It can be a rather nail-biting experience when washing your freshly-acquired vintage threads for the first time. Unlike modern-day garments, most of those made prior to the 1950s do not have washing or care instructions (let alone a size label), so you are often left to fend for yourself when washing it for the first time. Don’t stress too much, because if care instructions aren’t hiding somewhere inside the garment, if you follow a few golden rules, you should be able to wash your recently obtained vintage clothing with ease.
If there are any grotty stains on your garment, these can usually be lifted by soaking it in COLD water. Always; I stress ALWAYS use cold water when washing vintage fabrics, as the warmer the temperature of the water, the higher the risk of that brightly coloured patterns on the fabric running. It is not a good thing when the water turns the same colour of the material… or worse, when you are washing a red and white polka dot dress which soon becomes red and pink. This unpleasant situation can usually be avoided washing in only COLD water.
Some things are just too delicate to wash by machine, though if you feel that it is safe to wash your vintage apparal by machine, make sure you keep that hot tap turned off or disconnected from your machine so you don’t get into too much strife. I would also strongly suggest the most gentle machine wash as possible. Putting the garment in a plain pillow slip is always a good idea. This is especially useful for washing and preserving the life of vintage (and modern) underwear and stockings. If you want to go a little more high-tech you can buy zip up lingerie bags from many retail stores or if you are handy at sewing, you can soon create your own from cotton. A knotted pillow case has never let me down though.
Whether washing by hand or machine, lux soap crystals or washing powder is usually fine. However, instead of commercial fabric softeners, good old white vinegar seems to do the trick. It also works fantastically at eliminating unwanted odours that may be trapped in the fabric as vinegar is a great odour neutraliser when it evaporates. I’m sure you would like to look vintage rather than smell vintage! Vinegar is also especially useful when your cat mistakes your couch for its litter tray, however we won’t digress into that scenario now.
Once you have washed your vintage garment (either by hand or machine) it is time to dry your garment carefully.
I hope that you haven’t contemplated the tumble dryer. Seriously, don’t go there! Don’t even think about it! My better half learnt the hard way when he tried helping to dry a cotton 50s dress that I had. Although he meant well, the dress didn’t turn out so well. Needless to say, he is now is oficially banned from laundry duties and had to cop the wrath of an angry woman. Not a good idea… You get my drift?
If you live in Australia (like me), where the sun tends to have some bite, I do not recommend that you dry your clothes outside in the sun. Instead, Invest in a clothes horse and dry your garments safely indoors or alternatively run the risk of your bright prints turning rather dull.
When drying your threads, fold them in half over the clothes horse so you don’t put an overly excessive amount of strain on the top or the bottom of the garment, otherwise it may get a little out of shape. Also, never hand your clothes over thin wires or metal coat hangers as this could damage the fabric with too much pressure being exerted on a very small area.
As for ironing, always iron at a rather low heat, on the inside of the garment. If in doubt, put a towel between the garment (still inside out) and your iron.
And there you have it; with some caution and a little bit of common sense, your vintage threads should be clean in no time at all.
♥ Mallory xoxox