How to wash antique linen
How to remove serious storage spots from antique linen (-rolls) and fabrics
Storage marks or spots may occur with antique linen fabric and towels, especially when the item has not been washed for decades. Here is my experience with this - please note: this isn't a guarantee for best results in your case.
This is a piece of antique fabric - a handwoven cream coloured natural linen roll that suffers from serious storage marks.
The best way to get rid of these storage spots in antique linens, is to boil them out in hot water. I put a large pot on the stove, fill it with water, add some washing powder and add some oxy. Usually 3-15 minutes boiling the linen will do, sometimes the procedure needs to be repeated. The fabric needs to be moved around in the water occasionally. If this is the first hot wash for the fabric, the linen will shrink and bleach to some extent. When no stains are visible any more, I take the fabric out and rinse it in a bath tub until the water is clear. Then I hang to dry on a line. I iron while it's still damp.
With antique handwoven dresses, and tablecloths and many towels that suffered from milder pale yellowish storage shades, a truly hot wash in the machine (avoiding spinning) did the job.
When washing relatively clean antique linen for the first time:
If there is only unproblematic dust and or smell, I let the fabric soak in mild soap overnight. Sometimes a rinse afterwards is enough.
Harmless storage dirt+dust can be washed out in a machine wash. However, some modern eco washing machines leave spinning lines in the linen fabric from hard+ fast spinning - the same folds/lines they leave in Jeans as well. This happesn especially in the first wash ever. To avoid this, I add an additional small bucket of water and click on mild spinning or even try to stop the machine before the spinning starts. Once the fabric is bleached fully into natural white, this problem doesn't occur any more.
-Softeners can be added to get the linen softer.
-The more often the linen is used and washed the softer it gets.
-After taking extra care of the fabric in the first wash, linens are pretty uncomplicated and forgiving textiles in the next wash.
How to get it dyed into a darker natural tone
If you want to get the natural unbleached beige tone back, you may want to try out what the decorators for films do to avoid hard whites in Film sets . They add some tea to the last rinse in a machine wash. Please note: I haven't tried this yet myself, so don't know how much tea you need and how even the results are with linen.
Another solution is dying the fabric, of course. For best results, I recommend dying the linen in a bowl or pot, not in a washing machine. I have had fantastic results in all shades of lavender blue, berry tones, light browns and beige. It may be a slightly messy job when doing big pieces of linen, but its also fun.
How to wash Mangle cloths
Mangle cloths often have had some use but may never have had a wash. They can take a really hot wash - but if possible, first soak overnight in water with a bit of oxy, then wash with a lot of water in the machine, ideally avoiding spinning. Sometimes 40 degrees is sufficient sometimes 60 or 90 degrees is needed. For best results make sure you have enough water in the machine and avoid (hard) spinning. Mangle cloths tend to occasionally have black spots - black grease from the mangle machine. They look scary but usually come out in a really hot wash with ease. You can always add oxy or similar to the water but don' t put it directly on the fabric, as it may leave bleaching marks.
Again, after the first wash, mangle cloths are quite fuss-free and forgiving textiles in the next wash.
Please feel free share your experiences with me, I am always happy to learn! Kind regards, Ursula, Visit my shop - devotedlinenlover (antique linens)