Cleaning vintage clothes

The number one reason I love vintage fashion is because you get to literally wear history. But the downside to wearing history is that history is old and old is stinky. Clothes that are 60 years old (and that have been sitting in storage for nearly that long) no longer have that lovely ‘fresh out of the dryer’ smell. They are usually musty, dusty, and sometimes even toxic smelling. Ick.

But luckily all that can be remedied by washing them. However, the tricky thing about vintage clothing is not all of it can be tossed into your washing machine. Vintage fabrics can be delicate due to their age or the material is higher end and needs special care. And so those items need to be hand washed, but in the modern age we live in most of us have never had to hand wash anything! So how the heck do you go about hand washing?

Over the years I’ve picked up a few tricks and found what works best for me. Recently I acquired a number of beautiful 1960s party dresses, but they all had underarm staining (GAH! The worst). So down into my dark cellar-like basement I went armed with my trusty tools…

1. BIZ (it smells clean and works well)

2. Borax

3. A giant scrub brush

4. A soaking basin


The method I use is this:

1. Fill a laundry detergent cap 1/2 full with BIZ. Pour a drop (quarter size) of the laundry soap from the cap directly onto the stains. If the stains are bigger, use more detergent. Pour the remaining detergent from the cap into your soaking basin.

2. Rub the detergent into the stain (and if you’re like me and your fabric is tough enough, use a scrub brush and your muscles. Stains that are 50 years old need some coaxing). Add warm water to the basin, along with a 1/2 cup of Borax. Put your garment into the basin and allow it to soak for 30 minutes.

Pretty linens soaking

I wish I had somewhere as pretty as this to soak my garments! Image from Pinterest.



3.¬†After the 30 minutes are up, rub the clothing against itself and then rinse with cold water until the water runs clear. Check to see if the stains are gone. If not, repeat the process. If you’re good to go, move on to step 4.

4. Pour 1/2 cap of laundry detergent into the basin and this time fill the basin with cold water. Soak your garment for 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes are up, gently wring the excess water from your garment, rinse in cool water, and hang up to air dry.


Image from Pinterest

Image from Pinterest

The dresses I washed are now free of dead skin, dander, and years and YEARS of dirt! They smell pretty and all but one are free of underarm staining. (You win some, you lose some). Sometimes no matter how hard you try set-in stains are just that…set in…for good. I hope some of you find this info helpful! If so, let me know in the comments. Would love to hear from you!



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