Keeping white linens white can be a challenge, so these tips should help you keeping them looking and feeling their best.
I often mix whites on the bed, combining newer white sheets with vintage pillowcases. Vintage linens need a bit of extra laundering care, but they're well worth it! There's just nothing like the feeling of soft old cotton and they just add a special charm that I love.
- Wash in WARM WATER, not hot. Hot water can break down the cloth fibers which can keep them from staying white.
- Don't use bleach, which will eventually end up causing yellowing.
- Oxyclean or another oxygen based cleaner is recommended.
- Try adding 1/2 cup of white vinegar to your washer; vinegar both softens and whitens. Don't worry, your sheets will not smell like vinegar.
- For tough stains I've spot soaked with hydrogen peroxide with success on most items.
- If you love vintage linens like I do, the best way to store them is folded in an old pillowcase and put them in a well ventilated closet as this allows the fabric to breathe. Add a lavender sachet which not only gives your linens an old fashioned scent, it repels bugs too.
If all else fails, you can tea stain the item.
Tea staining came about as a solution to salvaging linens that couldn't be brought back to white or to cover stains on the fabric. Tea is just a natural way to dye the item, and different types of tea will result in different colors. For a traditional beige color stain then use a black tea. This will bring a cozy antique look to the item and still looks great when combined with pure white bedding or when used with beiges. Here's the simple general recipe
- Wash the item first and make sure it is well rinsed. Don't dry it as you want the item wet before staining.
- Figure 4 cups of water and 4 tea bags per yard of fabric being dyed
- Bring the water to boil, remove from heat, add tea and let it set for 5 minutes or so, or until the desired color is reached
- Remote the tea bags
- Put the item in the tea water and let soak for 10 minutes or so. Your item will be lighter when it dries than it appears when it's wet
- Rinse the item well in warm water then hand wash it with a mild dish soap. Leaving the tea in the fabric without washing it can damage the fabric
- Hang to dry
- Ideally you should then soak the item in a gallon of cold water with a tablespoon of vinegar to preserve the color. Then rinse well and hang to dry again.