Take It From Kathryn

Q: Dear Kathryn,

I have been given several sets of vintage linens by my husband’s grandmother. I would like to use them; however, I’m unsure about the best way to care for them. Do you have any advice on how to launder and care for these?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

-Nancy; Wilmington, NC

A: Hi Nancy,

Thanks for your question. I must tell you it is one that I am often asked by my clients and friends. Antique linens are such a joy to own and use, but do require a bit of extra tender love and care!

I have always loved the formality that these linens can bring to a gathering. Similar to the way they are depicted in this painting known as “The End of Supper” by Jules Alexandre Grun.

Whether you are caring for delicate, formal antique linens like the ones shown in Grun’s work or rustic country French linens, there are a few DON’Ts to remember:

  • Never use chlorine bleach– it is just too harsh.
  • Don’t wash your fragile linens in the washing machine. Always wash them by hand.
  • Don’t dry your antique linens in the dryer. I recommend open air drying. Drying the linens outside in the open air gives your linens such a fresh, lovely smell. And there is nothing else like the sun to whiten your fine linens.
  • Never iron your linens when they are completely dry. It is best to iron when the item is damp and then let them dry completely and give them another little press.
  • Avoid storing in damp places. I highly recommend storing with a good acid-free tissue layered between layers of linens or over a cardboard pants hanger.

You can keep your linens looking fresh and white by soaking them in a “bluing agent.” As you may know, white only appears truly brilliant when tinged with blue and a bluing agent can help to achieve this. I recommend Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing for soaking and often use Ivory powder to wash my fine linens.

If you encounter a stain, I feel that the first line of attack for removal is soaking! Often we find rust stains in old linens. Personally, I recommend “Rubigine,” which is a French product.  You can also use Whink Rust Stain Remover. A drop or two will do the trick and be SURE to read the labels carefully before using. For sturdier linens you can try Oxi Clean. Again, the trick on most stains is to get it quick!

I hope you will find these tips helpful and that you’ll continue to enjoy your family’s heirlooms for years to come!

Have a lovely day,


[images: via Google Images]

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