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How to Care for Antique & Vintage Table Linens
Tips for Using, Cleaning and Storing Heirloom Table Cloths

This holiday season, go ahead and set a beautiful table with Grandmother's Irish Linen cloth. Here's how to clean it after the meal.

Veteran textile collector/dealer Christine McGowan of Granville, Ohio explained the Murphy’s Law of Table Linens thus, noting that, “frequently the most beautiful linens are in the worst shape because their owners loved them and used them.” Here are some hints for using them and keeping them beautiful.

How to Launder Vintage Table Linens 

McGowan takes great pride in her laundering skills and names the two most important elements in the care of vintage linens as patience and a good iron. The key is to buy the best condition you can afford, and proceed slowly with stain treatment. McGowan recommends laundering new acquisitions in cold water and spreading them still damp on the lawn for 3-4 hours of strong sun or 6-8 hours of moderate sun.

She recommends waiting until the grass is dry, but adds that, “the chlorophyll in the grass is part of the bleaching equation, although I have no idea why it works.” If sunlight alone doesn’t do the trick, a paste can be made of lemon juice and salt, or a spot treatment of 1 cup lemon juice to 1 gallon of water. Apply the paste or dab the lemon mixture on the spot and spread the cloth on the grass for the afternoon.

How to Remove Stains from Vintage Table Linens 

In the event that the sun treatment is ineffective, the non-colored portions of the cloth can be spot bleached using a solution of 1 part non-chlorine bleach to 4 parts water. Apply sparingly with a Q-tip, and place a white terrycloth towel under the affected area to absorb excess liquid. Above all, McGowan recommends patience. She suggests double or triple rinsing, a hint she picked up from Ann Christine (the Linen Lady) who says, “Rinse until you would drink the water.”

How to Store Vintage Table Linens 

McGowan and Thelinenlady concur that vintage linens should not be starched before storing as the starch not only yellows, but is a tasty attraction to certain kinds of insects. Also, textiles should never be stored directly in drawers or cedar chests, as the wood contains acid that not only stains the fabric, but weakens the fibers as well. McGowan cautions against the use of drying racks with wood rods for the same reason.

Both recommend storing fine linens unpressed, and loosely folded in archival or acid free tissue paper; never plastic, which encourages mildew. Probably the most enjoyable way to store these festive tablecloths is on your table, where the brilliant colors of floral fantasies, exquisite needlework, or intricate lace enrich your life at every meal. 

Susan Cramer 

Источник публикации: Suite101.com, Nov 11, 2008

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