The linen cleaning page is one my most popular pages. These cleaning methods work for me. Other folks likely have their own special formulas, experiences and ideas.
If you trying to get stains out of white fabric, hang it in the sun. Works great!
White Vinegar and Water.
I use vinegar and water on linens that are brown, tan, are stained and smelly with cigarette smoke or look like they need a brightening. Check to see if your fabrics are colorfast. Put the material on a white towel and dab the colors in an inconspicuous area with a white cloth and cool water. If the dyes run, you will see color on the towel, your item is not colorfast. If your water is rusty or has little particles in it, I recommend that you use bottled or distilled water to soak your linens. The minerals can stain your fabric.
Soak your linens in about two gallons of cool water with one cup of white vinegar. You can soak more than one thing at a time as long as you can freely slosh it around. The water will turn yellow in short order. Sometimes you have to let things sit for a few hours checking the progress every hour or so. When the discoloration is gone, rinse well in clear water and hand wash in your favorite detergent, rinse again and hang or lay flat to dry. If the discoloration persists you can move on to the next step.
I recommend using a dust mask when you use any cleaning powders. You can buy these little masks just about anywhere. The dust from Borax and Oxiclean (or any cleaning powder) can irritate your lungs. I recently added a cup of Borax to my wash and inhaled some of the dust. Turning your face away doesn`t work-get a mask! Had to go out to the fresh air to catch my breath. I use Twenty Mule Team Borax in my normal washing all the time. Borax will remove light discolorations and brighten and it`s a great water softener.
Put the items in a sink or clean bucket, add a quarter cup of Borax to two gallons of hot, not boiling water. If you think your fabric will shrink, don`t put it in hot water. You have to stir this till the Borax is all dissolved. Don`t put the powder directly on your fabric. I `ve had some linen come up with holes after I let the dry powder drop on it. Check every hour or so. When clean, wash as usual. If the spot is still there, rinse and we will move on to lemon juice and salt.
Lemon Juice and Salt
Usually if nothing else works, this will do it for me when cleaning white fabric. I first dampen the fabric and then wet the stain with fresh lemon juice, cover the area with table salt. Lay your fabric in the sun. You have to keep the lemon juice wet. The material will dry fast so be attentive. Sometimes you will see the salt take up the stain. This can be a long process, but it usually does the trick. Sometimes you will see yellow spots left from the lemon juice. Hand washing in your normal detergent will take care of that. Try and keep your items away from birds. I have had tiny doilies carried off into nests and then there are the droppings.
Linens Cleaning Formula.
Mix equal parts 20 Mule Team Borax, Biz and liquid detergent with color safe bleach. Use hot water and soak the fabric for five or six hours. Rinse well and repeat the soaking if necessary with fresh water. When the spots are gone, rinse well till the water is clear. Do not wring or twist. Lay flat or hang to dry. Use plastic clothes pins as wooden pins can stain your fabric.
Heat in machine dryers will damage vintage linens. Doilies can be placed on a towel, shaped to the original size and air dried. I pin my doilies to the towel to help keep the shape.
Ironing and Starch
Iron your linens while damp. Buy the best iron you can afford. A heavy iron saves time and work. Usually I don`t get my linens off the clothes line while they are damp. I dampen them again, roll up, put them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator or the freezer. When it`s time to iron, I use steam on the cotton or linen setting. I don`t spray my linens as I iron because I tend to scorch them. Spray starch is a nice finishing touch. Spray sizing makes your linens look extra gorgeous. Don`t store linens starched because bugs love`em!
This cleaning business can be tedious, but it`s worth the time. These cleaning steps have worked for me, but there are the stains that will never come out. Just enjoy the linens anyway. You are most likely the only one who knows the stain is there.