Vintage Tablecloth Care

Vintage Tablecloths

Vintage Tablecloths For Special Occasions
How many of us are willing to spread out those beautiful vintage tablecloths to use for special occasions? Vintage tablecloths are beautiful accents to your holiday decor. How do we display these beautiful pieces and avoid damage to them? Is it worth the risk of using them, during a time when family and friends are celebrating together the joyous season of the holidays and other special occasions? A beautiful vintage tablecloth for display on these special occasions can bring out the reminiscence of yesteryear and be a wonderful display during these times. How do we protect and clean them afterwards?

Tips for cleaning and maintaining the beauty of your vintage tablecloths

First off, vintage tablecloths are going to probably require some extra care when using. Cleaning a vintage tablecloth is not like cleaning new textiles. You may want to hand wash all your vintage tablecloths to avoid damages to the fibers. Too much cleaning of these delicate linens, can cause damage and wear on the material.

Know The Age of The Fabric And What The Fabric Is Made From

Prior to cleaning your beautiful vintage tablecloth, I would gather as much information about the fabric it is made from and it’s age as possible. For example, a tablecloth made before 1935 used dyes in them. These dyes can easily fade and may not be safe and colorfast when cleaning with certain cleaning solutions. If your water is turning colors especially orange, greens and reds, I would remove the tablecloth immediately as this is a sign of losing colors.

Another important thing to know is what materials the fabric is made from. For example, if you know the threads have metallic threads or dyes in them, you will not want to use Oxygen bleaches on this fabric!

The more you know about your tablecloth the more useful it will be in determining what type of cleaning solutions you have to use.

Be Aware Of Oxygen Bleaches!

Oxygen bleaches can be used for cleaning some tablecloths but not all. The rayon, and metallic threads and dyes can not be safely cleaned with oxygen bleaches. Be very careful when using oxygen bleaches as this can fade your cloth and cause color runs. If your tablecloth can not be cleaned with oxygen bleaches, you can try a mild Biz soak.

Vintage Tablecloths For Special Occasions
Watch For Fade and Color Runs

When you are cleaning your tablecloth, check frequently when soaking or during cleaning to ensure that the colors are not fading, the fabric hasn’t become damaged or disintegrate.

Hand Washing

Sometimes soaking in a mild detergent can be all that you need to freshen and clean these wonderful tablecloths. To safely wash out stains, take a tip from Martha Stewart. She recommends lining a basin with a clean sheet before you fill it with soap. Put those pieces that are fragile into the basin in order to soak. It is best to lift the tablecloth from the basin by its corners to avoid stretching fragile linens when you are through. Never knead, push, or twist your vintage tablecloths. They may be fragile and rough handling is the quickest way to ruin them.

Rinsing Methods

Make sure all the cleaning solutions are rinsed thoroughly to avoid breakdown from the chemicals of the cleaning agents. The best way to clean most vintage tablecloths is by hand washing and soaking, but this does not always remove the cleaning agents. Once the soaking is done, I have used a machine wash without soaps on gentle cycle to remove the chemicals.

Drying Methods

Once rinsed there are a number of ways to dry. One of the best drying solutions I have used is laying the tablecloth outside in the sun on the grass. The chlorophyll in the grass creates a natural oxygen bleach. Always use a very low heat on these fabrics. Heat can be very damaging to them if not controlled.

Crochet tablecloths can easily be damaged in a dryer and stretched out of shape, never use a dryer for your crochet tablecloths. It is best to lay these out flat in between towels for dying.

Letting your vintage tablecloths dry on a clothesline if it’s not too breezy is a great way to let nature assist you in the drying process. This will give them a fresh, clean scent too. Don’t stretch the tablecloth on the line; use several clothespins to hang your precious linens. If you don’t feel comfortable hanging it on a line, you can lay it on a sheet to dry in the sun. This a great way to lighten any yellow stains in the fabric. Do be careful when using clothespins on corners as this can cause stretch on the fabric.

Storing Your Tablecloths

If your storing these beauties for long term, the best way I have found to store them is to either lay them completely open and flat prior to putting them in a drawer. This method is difficult to use on large tablecloths. If you can not do this, the other method to use is to roll them prior to storage. Rolling them will prevent fold breakdown over time. There are gases in plastic and if storing your tablecloths in plastic, this can cause yellow spots to occur and discoloration. Do not store vintage linens in plastic. If your using a wood drawer for storage, line it with a cloth first before adding your linens. Wood can be very harmful in constant contact with vintage fibers and threads, especially the embroidered ones. Acid free tissue paper can also be used for linings.

Always check your linens from time to time, don’t store and forget. Inspect them a couple times in a year. This will help you check for any new yellowing on the linens and if you need to replace the cloths you are using for lining or the tissue papers. Take the ones you have rolled and re roll them the opposite direction from time to time. If your folding your linens, be sure to check the fold creases and if necessary fold them in different places to prevent creases and breakdown in the folds.

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