You've managed to score some cool old stuff, and now you need to figure out how to brighten vintage fabrics to bring them back to their prime. Before you toss the vintage fabrics you want to brighten into a washing machine filled with bleach, stop and think about the damage this may cause. You may clean most cotton and wool fabrics using this safer method.
What you'll need to brighten vintage fabrics:
- Sink, tub or dish pan
- Warm water
- Mild fabric cleaner, such as Woolite or Dreft
How to brighten vintage fabrics:
- Fill the sink, tub or pan with the warm water. Avoid hot water because it may hasten the disintegration of the vintage fabrics. You might want to test it by placing the underside of your forearm in the water.
- Dissolve 1/4 cup of the fabric cleaner in a cup of hot water. Slowly pour the cleaning solution into the tub of water. Swirl it around until it is completely mixed.
- Only wash one item at a time. Place the fabric into the tub and gently push it to the bottom. Rather than squeeze the vintage fabric you're trying to brighten, gently press on it with the palms of your hands. You may use a clean sponge if you prefer, but don't rub it over the fabric, or you may disrupt the fibers. Allow the fabric to soak for up to 30 minutes. If the fabric is wool, cut the time in half.
- Rinse the vintage fabrics. If you have a separate container, fill it with clean, warm water. If not, gently remove the fabric from the soapy water, wash out the container and replace it with clean, warm water. Gently place the fabric into the clean water. Press the fabric with the palms of your hands to get most of the soap out. Replace the water with more clean water and repeat until all the soap is out of the fabric.
- Dry the vintage fabric. Carefully place the fabric on top of an oversize towel and smooth it out. Gently wrap the towel around the fabric and pat it firmly to remove excess water. Repeat with a dry towel. Place the fabric on a drying screen. If you don't have one, find a dry location with a large, flat surface where you can place it on top of another dry towel.
- If the fabric still isn't bright, you may repeat the cleaning process with oxygen cleaner or distilled white vinegar. Repeat all the steps for rinsing.
- Never place vintage fabric in a dryer, or it may shrink or disintegrate. Cotton will probably dry in a day, but wool will most likely take two or three days to dry.
You have just brightened your vintage fabric by giving it a good cleaning. Take care of any vintage fabric older than you are, and it will last a very long time.