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Q: Antique linen restoration (stain removal on unused linen) ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Antique linen restoration (stain removal on unused linen)
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: margha-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 07 Aug 2005 21:54 PDT
Expires: 06 Sep 2005 21:54 PDT
Question ID: 552932
I have inherited some gorgeous linens, beautifully embroidered on very
fine fabrics. The problem is that they have developed stains, after
sitting unused for decades, of a yellow-brown color which are
resistant to a normal soap and water wash. I would like help in
finding an effective way to remove these stains. I know chlorine based
products also do not work and they weaken the fabric...
This is not a simple question, finding an antique linen restorator
might be the way to go. Thank you.

Request for Question Clarification by landog-ga on 08 Aug 2005 01:41 PDT
Hi margha,
Please can you add the following information in order to help you with
your restoration :
- Where abouts are you located? This will help locate any
proffesionals in your region.
- Have you looked in YellowPages and called up any proffesionals?
- When you say 'sitting unused for decades' - how and where were they stored?


Clarification of Question by margha-ga on 08 Aug 2005 07:13 PDT
Hi Landog-ga!
The linens are from Italy but they have been in a closet for at least
50+ years, here in the San Francisco Bay Area. To the best of my
knowledge they were wrapped in paper or clear plastic pouches.
The fabric is mostly cotton, linen, maybe some are hemp. They are not
too fragile, but I have not washed them. Most pieces are sheets,
pillow cases, and towels.
Majority of local cleaning establishments have less knowledge than me
about cleaning these items. I have not searched for professionals,
yet. I wanted to inform  myself first because I thought I'd be able to
treat them.
Thank you-
Please let me know if you need more clarifications.

Request for Question Clarification by bobbie7-ga on 08 Aug 2005 07:25 PDT
Dear Margha,

Here are a number of informative articles that will help you treat
your antique linens.  Please let me know if this answers your

Cynthia?s Antique & Vintage Linens 

eBay Expert Member Workshop: The Care and Cleaning of Vintage Linens

See 5th post on this page


Clean my vintage linens

Sharon's Solution is a unique product that will clean stubborn yellow
stains so often found on antique linens and lace.

Will not harm fine delicate material fibers: Contains no chlorine,
will not leave residue or harm fibers in any way
Order here:

Request for Question Clarification by kriswrite-ga on 08 Aug 2005 09:12 PDT
You can clean these linens at home, with a special product that is
used by museums, but available to consumers. Would you like me to post
full info on this as an Answer?

Subject: Re: Antique linen restoration (stain removal on unused linen)
Answered By: nenna-ga on 08 Aug 2005 12:57 PDT
Hi margha-ga,

This is right up my alley, as I have a collection of linens from my
Grandmother?s house that I cleaned a year or so ago and re-stored.

I?ll give you my method and what I used, along to links where you can
get the products.

First of all, I tried sun, and it worked on a lot of the lighter stains.

I went out and laid the pieces on the grass in the sun for a day,
flipping them every few hours, and it worked like a charm. 85-90% of
the light yellowing came out.

I then took a damp rag and spot tested any colors on the fabric to
make sure it would not run. I got a while cotton towel damp and went
around pressing it onto the colored parts of the fabric for about 60
seconds each to see if they would run. I was lucky, I didn?t have any
runny dyes, but if you do, there?s extra steps involved. If you?re
worried about fading and bleeding THAT much, do not do this yourself,
but take them to a professional.

Secondly, I wanted to try the least ?harsh? methods first, so I
started out from here by soaking in Oxiclean. I used hot water and a
mix of one scoop to a gallon of water. I let them soak in my tub for
about 6 hours in this mix, gently stirring with my hand. I heard from
a good friend of my mother?s to not soak it in anything metal as it
can cause a reaction with the Oxiclean and stain fabric more. Keep
checking them every hour or so though, you want to use the least
amount of time possible to reduce fading of any colors.

**Before doing this, please do a test patch on a seam or corner to
make sure you do not have any issues with the Oxiclean harming your

Be careful with silk embroidery threads as Oxiclean says not to be
used on silk. Test patches, test patches, test patches!!!

?Never use Oxiclean on anything with gold or other metallic dyes in it. 
The Oxiclean will dissolve the fabric where the gold dye is. You will
have to use didi seven to spot treat and then place the fabric in the
sun for any prints with gold metallic designs in them.?

Once this is done, pour the whole mix into the sink. Let it drain out,
DO NOT WRING OR TWIST THE MATERIAL. Then, do a vinegar (distilled
white) to neutralize any remaining Oxiclean in the fabric. After the
vinegar rinse, do a cool water rinse. If you?re happy with the stain
removal at this point, take your linens outside or on a drying rack to
dry. Let them drip all over and get the floor yet. You NEVER want to
wring or squish them out. Just let them dry flat or hanging naturally.
If you twist and ring, you?ll damage the fabric. Do this after using
any chemical mentioned, before drying and storage, and in between
switching chemicals.

