Got a cherished hand-me-down or op shop find you need to get up to scratch?

We’ve outline the rules of the game when it comes to cleaning antique clothing.

The safest way to clean fragile garments

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 4 litres of water and dab the solution on gently with a sponge.

Rinse by sponging on clean water.

Try not to get the garment sopping wet.

Remove browning or stubborn stains

Remove browning or stubborn stains

To remove browning or stubborn stains that don’t respond to a sponge bath, treat them by soaking in a dilute solution of hydrogen peroxide until the stain disappears.

You can also dissolve 2 teaspoons of borax in 1.5 litres of hot water, and soak the garment in the solution until clean.

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 discolour the fabric.

Drying an antique garment

Drying an antique garment

Drying an antique garment is a delicate operation: never wring antique fabric. Lay it flat to dry if at all possible.

Be careful when moving a wet garment, especially lace or other fragile fabrics.

Just the weight of the water can tear the fibres.

To move the garment, lay it on a bedsheet and carry the sheet.

Storing a fragile garment

Storing a fragile garment

Storing a fragile garment also requires special care.

Don’t starch an antique garment before storing it. Starch attracts insects and stresses the fabric along folds.

If possible, store the garment spread out flat.

If space doesn’t permit flat storage, roll it up.

Rolling the garment around an object isn’t necessary, but if you use wood or a cardboard tube, beware – they could brown the fabric.

Protect the cloth from any such material (wood drawers and cardboard boxes, for example) with sheets of acid-free tissue paper (available from specialist paper shops, scrapbooking suppliers, bridal drycleaners and specialist suppliers of library or conservation materials).

Don’t store your garment in a plastic bag – it needs to breathe.

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