects or leave permanent stains.
  3. Test each piece to see if it's colorfast by blotting with a white cloth and the water or a mild cleaning solution (Ivory Liquid and other similar
    products work well) you've prepared.
  4. Gently immerse the linen into the liquid and carefully agitate it by hand.
  5. For stubborn spots, try treating textiles with a solution made of lemon juice and salt.
  6. Rinse the item to remove all soap residue using distilled water for the final rinse, especially in areas with hard water.
  7. If possible, dry linens by laying them flat outdoors in the sun on absorbent towels or directly on the grass.
  8. Iron each item quickly and carefully using a minimal amount of starch.
  9. Avoid dry cleaning heirloom linens since excessive agitation, harsh chemicals and heat can damage them.


  1. When vacuuming delicate items, place a piece of tulle or fiberglass screen over them for protection.
  2. Avoid wetting wools and silks to avoid weakening the fibers.
  3. Try drying linens directly on the grass. Many people swear by this method for completely removing stains.

What You Need:

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Tulle or fiberglass screen
  • Mild soap
  • Distilled water
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Iron

Views: 93

Replies to This Discussion

So happy to see Pam here! She took over my old job as the Antiques Guide at About.com (When I was there it was called The Mining Company). The only thing I'd add is that linens should never be stored in plastic bags. For long term storage, pack the linens in acid-free tissue, and then in a box. Once a year, open the box, take everything out, check for "visitors", then re-pack.


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