Stains: While I had no other stains than the yellowing, I went and
looked up some stain removers for antique linens so that if you do
have stains, you?ll know where to start. Also, once again? TEST PATCH

Rust: Reddish, or speckled brown spots. **Note: some of those spots
are not rust but the start of cellulose degradation. If CD has started
already, there?s not much you can do. It?s the fabric breaking down
and essentially rotting away from age. It can?t really be fixed. If
you think it?s rust and it has not improved with 2 or 3 stain
treatments, it?s probably CD and will not come out.

?If the rust spots have set in for a long time, they may result in a
hole when you try to remove them. However, if you do nothing with
them, they will eventually leave a hole, so you?re better off trying
to rid the fabric of the rust stains. The good news is that the rust
removal products won?t cause any further damage if it isn?t rust.?

You can use Carbona or Didi7 and lemon juice to remove rust.

Mildew: Black spots in the fabric. Try using the Didi7 on these.

Paint: Try using Goof-Off. Oil based paints leave oil spots that can
not be removed.

Ink: Use Didi7

Candy/Gum/Oil/Tar: Try using Lestiol.

About Didi7:
?Locate the stain you want to remove and spray it with water.
Depending on the size of the stain, add enough didi seven to cover it
with a thin film on both the right and wrong sides. As you hold the
linen in one hand, use a finger of the other hand to work the didi
seven into the stain on the front side. Rub gently with the weave of
the fabric. (I usually rub up and down then back and forth in a T
pattern.) As the didi7 dries, spray a little water on the stain and
add a dab more of didi seven. Repeat until the spot has dissolved. If,
after approximately 1 minute of rubbing and the stain hasn?t faded,
the changes are good that didi7 will not remove it.

If you are working on a printed or dyed fabric or an area that is
embroidered, there are some cautions that you need to be aware of:

If the fabric turns a different color, flush out with cool water immediately. 
You can continue to work on the stain, but flush often. It will work without 
any damage, but it takes some care and practice. 

If you are working on a dyed fabric, test on a seam or the wrong side to 
see if the didi seven will have any effect on the color. 

If you are working in an area where there is embroidery, do not leave the 
didi seven on the area for an extended time. Work on the stain as quickly 
as possible, and then thoroughly rinse the didi seven out. ?

About Carbona: Do spotting with a Q-tip gently. ?Place a pad of clean
soft, white cloth under the stained area. Rub the stain gently with a
white cotton cloth dampened with the remover. Use light strokes and
work with the weave of the fabric.?

Dye spots/runs: First, try running them immediately under cold water
to flush it out. (hot water will set the dye). If that does not work,
use a bleach and water mix with the spotting method use for Carbona.
If that does not work?consult a professional.

Storing.: Find a place that?s cool, dry, dark, and with a stable
temperature. It?s not recommended to use a basement or attic. Do not
store your linens in plastic or wood. Plastic can trap gasses inside
it causing yellowing. The wood can also cause yellowing. It?s
recommended you roll them in Acid free paper to minimize creases and
yellowing, and to keep them from touching any surfaces that could
cause more discoloration. I used paper towel and wrapping paper tubes,
rolled them around that, and then covered it with the acid free paper. 

I never tried Restoration Cleaner, but it seems to be highly

I hope this helps and they?re white/clean and beautiful when you?re
done like mine were!

If this answer requires further explanation, please request
clarification before rating it, and I'll be happy to look into this

Google Answers Researcher

Google Searches used:
Storing antique linens
Subject: Re: Antique linen restoration (stain removal on unused linen)
From: myoarin-ga on 08 Aug 2005 04:15 PDT

Here are some sites for a start:

IF there are any antique stores in your area that deal in linens, they
would have experience or probably know who could help you.

Good luck, Myoarin
Subject: Re: Antique linen restoration (stain removal on unused linen)
From: helena7-ga on 16 Aug 2005 11:26 PDT
Hi Margha,

The Restoration product is quite good, although the stains you
describe might take a couple sessions.  It can be purchased directly
from the maker at  I've used it quite often
on my grandmother's dishtowels, tablecloths and bed linens with great

The other thing is to send them to the BEST linen restorer anywhere --
Linens Limited in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Phone there is 414-223-1123. 
Their website is currently under construction; if you google it,
you'll get to the owner's other store in Aspen, Co.  I used them a few
years ago to clean and repair my great-grandmother's afternoon tea
dress (beautiful, lace-trimmed white linen) and they did the most
incredible job.  Plus, they send it back to you all nicely wrapped in
archive tissue, etc.  They whole sending them stuff and sending it
back works well, as I don't live in Wisconsin.

Good luck!

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