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

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

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

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.

4. Storing a fragile garment

4. 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 (available at quilt shops).

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

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