Before buying antique linens, test the piece by gently tugging on it in several places to determine strength of the lace. If there is any sign of weakness leave it behind unless you feel you can restore it. If it is stained are are some useful methods of cleaning:
Most antique and vintage lace can be washed by hand in soapless detergent and lukewarm water., however, old lace should be handled with loving care and cleaning should be avoided if possible. Never wash it in a washing machine, even on the delicate cycle, as threads may break. It is best to wash lace or vintage clothing with lace embellishments in a bathtub, porcelain or stainless steel sink, or a large glass bowl. A good trick for washing a small item is to lace it in a glass jar half filled with a detergent and water solution and shake gently and then rinse.
Lace that is particularly fragile may need to be reinforced before washing. do this by hand basting it carefully onto a clean piece of white cotton or muslin or nylon net.
When washing lace, do not rub soiled spots. Instead, use a clean sponge to press the water through the soiled areas. If the water is dirty after the first washing, repeat the process. When the lace appears to be clean, rinse in lukewarm water until all traces of detergent have been removed. Then follow with a final rinse of distilled water.
-If the piece is yellowed or if there are stains, soak it in a solution of 3 gallons hot water and 1/2 cup of non-chlorine bleach in a non corrosive tub. Soak until the lace whitens or brightens. Rinse until clear.
-Another option for cleaning soiled or yellowed lace is to let is soak for about 10 minutes in undiluted hydrogen peroxide. Rinse.
-If stains persist, apply a thick paste of baking soda and water to stain and leave until the stain disappears. Rinse.
-For grease stains, mix 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup mild laundry detergent, 1 cup warm water and 1 teaspoon liquid or oxygen bleach. Apply to stain and leave on until stain disappears. Rinse.
-For vegetable stains, try fresh lemon juice mixed with salt and lay outside in the sunlight for an hour or two. Rinse with warm water.
-For the real washing cycle, mix 1/2 cup of mild soap in a tub of hot water. Carefully swish the lace in the tub, never rubbing, wringing or twisting. Rinse.
-Rinse by running warm water into one side of the tub, never onto the linen, while draining from the other side. Continue until the water runs clear.
-Pour off the water and lay the linen on a large terry towel while pressing out the water until almost dry. Don't roll, wring or twist. Dry flat on a towel away from direct sunlight or heat. If the item is lace, pin the lace very carefully into shape with rustless pins (the pins go through the open spaces in the lace, not the fiber itself) on a board padded with thick white cloth. Keep the lace pinned in pace until completely dry.
-If necessary, ironing of lace should be gentle and from the wrong side of the piece to avoid flattening the design.
Following these simple techniques can give your antique linens a new lease on life. Dress your house and table proudly!