Saturday, April 7, 2007

Caring for Vintage and Antique Fine Linens

When handling older textiles, take great care because old linen fibers are weaker and prone to damage. The French linens sourced for Le Bourdon are typically tightly woven and of high quality so their durability is exceptional. Hand-washing is the recommended method or using the delicate cycle on a washing machine is also acceptable for large textile pieces. Le Bourdon linens have been washed by hand using the methods described and using Le Blanc Linen Wash and/or
Le Pere Pelletier Marseille French Soap Flakes in Tin

General Stains and Yellowing

Soak the textile in a mixture of Biz and a gentle detergent like Le Blanc Linen Wash. Soak for up to 3 days or until the stain is gone. Dry and brittle fibers benefit from water and from immersion. Replace the water as the the dirt loosens. Rinse thoroughly and place the linens on a towel. Pat the textile to remove as much water as possible (do not squeeze). Roll gently into a dry towel and place them on a flat surface or cover with a white sheet if drying in the outdoor sun (the winter sun is weak but is also a preferred method).


Have a good quality iron and one that is perfectly clean. For the best results, iron when the linens are somewhat damp to make the job easier and the results better. Iron on a clean, smooth surface. Use a large white soft towel if you are ironing embroidery, and place the piece face down, so the embroidery does not get flattened. Use the correct setting, and work slowly from one end to the next. Fold or place item on a hanger, and let it sit until bone-dry (it's not quite dry even after ironing). To enhance the scent of the textile, use scented linen water.

Specific Stains

· Rust ~ Sometimes rust is not actually rust. There are real rust spots of course, caused by metal and water coming in contact with fibers. Humid environments are also very damaging to linens. The other 'rust' is simply a storage problem and usually a gentle soak followed by a treatment with one of our recommended products will be enough, unless your item has already been so damaged by these spots that they degrade even further.

· Yellowing, Brown Smudges and Stains ~ Caused by storage, wood, age, humidity and more. Can be especially noticeable in folds. A good soak followed by one of our recommended products for more stubborn stains.

· Ink ~ Special ink removers are available if a simple soak and spot treatment does not work. Vinegar can be useful as can hairspray. Spot test first.

· Dye Run ~ Pieces where the dye has run are not necessarily ruined. It requires patience and some elbow grease but they can be saved. If the run is recent, Ritt makes an Excess Dye Remover. However it is not appropriate for all pieces, nor will it always work. Rinse thoroughly and use vinegar in the rinse to help neutralize the bleach.

Stain Removal Tips & Tricks

· Briefly soak the stain in a mixture of lemon juice, rinse thoroughly with water and dry in the sun. This process is not appropriate for very old and delicate pieces but especially works well with rust stains. You can do the same with vinegar and both methods work well but require caution.

· An old family recipe for many Europeans is as follows: to whiten yellowed linens, soak them for 48 hours in a solution of ½ cup sea salt per 1 gallon of water. Rinse carefully and then dry in the sun if possible, on a flat surface.

A Few Words of Caution

· Avoid bleach and products with bleach and optical whiteners. They will damage your items more than they will help them. Bleach destroys fibers by weakening them and the damage is not worth the results.

· Do not starch items that will be stored away. Only starch if you are going to use them soon. Starch attracts little bugs known as silverfish. They will feast on it and eat the fabric too!

· Fold items carefully if storing them, and refold often if storing them so that the fold lines don't weaken the fibers. Store in a dark dry closet (remember the sun bleaches). Never allow linens to come into direct contact with wood and make sure they are stored in a dry place. If you can, store them in acid-free materials, rolled up in the paper and in a cardboard box (acid-free). Also, do not store your linens in plastic bins or in anything plastic. Linens and textiles need to breathe.

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