How to Wash Vintage Clothes
Vintage clothes represent a piece of history. They have lasted through years, and if you are lucky enough to come across one that is still in mint condition, then you need to take care of it accordingly. And unlike modern clothing that you can just throw in the washing machine, vintage clothing may not always be that way.
Depending on the age of the piece, the fabric may be fragile – so, the cleaning strength of the washing machine may be too much for the piece to handle. Plus, one may have to remember that washing machines – if they even existed when the piece was created – were not that strong. As a result, many of those clothes were created under the assumption that hand washing would be used.
With all this in mind, if you do come across vintage clothing, how do you even wash it without damaging it? Are there any special steps that you need to take? For the most part, here are the basics of how vintage clothes should be washed.
Washing Vintage Clothes by Machine
Not every piece of vintage clothing may be washed using the washing machine – but some of them can. Usually, clothes that can be cleaned in the washing machine will have a label with the instructions. If you are not sure, don’t throw it in the washing machine.
If the instructions say that you can, you should separate the light and dark colors to prevent bleeding. For the most part, clothing made from cotton, polyester, linen, and synthetic materials can be washed in the washing machine. Make sure that you first fasten the buttons and close the zippers of the piece, so that they won’t snag onto one another.
Washing Vintage Clothing by Hand
If the label does not say anything about washing machines or even recommends against it, then you should wash the piece by hand. Typically, this includes silk, rayon, or cotton/linen with ornate embroidery or detailing.
Make sure that the container you are washing it in is clean before you start. Use hot water to dissolve the detergent, and once it’s done, add some cold water until it becomes lukewarm.
Add the piece into the water and gently push and pull the garment through it. Don’t rub, squeeze or treat it too harshly, as you may damage or severely wrinkle the piece. When lifting the garment from the water, use the entire weight of it – not just an arm or a leg. This will prevent unnecessary stretching of the item.
Tips for Washing Vintage Clothes
When washing vintage clothes, special care needs to be given. Here are some tips to ensure that the clothes are not compromised.
Use Gentle Detergents
Nowadays, the average detergents are mainly catered toward new pieces of clothing, made from strong materials. The purpose is to provide a deep clean and remove the stains as fast as possible. Still, this kind of detergent can be harsh on vintage fabrics. This is why you should use a milder detergent that was made with delicate or vintage fabric in mind.
Close Zippers and Buttons
Zippers and buttons can often get snagged in the fabric, causing tears and damaging it. Whether you are washing the items by hand or you’re using the washing machine, you should still close the zippers. In case you are washing it by machine, you may want to place it nicely and folded as well. This will prevent unnecessary tugging, which can lead to tears.
Use Cold Water
Hot water may not only cause the already weakened fabric to deteriorate faster, but it can also cause the colors to bleed. Colored vintage clothing, for example, may not have the same technology to lock the colors in as quality clothes do today. As a result, deep-colored vintage pieces may end up bleeding. Cool water locks the color in, which is why it should be used to wash the clothing.
Don’t Agitate Clothing
When washing the clothes, make sure you don’t agitate them too much. You may feel like you need to push and pull at them more to pull the dirt out, but this can significantly damage the material. Instead, use a “pat and knead” technique, especially if the clothing was made from delicate material.
The Bottom Line
Some clothes may be washed by machine, others may not. So, it’s important that you wash them based on the instructions. However, remember that those clothes are past their days of youth, so you may want to be gentle with them. Now if you need to remove the stains from your vintage clothing, here is the perfect homemade recipe.
Vintage Clothing Stain Remover
A homemade easy to prepare recipe for pretreating your vintage clothing for stains. Learn how to make this mixture of just 3 ingredients so that you can restore life back into your most cherished T-Shirts, hoodies, and sweats!
Buying Vintage Clothes? Beware of the Stains
If you’ve ever bought clothing at a thrift store or just second hand in general off of a site like Poshmark, Mercari, or Depop, then you’ve probably run into a few stubborn stains. You’ll know, it’s normal for vintage clothes to come with some stains, and that removing the stains can be a tough task. But it’s always worth a try to at least make the clothes feel a little more like new.
After years of experience constantly treating clothes for our own personal use and for reselling on various marketplaces, we’ve developed a homemade recipe that works great for stubborn stains on vintage t-shirts.
An Alternative to the Expensive Commercial Options
You’ve probably tried the other options on the market. You’ve got various stain treaters like OxiClean, Shout, Spray n Wash. Whatever you have in your laundry arsenal. But to be honest these cleaners work, but can be very harsh. If you get them on your hands or your eyes (oh no), but also they can be irritative when you put on the clothing the next time. These products can be very unpleasant to deal with.
The truth is a lot of these cleaners can be replicated by using a few simple ingredients
We’ve created this recipe to help you clean up vintage clothing – refresh it – bring it back to life – so that you can shop in a more sustainable way.
But, this doesn’t just apply to vintage clothing. If you get a stain on a newer item, you can use this recipe to fight the stain.
Some benefits to making your own cleaner are that you know exactly what is going on your clothes and then by extension what will be touching your body. By using simple ingredients like Dawn, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda, you will be very satisfied with how simple and gentle these cleaning ingredients are.
How to Make the Stain Remover
- Take 1 part (2 ounces) of your Dawn dishwashing liquid and at it to the spray bottle.
- Take two parts (4 ounces) of hydrogen peroxide and pour it into the spray bottle.
- Take 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda and at it to the spray bottle.
- Close the spray bottle and stir or shake it for 15-20 seconds.
Pro tip: If you’re using a spray bottle definitely use some sort of funnel so that you don’t make a big mess.
Now we have our home made cleaner We can spray it on or pour directly onto the stain.
Simply throw the treated garment into the washing machine just like any other piece of clothing.
For more complicated stains, you might need a bit of elbow grease to assist you. You can use an old toothbrush or nail brush something that isn’t too rough that won’t damage the fabric. Spray the mixture on and gently scrub in the homemade stain remover in circular motions.
For The really really large stains, you might just want to soak it in a container / bucket in a diluted solution that is mostly hot water.
If You’re having trouble removing the stain after one cycle of applying the stain remover, scrubbing and washing, then you might want to try to repeat the process again or a couple more times
You must always do a spot test of the stain remover on the garment on a really small area that’s not very visible. Somewhere like under the armpits would be good for a t-shirt. You don’t want to make the shirt even worse by trying to make it better
Always launder the item after applying the stain remover. Generally, it’s not best to let your vintage clothing sit in hydrogen peroxide for a super long time because it may have a bleaching effect. Try to limit the amount of time you’re soaking the garment for and always make sure to wash it using a washing machine and then hang dry / tumble dry.
Thanks for reading and happy treasure hunting!