How to Clean Vintage Lace

Updated on September 20, 2013
Sunlight through vintage reproduction lace curtains.
Sunlight through vintage reproduction lace curtains. | Source

Vintage Fabric and Lace

Perhaps you've inherited a box of beautiful hand-tatted doilies from your grandmother. Or you've found a treasure, a box of vintage laces and fabrics, at an antiques store or a yard sale. Vintage and antique laces and fabrics make beautiful decorative items and can be incorporated into crafts, clothing and jewelry. However, before you use them, there's the matter of cleaning them.

Many antique and vintage laces and fabrics have yellowed over time. Some vintage tablecloths, table linens and aprons reflect old stains from yesterday's meals. And odors? Most of these fabric items hail from a time when people thought nothing of smoking, while some were stored in musty old basements. Odors can definitely be a problem with vintages textiles.

This short tutorial on how to clean vintage fabrics and laces will help you restore the beauty of the original craftsmanship. Please use care and caution when working with vintage fabrics. Some may not hold up to washing, even with the most gentle hand washing. Use this information at your own risk. When in doubt. seek professional help cleaning older textiles.

Clean vintage lace.
Clean vintage lace. | Source

General Tips for Cleaning Vintage Fabric

There are a few general guidelines for cleaning all types of vintage and antique textiles.

  1. Never machine wash old lace, vintage fabric, or older crochet, knitted and tatted items. Many of these items are fragile, and even on the delicate setting of the washing machine, they can be ripped to shreds. Others are made from natural fibers that shrink easily. Hand wash all vintage fabric and lace.
  2. Air dry or line dry all older fabrics for the same reason. They can shrink in the dryer.
  3. Wash a test area or a test patch to ensure color fastness.
  4. Do not use bleach! It can destroy vintage fibers.
  5. Use only cold water. Hot water can also cause shrinkage.

How to Remove Stains and Odors

There are two methods of washing vintage linens, textiles, and laces to remove stains: cold water and baking soda, or cold water and detergent.

Cold Water and Baking Soda

  1. Place a basin in the kitchen sink. Fill it with cold water.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of baking soda.
  3. Swish the water around to dissolve the baking soda.
  4. Add the fabric, using your hand to gently swish it in the water.
  5. Let it soak for approximately one hour.
  6. Remove the linens, fabrics and laces.
  7. Use the spray attachment on the kitchen faucet with cold water to rinse the textiles.
  8. Line dry on a sunny day, outside. Sunshine will also brighten fabrics naturally.

Another benefit from the baking soda wash is that baking soda is a natural odor fighter. It can eliminate or reduce musty or smoky smells from older fabrics.

Detergent Clean Wash

Oxi Clean or Oxy Clean is a fabric detergent sold in most stores. Please follow label directions for use, and test it on a corner of the fabric. I have heard that sometimes it can damage fabric, so use at your own risk!

Another detergent that can be used is Woolite. It is useful for hand-washing delicate fabrics. I have personally cleaned many old lace doilies and tablecloths using Woolite and cold water.

  1. Fill the basin with warm (not hot) water.
  2. Add the amount of detergent recommend by the manufacturer.
  3. Test a corner of the fabric. If it holds up well to the test, clean as above, but use warm water.
  4. Rinse with warm and cool water.
  5. Line dry on a sunny day.

Comparison of Cleaning Techniques

Baking Soda
Detergent (Oxy Clean, Woolite)
Purchase at the store
Safe to use
Effective on old stains
Safe to use
Removes odors
Removes odors
Brightens whites safetly
Comparison of cleaning techniques for vintage lace.

Summary of Cleaning Tips for Vintage Fabric

  • Be sure the fabric or lace isn't valuable; have it appraised before working on it yourself.
  • Never machine wash or dry it.
  • Sunlight will naturally lighten most fabric stains.
  • Baking soda removes odors.
  • Line dry all older fabrics.
  • Roll them or blot them in bath towels to soak up excess water.

What If the Fabric Won't Come Clean?

