Learning how to clean vintage French fabric such as linen, cotton and hemp will enable you to make use of your vintage fabric items more readily and make it possible to care for them properly when they become soiled. In the case of vintage French linen in particular, it is important to prepare it so the threads in the fabric are strengthened to enable the fabric to endure washing. Here are a few helpful guidelines for cleaning vintage French fabric to preserve it for years of use.
- Soak any unused or never-washed vintage French fabric for at least 12 hours before washing it for the first time. This may be done in the washing machine or a bathtub. Clean the washer first to remove any detergent residue. Fill the washer or tub with hot water and soak your item.
- Wash the French fabric by hand for the first few times to help strengthen the threads in the fabric. Using a washing machine initially will weaken the thread, especially for linen fabrics. Once the vintage fabric has been washed by hand a few times, it becomes tempered and can be washed on a gentle cycle in the machine thereafter.
- Place clothing or other vintage French fabrics in good condition loosely in the washing machine and use hot water. This works well to clean vintage fabrics such as cotton, linen blends, hemp or pure linen. Hot water was always used in the "good old days" and it makes the fabrics brighter and whiter.
- Had wash any vintage French fabrics that are delicate or in fragile condition. Use a net textile or lingerie bag or a white sock and fill it with delicate items before washing. This protects the vintage fabric and keeps the threads from being pulled during the cleaning process.
- Dry vintage French fabric outdoors on a clothesline in the sunlight. Washing in hot water and drying in the sun helps to whiten vintage fabrics like linen and cotton and contributes to a wonderful fresh scent. If outdoor drying is not possible, use a clothes dryer for the shortest period possible and until the items are completely dry.
- Iron the freshly washed and dried French fabric. Let the fabric dry completely before trying to iron. Stretch it back into shape to restore its form before starting to iron. Iron on the reverse side to protect any embroidery or satin stitching on delicates. Push and pull the vintage fabric with both hands during the ironing process. This helps work out creases that form in French linen.
Although handling and cleaning vintage French fabric may be a little more difficult than working with modern fabrics, the rewards are many. Vintage linens and cotton have a look and feel that is unsurpassed by today's fabric and it is worth taking the time to work with it for the joy of having it to use.
- Light starch may be added to give vintage French fabrics a crisp finish.