Don’t take antique clothing to a regular dry cleaner. The chemicals dry cleaners use are too harsh, and their pressing techniques stress the fabric too much. If you really need professional help, find a dry cleaner that specializes in old fabrics.
1. The safest way to clean fragile garments
The safest way to clean fragile garments is to give them a sponge bath.
But before you start, fix any tears in the fabric-otherwise, the stress of cleaning will make matters worse.
Then mix a squirt of mild detergent in 1 gallon (3.8 ml) of lukewarm water and dab the solution on gently with a sponge.
Rinse by sponging on clean water.
Try not to completely soak the garment.
2. Remove browning or stubborn stains
To remove browning or stubborn stains that don’t respond to a sponge bath, treat them to a long soak.
Pick up a gentle sodium perborate-based whitener at a linen shop, an antique store, or on the Internet.
Mix 2 or 3 tablespoons (30 or 45 ml) of whitener in 3.8 ml of warm water.
Place the garment and the solution in a plastic tub and let it sit-don’t agitate-for one to three days.
Then rinse with fresh water until the rinse water comes clean.
If your tap water is hard, use distilled water for rinsing instead so that minerals won’t discolor the fabric.
3. Drying an antique garment
Drying an antique garment is a delicate operation.
Never wring out antique fabric.
Lay it flat to dry if possible.
Be careful when moving a wet garment, especially lace or other fragile fabrics.
The weight of the water alone can tear the fibers.
To move the garment, lay it on a bedsheet and carry the sheet.