You may be faced with ground-in stains or fabric that is too badly stained to clean using these methods. Then you have a decision to make: do you keep the fabric "as is" or dye it? Plain old tea, the kind you use to make a cup of hot tea, can be used with hot water to create a natural dye. Place the tea bags in hot water and soak the fabric in the water to stain it a natural dark cream or ivory color. You can often dye the entire piece of lace or fabric to match the stain using this method. But be sure that the lace or fabric isn't rare or valuable before staining it; you can't reverse the process once it's stained.

© 2013 Jeanne Grunert


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      5 weeks ago


      I bought a couple lace trimmed table runners from an antique store. They had a few mud stains on the lace. First I tried Oxi Clean for baby clothes and Ecomax laundry detergent. The stains didn't budge. Then I rubbed baking soda into the stains with my hands, rinsed in warm water and repeated. That removed most of the stain. A friend gave me an extra soft toothbrush to try. That helped too and gave my fingers a break. The final thing that removed the last bit of mud was my friends sensitive toothpaste. That removed the mud from delicate vintage lace.

    • Jeanne Grunert profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeanne Grunert 

      3 months ago from Virginia

      A wedding dress is too precious to experiment on - I'd have it professionally cleaned.

    • Jeanne Grunert profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeanne Grunert 

      3 months ago from Virginia

      It might work. Sunlight and lemon juice are an old bleaching method.

    • profile image

      Jan Harris 

      3 months ago

      Some years ago I was given a solution for stained linens and have not needed it for years so of course I have forgotten it. The old gentleman told me to use a solution of two very common kitchen items to remove spots. The solution would be applied to the spot and then the linen placed on dewy Bermuda grass in the morning sun. Sounds like an old wives tale and it might be! I used it quite a bit at the time and I t works beautifully. I need to find someone who remembers the two ingredients. Maybe lemon juice and something?

    • profile image


      6 months ago

      So my wedding dress is made out of vintage lace that had stains on it. The person who made my dress used bleach to try and get them out but they just came back darker. I'm wondering if the baking soda technique will work even though its already been bleached.

    • Jeanne Grunert profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeanne Grunert 

      10 months ago from Virginia

      Bring it to a professional cleaner. The only DIY suggestion I have it so hang it outside on a bright, sunny day. Sunlight and fresh air might get the smell of mothballs out. I would get a professional opinion, however.

    • profile image

      Mary Carol 

      10 months ago

      I need to safely clean a lace dress to remove the smell of moth balls. Any suggestions?

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      My concern is my moms bridal veil. It must be between 70 -75 years old! The only bad spot is at the very top. I'm going to try the baking soda and rinse immediately!

    • Jeanne Grunert profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeanne Grunert 

      14 months ago from Virginia

      Very interesting! Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      Brenda Woodcock 

      15 months ago

      Here in Britain we have always boiled white items to restore the colour ...........just use an oversize pan, some gentle wash powder and heat on the cooker top for a good 10-20minutes .

      Make sure the item isn`t on the base of the pan near the heat.......use a grid if you have one .

    • Jeanne Grunert profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeanne Grunert 

      4 years ago from Virginia

      Thank you for leaving a comment, kschimmel! I appreciate it!

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      4 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Excellent, accurate information

    • SEEMA AQUA profile image


      4 years ago


      goood advice

      thanx 4 sharing

      God bless u

    • RTalloni profile image


      4 years ago from the short journey

      Stopping back by to say congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this useful, informative hub!

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 

      4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Interesting article. Fels naptha works well too. It is used for fragile things that need soap but are too delicate for detergent. It is recommended for pictures made with yarn (needlework) to add sizing and clean it.

      I moved about 20 years ago and had a pile of old white tablecloths, doilies, and lace waiting to be cleaned by hand. It was next to the washer in the laundry room. A large bottle of X-TRA w/bleach (non-chlorine) got knocked over and spilled all over the whites. I found it a day or two later and figured I might as well throw them all in the washer. I put it on delicate, cold water and started putting them in the washer, trying not to put the worst soaked together so my washer wouldn't suds up too bad. Then they got an extra rinse, since there was so much soap spilled. I hung them on the clothesline to dry. They were so white, they sparkled and were blinding. I use that on them now and it has never failed me. None of them have been damaged by it and some were my great-grandmothers. OLD stains from my childhood came out when they got that detergent bath. It was an act of a desperate, overly tired person.

