Do you need to know the best way for cleaning vintage table linens? As in ~ what really works.
You see, I love finding beautiful old tablecloths, napkins, and runners.
It brings me joy.
But that means they might be stained or dingy, and I definitely don’t know their history.
Which doesn’t bring me joy.
So I needed to find the best way for cleaning vintage table linens. To get them as clean as possible before I use them.
And to hopefully get any stains out.
Which lead me to conduct my own experiment to learn what is really the best way to clean vintage linens.
I’ve seen lots of posts and videos on the web for how to clean table linens, but they all only tout their one way. But is their way the best way?
I needed to know which way is the best.
Truly the best way to clean old table linens.
So I test the three most popular ways to clean vintage tablecloths and linens to see which performed the best for me.
Check out the experiment and which one had the best results…
Supplies for Testing 3 Ways to Cleaning Vintage Table Linens
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Testing the Best Way to Clean Vintage Table Linens
*Note: I’m sharing with you what I did and the results of my experiment. Your results might be different.
Watch the Video
1. Gather your supplies
To hold my experiment to learn the best way to clean old table linens, I started with the three most touted products: Biz, an oxygen cleaner (like Oxyclean), and automatic dishwasher powder.
I’ve seen each of these used and shown to have great results, but I wanted to learn which one really had the best results. (At least for me.)
Then I found three matching napkins with obvious old set-in stains.
They were in a bundle of linens I’d brought home from an estate sale. They needed to be cleaned and the stains definitely needed to be removed if I was ever gonna use them.
Regular laundry detergent wasn’t gonna do the job.
Next, I grabbed three clear bowls (so I could easily see through them), wooden chopsticks for stirring, and a measuring spoon.
Check out how ugly the stains are before the experiment.
*Note: I’m doing my experiment on a small scale so it’s easy to manage and see the results.
2. Mix the solutions
To start the experiment, I added 1 cup of hot water to each of my clear containers, and 1 tablespoon of the associated cleaner.
*Now I know my measurements probably weren’t the ideal ratio, but I kept them the same for each test.
Then I took the wooden chopsticks and gave them each a good stir.
Once I was confident the containers were mixed as well as possible, I added 1 napkin to each solution.
I pushed the napkin entirely under the liquid so it was completely soaked and gave it a gentle stir. Then I left them to sit overnight.
I didn’t do anything else.
*Let your linens soak for at least 24 hours, if not longer, depending on how dirty and stained they are. This is why using clear containers is beneficial. You can see what’s happening in the solution.
In the image below, you can see how the Biz solution has a bluish tinge at the beginning of the experiment.
In this image, the dishwasher powder looks pinkish. As if the red from the edge detail is starting to bleed.
And the oxygen powder is clear, which made me wonder if nothing was happening, or if it was lightening the white fabric.
* A few notes: don’t use metal bowls or containers and if you’re gonna clean large tablecloths, use a sturdy plastic bin. Also, if you don’t wanna use a wooden spoon for stirring, you can use rubber gloves to stir by hand. Just don’t use your bare hand.
3. The results ~ which solution worked best
After 24 hours of soaking, I removed each napkin and rinsed it under warm water until the solution was completely gone.
And let me tell you ~ I was surprised by the results of my experiment.
First, the Biz solution…
The solution had lost its blue color, so I was hopeful that the stain on my napkin would be gone.
As you can see, the stain is still there. In fact, I don’t think anything really happened with my napkin. So, for me, using Biz to clean or remove stains from vintage linens didn’t work.
Next up ~ the oxygen cleaner…
The solution hadn’t changed color during the 24 hours the napkin soaked, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
My results ~ the stains on the napkin were gone. Yay!
Unfortunately, there were a few new red dots that hadn’t been there before. And the red trim appeared to have bled a little.
Here’s a closeup image…
What’s interesting is the solution didn’t turn pink or murky.
So, for me, using an oxygen cleaner would probably work well on white or solid-colored table linens. I’m really happy with how white the fabric got and the stain disappeared.
I’d just be careful with pieces that have colored detail, like embroidered work. Especially with items that have red, black, or dark blue, as I find they tend to bleed most.
And finally, the automatic dishwasher powder…
When I first added the napkin to the solution, it appear to turn pinkish. But after 24 hours, the pink color wasn’t there.
And after I thoroughly rinsed my napkin, there were NO stains!
The large stain was completely gone. And no red dots or bleeding.
For me ~ automatic dishwasher powder was the clear winner. Talk about outstanding cleaning results!
4. After the experiment
I was honestly floored by the results of my experiment to determine the best way for cleaning vintage linens. I didn’t expect the automatic dishwasher powder to perform so well.
Now, I wouldn’t recommend using this method for everyday cleaning of your table linens. I would just use this for when you initially bring home your new pieces, to get them as clean as possible. Then wash and dry them as you would regularly.
I’m not a fabric expert, but I’d be a little concerned that repeatedly cleaning your linens this way might weaken them faster than using laundry detergent.
I can’t wait to clean the large stack of linens I just brought home from recent estate and yard sales.
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