Sewing Tips: Caring for Your Linens

Sewing Tips: Caring for Your Linens

      Stains are the worst, but they are not the end of the world. If your linen is stained or yellowing with age, they can be saved if you administer the proper care.  Vintage linen can be passed down through generations in your family or a lucky find at a flea market.  Regardless of how you obtained your linen, you are going to want to care for it so that it looks its best.  Even newer linens deserve a freshening up now and then!  Here are some tried and true methods for cleaning your delicate linens so they look like new solution linen
      For old vintage linens that are yellowed with age and need more than just a spot cleaning, you can soak the entire piece in one of the following homemade cleaners.  Before attempting to clean your linen, you should always test your cleaning solution on a small portion.  This prevents any possible damage to the entire fabric or colors in case the solution is too strong.  Also, try drying your linens by laying them on the grass beneath the sun.  Hanging linens can sometimes damage more delicate linens if improperly hanged.

      The following instructions to “launder as usual” can refer to machine or hand wash.  Personally, I have a strong distrust of most washing machines since they usually like to shrink all my shirts into child sizes.  That is something I want to avoid at all costs.  This is why I prefer hand-washing smaller, more delicate items.  Sometimes it’s just not worth the risk!

Sea Salt Soak:
1/4 cup Kosher or Sea salt

Gallon hot water

Completely submerge and soak piece in the mixture for at least 48 hours. Rinse thoroughly by hand-washing with a mild detergent and water.  Lay out in the sun to dry.

Lemon Soak:
•    Fill a large pot with hot water and several slices of lemon. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and add your linens. Use a wooden spoon to push down the linens until they become completely submerged and saturated with the water. Cover the pot and leave overnight.
•    Rinse well (using same method as above), then lay the items out in the sun to dry.
Lemons and Linen

Buttermilk Soak:
1 Quart Buttermilk

1 Gallon Water

1 TBS Fresh Lemon Juice

Soak linens in the buttermilk recipe for up to 24 hours, rinse twice and launder as usual.If whipping up your own homemade cleaner recipe isn’t your thing, here is a method for cleaning with retail products.  Any method you choose will leave you with linens that look brand new!

Biz & Oxyclean Soak:
1 Scoop  Biz
1 Scoop Oxyclean

1 Gallon Hot Water

Soak in the hot water for up to 48 hours, then rinse and launder as usual.
*Use the Oxyclean scoop.

      The good old “vinegar method” is still effective and works perfectly as a rinse to remove any yellowing or stains.   All you have to do is wash your linens, then give them a good rinse in vinegar to remove any remaining soap.   As for the amount of vinegar to use, you need only one cup of white vinegar per gallon of water.  Be sure to rinse a few more times with plain water after using the vinegar.  This method is almost too easy!

To remove spots from your linens:
3/4 cup rubbing alcohol
1/4 cup water
10 drops mild dish detergent

       For your more delicate or vintage linens, always use more care when cleaning.  These linens may be soaked for a few days if they are heavily yellowed and the cleaning solutions aren’t giving you the results you want. Just be sure to replace with fresh hot water and the recipe every day or two.  Here’s a cleaning solution for bleaching stains out of old linens that is perfect for more delicate white linen.  Make sure to spot test first before using!

Vintage and Old Linen Stain Cleaning Solution:
2 quarts distilled water
1/4 cup bleach
1/4 cup shaved Ivory Soap bar.

Mix ingredients and soak item for approximately one hour. Dry in sun.  Repeat again if necessary using the original mixture again.

Vintage Linen Stain Remover:
1 Gallon warm water
2 TBS Ivory Soap (grated)
1 TBS Bleach

Mix and let sit to cool until liquid has gelled a bit. Apply to stain.  You can soak linens, even colored embroidered pieces, in this for several days.  As with all linens and vintage pieces, rinse very well, over and over, to remove every trace of soap.

*Note* this useful tips were adapted from Tipnut.  You can purchase new linens to pass along generations at the Fabrics-Store.  Happy cleaning!


  1. Patricia Dudley

    Linens and cottons were traditionally pre-shrunken. Thus they could be boiled in a large metal pot over a fire or a stove in a solution of mild soap, sometimes with baking soda or borax added, Copper wash boilers are often to be seen in antique stores. I use this method to lighten overall yellowing or brown stains, which were usually caused by contact with acid substances. White wine or sugar and water could cause these stains, invisible when fresh.

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