How To Clean Vintage Barkcloth Fabric

If you are a collector of vintage fabrics for curtains and upholstery, learning how to clean vintage barkcloth fabric is important for caring properly for those items. Many classic retro patterns were printed on vintage barkcloth fabric, a medium-weight, textured fabric that was popular in the 50s through the 70s. It was often used for drapery, seat cushions, pillows and slip covers back in the day and is seeing a resurgence in popularity. Barkcloth is wonderful for covering photo albums and boxes of all kinds, and decorating luggage, walls and furniture. Learning how to clean vintage barkcloth and preserve its allure takes only a few minutes and some careful handling.

To clean vintage barkcloth fabric you will need:

  • Woolite or another gentle detergent
  • White vinegar
  • Large tub to hold water and fabric
  • Drying rack
  • Mild water-free solvent or dry cleaning solution
  • Clean, white rag
  • Measuring cup
  1. Clean spots on vintage barkcloth fabric with a mild, water-free solvent or dry cleaning solution. Vintage barkcloth fabric is not colorfast. Using water to remove spots may leave marks. If there are spots or marks on the fabric, using a clean, white rag moistened with dry cleaning solution is the best way to clean vintage barkcloth fabric without damaging the material. Always have adequate ventilation when using cleaning solvents.
  2. Dab water-free solvent on the barkcloth fabric. Dampen the rag with a dry cleaning solution and gently dab at the spots on the barkcloth. If the area being cleaned is large, change the position of the rag when it is soiled to prevent the transfer of dirt to another location. Hang the item in a well-ventilated area to dry after it is cleaned.
  3. Place vintage barkcloth fabric with dry rot in a tub to soak. Because dry rot makes the fabric extremely perishable, it is best to gently soak barkcloth in a plastic tub or bathroom tub of warm water with a gentle detergent such as Woolite.
  4. Add a cup or two of white vinegar to the water to help set the colors. Pour enough detergent to create a few bubbles and suds and add the barkcloth fabric. Stir the fabric gently while it soaks in the tub. Use the back end of a broom to move the barkcloth slowly through the water. Allow it to soak until the stains dissolve.
  5. Drain the tub and press the curtains or other items against the side of the tub to remove the soap. Do not wring the vintage fabric because it may tear. Fill the tub again with clear water and allow the barkcloth to soak. Continue to squeeze and press against the tub to rinse the barkcloth.
  6. Remove the freshly washed barkcloth items from the tub and hang them to dry. If the items are still very wet, press them between two towels like you would a sweater to remove excess water. Using the drying rack, drape the curtains or other fabric over the top to drip. Place the drying rack in an area where the dipping barkcloth fabric will not damage carpets or floors.

Do not take vintage barkcloth to the dry cleaners because the chemicals used are too strong and will damage your fabric. If care is taken when cleaning vintage barkcloth fabric, you can continue to preserve it for many years and enjoy its beauty and style.

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