Thursday, June 28

How-To....Hand Wash Delicate Vintage Clothing

To many of you, instructions for handwashing will be a little too basic.

But I'm constantly surprised (or perhaps that should be horrified) by the amount of people who don't know how to do this.

I won't go into care of specific fabrics today, I'm starting with basic instructions.

The very first thing I do, before I even start washing, is hang everything up to air it out. God knows what nasties and/or smells are lurking within! I'm lucky to have a very airy but protected laundry room with exposed pipes which make for fab temporary hanging racks.

My laundry room

First, fill a bucket or *clean* laundry tub with lukewarm water and detergent. See mine below. Whatever you use, make sure the surface is smooth, as you don't want to risk snagging delicate vintage fabrics. Use only cold water for woolens or silks.

I find a liquid better than a powder, as you can be sure it has all dissolved. You don't need any fancy detergent, if anything I think a generic (very cheap) brand is better, as it is less sudsy.

Immerse your garment gently into the water. Naturally different fabrics require different treatment, but there's no point being too rough.

Only wash one item at a time! You never know what might run, remember vintage dyes are far less stable than modern ones because they are plant/vegetable based.

Swoosh the garment carefully around the water. Don't rub or scrub, this may cause damage. I usually let each item soak for around 20 minutes, because who knows how long it is since it's been washed. I keep an eye on everything for about the first 5 minutes in case they run.

After washing, rinse your item gently.
 Pick the garment up carefully from the water! And don't wring it, you may cause damage or make more work for yourself later, when it comes to steaming and/or ironing. Make sure you rinse thoroughly, this is important. Soap suds left on clothes carry perfumes which can and will attract insects to your wardrobe.

For items with stronger fabrics, like cotton, crimplene, polyester and nylon, I'll put them on a hanger on the line, as you can see above. while you'll read everywhere that sun is bad for clothing, IMHO a little bit doesn't hurt. Sun brightens whites and kills insects and their eggs and larvae, which can all be invisible on vintage clothing.

And yes, I learnt that one the hard way! True story: the very first bulk lot of clothing I ever bought was when I was living with my mother a few years ago. Super-excited, I straight away brought everything upstairs into the lounge room to show her, where it stayed for a few hours, draped over the couch, until she got home. A few weeks later, I was checking one of the dresses and found a silverfish running around. I didn't think about the inside of the house, until a few days later my mother was vacuuming and lifted up the couch find hundreds of silverfish!!

Needless to say, I have never brought dirty vintage into my house ever again!

But-back to the washing now. For delicate garments that need to dry flat, this is what I do.

Secure a sheet to an outdoor plastic table, set up my sweater-drying rack and a couple of towels and put the whole setup in a shady area.

This works well for woollens, silks and crepes which need to be dried carefully and pulled gently into shape.

Have you got any tips for hand washing?? Please share them in the comments.


Secret Blogger said...

Thank you for that Kitty!

The silverfish thing sounds horrible. I do wash everything before I wear it.

I use washing up liquid (for dishes) on any greasy stains and that work brilliantly.


Melanie said...

Wonderful post - great photo illustrations and great writing. Extremely valuable information.

Sissy said...

Gee, I forgot I had one of those neat sweater drying racks - great post, thanks!

DearHelenHartman said...

Shivers thinking about those silverfish! I have a 'staging' area for vintage. It never comes into the house until examined. I have a fully line wool coat right now that am not sure what to do with - am thinking dry cleaners but worry they may do it harm.

polkadotpeticoat said...

I needed this post desperately, thank you!

Anonymous said...

Holey hell that silverfish story is gross, I beat your mum was pleased :p

I did a very similar post recently, my tips are perhaps best for cottons and linens, but it warms BRILLANTLY on stains.

Here's a link

pastcaring said...

Hurrah for Kitty's Handy Hints! Nothing to add really. Except good old Crimplene is fine in a washing machine, which saves a bit of work! Air drying is always good for extra freshening up, and I also tend to use hangers rather than clothes pegs as pegs often leave their imprints behind on the shoulders. xxx

delia hornbook said...

silver fish god im shuddering at the thought ;-) Im a bit naughty really all my vintage dresses go into the washing machine on a slow 30 degree wash they always come up well and i haven't spoilt one yet. But great advice so thank you. Have to say you look gorgeous in your last post. dee xx

La Dama said...

Igreat tips amor!
I washed my recently found at the boot sale green frock and it has shrunk. I air out all my junk and clothes too.
How about vintage coats?

Joanna said...

That is crazy about the silverfish....I'm permanently spooked:)