How to Clean Vintage Clothing

Have you ever wondered how vintage clothing dealers present such perfect examples of 100 year old clothing? I’ll share a wonderful stain remover recipe with you.

Stain Remover

One Cup of Cascade Dishwashing Powder  and Two Cups of BIZ to Five Gallons of Hot Water. Soak a minimum of three days.

If the textile is strong (like a 1940s tablecloth with no holes) wash in the washing machine. Delicate things without holes are washed using the Delicate Cycle. If there are holes or the fabric is very old like the clothing I’ve been working on and shown below, always wash by hand.

You must test before soaking to see if the color is colorfast. Antique reds are notorious for bleeding on to whatever they are next to when wet.



This dress must have been purchased for a graduation or other special occasion. I love the kick pleat at the bottom with the lace insert.


 How to Remove Old Stains from White Fabric

These beautiful dresses with the handmade lace had stains remaining on the bodice after the stain remover soak. It rarely happens that a stain doesn’t come out and I didn’t want to give up on these dresses. I thought a tiny drop of bleach on the stain might work, but it might damage the thread. I put a mixture of half water and half bleach in an eye dropper, immersed the dress in water with the stain area showing and dropped a drip of the bleach mixture on the stain. I thought, being in the water, the bleach would dispense immediately. And, it worked perfectly with the stain removed and handmade lace undamaged. Successful endeavor!


This is a lady’s morning coat or, as we would call it, a bathrobe. All the lace is handmade. There are 40 crocheted buttons.


 Does anyone know how to do the Toodle?

Four 1920s Beaded Blouses







I also bought the four 1920’s Flapper Blouses with glass beads and that fabulous silk embroidery shown above. These silks are not colorfast and could only be rinsed in cold water – quickly. Because the silk was not colorfast, those with perspiration stains from dancing the Charleston, the Black Bottom and the Toodle were often ruined. They can be redyed now with a special silk dye that covers all the thread evenly. The dye costs between 2.50 – 5.00 a bottle.


When wondering what I could do with several cartons of canning jars, I decided to make up some homemade clothing soap for the shop. It cleans well and is economical. It has sold well.

Homemade Laundry Soap

One Bar of Fels Naptha Soap, grated or pulverized in a blender or food processor, One Cup of Borax and One Cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda. Use Two Tablespoons per Load. I think it does a good job of cleaning and I’ll never go back to commercial laundry soap. A lot of people like the smell and keep the lid off the jar. The washed clothes will have no scent except clean.


Everyone is asking me how my flowers are growing so well on the north side at the entrance to my shop. I’ve had so many people ask to buy this cart or the flowers this summer. The answer to the exuberant blooming is…2 Tablespoons of Miracle Grow in the water every two weeks.


This year, I didn’t pull out the clover that always seems to spring out of the potted soil. I think the clover is a cute addition.


My sister sent me this picture last night to show me how she used old galvanized janitorial buckets on wheels as planters . I think that is a great idea for a home with a rustic, farm, cottage or country setting. Both of my sisters can think outside of the box.


Here is one of Margaret’s design ideas. This is a stone baptismal bowl next to her front door. She walks out to her garden and picks flower heads to place in the water. Now why didn’t we think of that?

I still have many more vintage dresses to mend and wash. I was telling myself that I won’t buy anymore vintage clothing for sometime to come. Then, Saturday morning arrived, and as I opened the doors to the shop, I met a lovely couple who came in with armloads of vintage clothing. The clothing was custom-made for a famous (if you traveled in those circles and I wish I did!) Connecticut American folk art antique dealer, you know, the kind that deals in 100,000.00 increments?  The clothing was swathed in garment bags and is pristine.  Oh, my gosh, you wouldn’t believe the beautiful clothing! I’ll be selling vintage clothing on eBay and Etsy this fall. I hope their sale will pay the heating bill.

I had fun researching the life of the folk art dealer. She was the model for the cover of the June 28, 1947 cover of the Saturday Evening Post. The painting shows  the young antique dealer looking from the porch of her original shop in Connecticut at a brand new car while the older owners of the new car are looking in the window of the antique shop.


 The grass is always greener!