Cleaning body oils from antique linens

passionateprintsDecember 22, 2013

Hi - I'm Wendy and new to this forum. Sorry to be asking questions right away before introducing myself!

My mother has some old bed linens that are stained in body oils. Some of them are her grandmother's that were cross-stitched patterned pillowcases.

She knows the stains are body oils too because of how the stain looks.

Is there a way to remove these stains? Some of the linens are white while others are off-white. The pillowcases that were her grandmother's are the white ones. I'm not sure if bleaching would do any good but if she were to bleach them, would the pillowcases that were her grandmother's be ruined? Especially with the age of the thread and all as well as the color?

She also has other linens that have the musty smell - she is currently going through her old linens and getting rid of the good and the bad!

Anyway, is there a way to get rid of the musty smell as well? There again, there are other colors - dark blue, off white, patterned, etc.

Otherwise, is there a way that a professional cleaner could do this?

Thank you so much and if I don't hear from anyone, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I look forward to meeting a lot of you over the time!

Wendy Legeret

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I have really good luck getting out oily stains with Dawn dishwashing liquid. I just rub it in, let it set until next washing or go ahead and wash immediately. I have also heard that peroxide with Dawn does a wonderful job. I think line drying on a very sunny day helps also! Pineterest has alot of wonderful ideas on how to get out stains. Good Luck! And a very merry Christmas to you, also! :-)

    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 12:45PM
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The musty smell can probably be removed with washing.

Bleach is pretty tough on fabric. The older the fabric, the more chance that bleaching can hurt the fabric. Try to avoid using chlorine bleach on delicate fabrics.

There are special cleaners out there for vintage fabrics. But mostly, I use either OxyClean or Clorox 2--both have no chlorine bleach in them. That's for general stains. And Dawn for oily stains.

What I do is soak the item in a dishpan full of warm water and either OxyClean or Dawn. It frequently takes several soakings to completely remove a stain. So I'll start soaking in the morning and change out the water in the evening and let the item soak all night. This could go on for several days.

Unless there's delicate thread work or lace on the linens, I'd start by washing in a machine on the delicate cycle. Or handwashing with a long soak. Then line dry the linens out in the sunshine, as sun is also a good bleaching agent. But do not put the linens in the dryer, as that will only set stains.

If the linens need more help, start soaking them in OxyClean or Dawn. This would be safe even for the colored linens.

If the cross-stitch work is in color, do test the item for colorfastness first. You may have to do only cold water washes/soaks for those items. Chlorine bleach will remove the color from the stitchery, so avoid that.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 11:26AM
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I clean all of my white or off white linens with denture cleaner. Drop half a dozen tablets in a sink full of hot water and soak. It removes oil stains very well and does not hurt the material. When wet though, use care in handling by not picking them up with large amounts draping down (ball them up and gently squeeze) so as not to stress the threads if they're very delicate.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 5:06PM
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