A dear friend gave me some incredible old treasures: an old slip with a lovely flounce; an ancient dress and blouse remnants with amazing pieces of trim left; loads of fancy ribbons; antique cotton and handmade lace pillow covers in white; scraps & pieces of fabric in cotton, linen, and upholstery; and some cotton convas plain totes.
Stains on some things and lots of musty old odor permeating everything deeply. In addition, some pieces are so fragile from age that only a soak and gentle washing by hand was appropriate. The challenge? How to get all the pretties happy, clean and fresh-smelling.
Wet fabric, linens, lace and trim drying on my porch.
As the smell made much of this lovely stuff unusable if the odor remained, I wasn't too worried about being a little rough and damaging it. But I wanted to preserve as much as possible. Here are the steps I took:
1) Pre-soak: I filled a tub with luke warm water about 6 inches deep, adding a gentle dish liquid and agitating the water to make suds. I then unfolded and shook out all pieces and added them to the water. A gentle swish to get everything submerged, and I left to soak for approximately 2 hours. After the soak, I rinsed in warm running water and squeezed gingerly to remove excess.
Results? I was amazed at the dirt these pieces had collected over time! The water was like a dark tea when I returned, and the rinsing water was brown and grey. There was debris and dirt left behind in the water. So, everything was cleaner, BUT the mildewy-musty-old smell was very strong still.
2) Vinegar Bath: I moved this step to the basement (where my washing machine lives) to avoid stinking up my apartment with vinegar fumes! I took the wet pieces to the washing machine, where I had filled the washer for a small load using warm water and added 1 cup of vinegar. I submerged everything. taking care to open up folded pieces, and used my hand to agitate the water. I left to soak overnight. The next day, I removed the bundle to the laundry sink for a rinse in warm running water and a squeeze.
Results? I was super surprised at how just 1 cup of white vinegar seemingly removed the mildew and must odors! I didn't get excited yet, though, as one soak remained to ensure the things were smell-free for good! A tiny bit of some odor remained, but a just plain "old" smell rather than mildew.
3) Final Soak: I refilled the washer for a small load, adding warm water again along with a cap full of natural liquid laundry soap. I made suds with my hands, and added the linens and lace and fabric, swishing and submerging. I left to soak for 3 hours. I then rinsed well, squeezed out excess wettage, and set aside.
I decided to chance tossing the fabrics in the dryer on permanent press for 20-30 minutes, as it all seemed pretty sturdy. The rest of the pieces I hung to air dry on my back porch railing.
The results? DAISIES! Seriously, in most pieces not a lick of musty odor remains, and some have a tiny tinge of "old" smell, although nothing unpleasant. Some stuff even smells like detergent (I use very a mild-scented one). SUCCESS! No pieces lost or destroyed. Lots of beautiful lovelies to inspire and be made into crafty accessories!