Saturday, 13 July 2013

Come clean!

During the seventies and eighties, bringing mixed loads back from the
brocantes of France was quite exciting, as I might discover some lovely handwork hidden amongst the linen, elaborate initials, insertions, drawn thread work; but it also involved several days of hard work. Often smelly and dirty, sometimes stained with rust and mildew, it was all unpacked out of the tied-up bin bags that we used to transport it in, outside in the garden. There I fixed up an old bath and garden hose and filled it with cold water and put all to soak for at least one day - or longer, if the stains had not disappeared. This soaking is a very important part of the cleaning process as the hard dry fibres need to soften up and release the inner dirt slowly but surely. If you have quilts (or the famous Provencal boutis, you cannot always do this without getting lumps within (unless all wool,) but my expert quilt dealer Jen Jones from Wales, (see her wonderful Website ), tells me to go on spraying cold water on any offending stain, out in the fresh air on a good drying day, flat on the grass, till it disappears. Then for linen and hemp, I give a good long, very hot, wash with a non-bleach powder in my super industrial size General Electric (USA make) machine, rinse and spin, then heave outside to blow in the sun and wind on the longest washing line in the county. I prefer top loaders which are more economical as I can stop and check how things are going. The wet sheets are extremely heavy so be careful not to over-ballance your washing tub - to fill the tub, I find the best way is to lift the sheet up by its centre, letting the rest fall to the floor, then drop all carefully round the centre of my top loader, without winding any folds round the central hub; that way the sheet is in an even loose shape and does not get strained and the motor can cope and spin well at the end. A quick soak in a strong oxygen -based stain remover in a basin copes with obstinate stains and I have a wonderful French rust stain remover. (More laundry lore anon).

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing these tips on washing antique and vintage linens - I have a modest stash of linen and laces acquired over the last few years and so am keen to learn new ways to deal with stains.