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Cleaning Tips For Preserving Vintage Clothing

Cleaning Tips For Preserving Vintage Clothing

Newly constructed vintage clothing is crafted from high quality textiles and natural fibers that can withstand the test of time. That being said, it makes sense to treat these treasured garments with care to maintain their pristine condition for years to come. To preserve the integrity of your precious vintage textiles for a lifetime of wear and enjoyment, the following tips may be helpful in choosing the most effective and gentle cleaning procedures.


Of course, you are always advised to check the label affixed to your cherished garment for cleaning instructions specific to that particular item. Also, certain fabrics like silks and velvets may have unique cleaning requirements. It's a good idea to check with the manufacturer if you are unsure.


Spot testing on an unseen section of your vintage clothing is definitely recommended before trying out any of the following suggestions. If in doubt, consult an expert!


Step One: Loosen Soil

Before cleaning your vintage clothing item, wash your hands thoroughly. (You may even wish to put on a pair of clean, white gloves.) Lay the garment out on a flat, smooth surface. With your vacuum cleaner on its' lowest setting, use its' brush attachment to gently loosen and remove any debris that is stuck to the fabric. This step might be enough to clean the soiled area, keeping in mind that repeated washing will wear out any fabric over the course of time. If the garment still appears soiled, proceed to the next step.


Step Two: Dry Cleaning

If your vintage garment has elaborate beading, sequins or metallic embroidery, then you will need to have the clothing item professionally dry cleaned. We recommend organic dry cleaning, if it's available in your area. Do not attempt to wash the item yourself. As well, if the clothing item is constructed from two different fabrics or contains wool, velvet or silk, these items must be dry cleaned only. Keep in mind that any fabric CAN be dry cleaned but the chemicals used in traditional dry cleaning will wear on the fibres, so hand washing or organic dry cleaning is preferable, when possible.


Step Three: Hand Washing

If you decide to wash your vintage clothing at home, keep in mind that no matter how durable, no fabric stays like new if it is washed repeatedly. So, it is best to gently hand wash vintage clothing items to preserve their condition. You will need a clean surface to work on and a plastic wash tub. Metal tubs can oxidize and transfer rust onto your vintage garment, so they are not ideal for hand washing purposes.


Fill the tub with lukewarm water. Wrap your garment in nylon and allow it to soak in the water for two or three hours. Remove from the water and lay your clothing item on a clean surface. Empty the tub and refill again with clean, lukewarm water, adding a small amount of the gentlest soap available. Allow the garment to soak for several hours, gently swishing to be sure that all parts of the garment are washed.


The next step is to rinse, taking time to thoroughly remove all soap residue. You can even add a bit of distilled white vinegar to the rinse water to break down any residual soap. With the water running, lay the clothing item out flat in the tub and check that every part has been rinsed. Do NOT wring the water out of the garment. Instead, remove it from the tub and lay it out flat on clean towels and allow to dry.


Step Four: Removing Stains and Odors

If you need to remove a stain or odor from your vintage garment, be very cautious about using any chemical stain removers. Many stains and odours can be removed using natural treatments. Odors and stains can be removed with vinegar and you can lighten vintage garments naturally with lemon juice and the power of sunlight. The best thing to do is test the treatment on a small, discreet area of the garment to make sure that the fabric does not become yellowed or damaged before you proceed to treat a more visible area.




If ever in doubt, you always have the option of taking your garment to a professional garment cleaning service that offers alternative cleaning techniques. If you have an organic dry cleaning service in your area, this is ideal for cleaning your vintage clothing. However, the above tips may be helpful if you wish to wash and maintain your vintage garments at home.


Also, once properly cleaned, be sure to store your treasured garment properly so you do not have to go through this process again. Heirloom preservation bags are ideal for this purpose.



The following cleaning instructions have been provided by Lulla Smith and are specific to fabrics and textiles used in their high-end, couture luxury items:

Dupioni Silk and Silk Velvets:

  • Dry Clean Only / Spot Clean

Laundered Linen, Swiss Cotton Batiste, Seersuckers, Voiles, Egyptian Cottons, Baby Cord:

  • Machine Wash Cold-Gentle Cycle

  • Line Dry

  • Steam Press on Cotton Setting

Lulla Smith recommends organically dry cleaning. If organic dry cleaners are not available in your area, then it is recommended that you dry clean each piece and allow the item to air out, outside.

For more information on the fine fabrics used to construct Lulla Smith's couture vintage luxury baby items, please see Stylish Vintage Baby's article:

A Quick Guide to Lulla Smith Fabrics

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