Washing vintage lace doesn't have to be intimidating- if you know how to do it right.

How to Clean Vintage Lace

Photo by Disha Sheta from Pexels

As lockdowns all over the world continue in varying degrees, many people take it as an opportunity to dig through mountains of old family heirlooms. Many find different kinds of surprises, but perhaps one of the most common is vintage lace.

But there is always that one thing that gets attached to these beautiful lace: dirt and grime. Decades (or even centuries) of it! Some may even get to the point that it can threaten the fabric’s structural integrity.

Now, you may be facing the dilemma on how to clean your delicate heirlooms. Fortunately, it’s easier than you think. You will find your old laces regain their whiteness, and your ancestors will thank you for taking care of their precious treasures!

Things To Avoid

Some people may advise you to use things such as detergents, vinegar, lemons, and the ever-reliable sun drying. There is only one answer when someone tells you that: NO! While it may give you the instant white that you hope for, it might as well revive your grandmama from the grave. It will degrade the fibres of the lace, as they are no longer as strong as they once was.

It is also important to remember that handwashing is the only option, and that wringing them can threaten to rip apart the lace. Gently swishing and slowly dunking them in cleaning mixtures is the only way to agitate and lift the dirt out of the fabric. No brushes, washers, or dryers allowed in this method!

Heck, That’s A Lot… What CAN We Do?

Now, that’s a good question! The first thing that you should do is look for this cleaning agent: Orvus Paste. Restorators, vintage enthusiasts, and even quilt makers swear by this. If you are living in Singapore, the only reliable online sellers are Amazon Singapore and Qoo10. You may also visit local arts and crafts stores to inquire on its availability.

A large basin is also essential to the process, and so does cold water. Some may advise using hot water, but this is inadvisable on very old pieces. It would also be good to have a mesh washing bag on hand, and white linen towels as well.

The Method

Fill a basin with cold water. For every 4 Litres, place around 1 teaspoon of Orvus, making sure it is well incorporated and bubbly. Gently lower in your lace pieces, or if you think its way too delicate, place it inside the mesh bag. Let it soak up to one hour so that the Orvus can work its way through the lace.

After an hour, gently massage the fabric before carefully throwing out the dirty wash water. Rinse the lace (again, NO WRINGING!) until the water runs clear. At this point, your piece may already be relatively clean, but still not entirely white yet. Do not fret! Dry them using the linen towels that you brought out earlier. Then, soak and dry them as many times as you want to until you are satisfied that they have regained their original whiteness (or something close to it).

Air dry your lace, as sun drying may be damaging to the already delicate structure of the fabric. Store it in a cool, dry place when not in use. This will ensure that the lace will be preserved long enough for future generations to come.

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