    • Jeanne Grunert profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeanne Grunert 

      4 years ago from Virginia

      Thank you all for taking the time out of your busy day to share your comments. I appreciate it so much! Enjoy those vintage laces -- I love showing off my collection and need to clean more.....

    • CraftytotheCore profile image


      4 years ago

      Congratulations on Hub of the Day!

      I used to collect vintage lace and linens.

      One Thanksgiving I went to a few antique stores and found a bunch of pieces for my dinner table. They were so beautiful. But I had no idea how to clean them.

      This recipe will surely come in handy in the future.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I have vintage lace from my great grandmother that I was terrified to clean for fear of damaging it. So, this hub was especially wonderful to read. Thank you! :-)

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I inherited vintage lace curtains, lace tablecloth and a lot of pieces with either crocheted or tatted edgework. I've cleaned them using Woolite in cold water, handwashed and laid out to dry on a towel...also used a bit of baking soda for a stain.

      These treasures should be preserved, and I'm enjoying mine until I pass them on to another generation.

      Voted Up++


    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 

      4 years ago from USA

      Just wanted to stop by again and congratulate you on your HOTD!! Well deserved :)

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      4 years ago from Norfolk

      Contratulations on your HOTD. I have quite a collection of vintage lace - many pieces looked beyond redemption but I took the step of using a product called Vanish on them, just added a little of the product in water and soaked them for a few minutes, longer if they were badly stained. I have to say it really worked well and took out even old rust stains and left them smelling nice and looking beautiful. I probably should have gone the more old fashioned route! Nevertheless I enjoyed your hub and would try your method first next time.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      Congratulations on HOTD. I love vintage lace and all things Victorian. Thank you for sharing this important information for those of us who have this taste. Voted up and more!

    • Jeanne Grunert profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeanne Grunert 

      4 years ago from Virginia

      Thank you! Yes, Cyndi, that sounds like a good way to clean them too. I used method #2 above with Woolite to and hung the laces in bright sunlight. They were cleaner, lost the musty smell, but never got bright white. That's okay. I like them antique looking! Thanks for your comment.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 

      4 years ago from Georgia

      This was very useful and easy to follow. I have a lot of crochet pieces from my mother's great aunt. They are all handmade and beautiful. My mother's great aunt would wash the pieces by hand using Ivory Snow which came in flakes. After rinsing, she would starch the piece and then roll it up in a towel to dry. When they were dry, she ironed it and the piece would have these rolls in the fabric that were stiff enough to stand up. They were beautiful. You brought that memory back just reading some of your techniques for restoring lace and other delicate pieces.

      Congrats on Hub of the Day. Voted up.

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 

      4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      I'm glad to learn these techniques. I have a box full of vintage laces and crochet edgings I inherited from my husband's great aunt. Cleaning them was something I had not even tried to tackle, but will definitely attempt now.

      Thanks for sharing;) Pearl

      Voted Up++

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Great advice, I know I have ruined some things years ago and am really very careful now. I like the Oxi clean for really dirty stuff. My mom taught me how to even use bleach on a really bad stain by first soaping the spot, pour bleach from a cap onto this spot them rinse immediately in cold running water. Taking just seconds. Depends on the item and chance you want to take of course. lol But some spots are so bad it is worth the try. ^

    • RTalloni profile image


      4 years ago from the short journey

      A good look at cleaning vintage laces here--thanks! Wow on your lace inheritance!

    • Jeanne Grunert profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeanne Grunert 

      4 years ago from Virginia

      I inherited boxes of antique lace from my husband's family. His great-grandmother was a lace maker from Italy. I too use Woolite, by Oxy Clean works well, too. Sunlight brightens the newly hand-washed laces very well too. Thanks for your comment!

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 

      4 years ago from USA

      This is some really useful information. My mother has collected vintage linens for years and I've just started my own collection. My mother always said that Oxi Clean didn't really work, so I've always used Woolite and cold water to clean my linens. However, I think it really depends on the material and type of mark or stain on the linen. I might try some Oxi Clean on some of my tougher stains :)

      Glad to meet another collector! Thanks for sharing!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)