A couple weeks ago, we chatted about this yellowed and stained piece of linen that I was freshening up and (hopefully) bringing back to white.
Many of you wrote in with some great suggestions for whitening old linens – if you are missed that article and you’re looking for ways to whiten linens, make sure you read the previous article and the comments.
After boiling with cream of tartar, which can be a successful way to remove stains and some types of markings from linen, I plunged into the Buttermilk Adventure detailed in the previous article.
You see, this was an experiment of sorts. I had read about using buttermilk to whiten linens in older books. I just wanted to see how it would work. Curiosity and all…
And guess what? After a 36-hour soak, I conceded that buttermilk doesn’t really work. It made perhaps a mild dent in the yellowing, and it may have lightened the stain a fraction, but not really enough to notice at a glance. So I decided to move on.
I have successfully struck the Buttermilk Soak from my bucket list.
As you can see, though, the linen is back to a decent white, so I’ll tell you how that came about.
And it’s not rocket science, trust me!
After the tasty buttermilk adventure, I moved on to a 24 hour Borax soak. I like Borax for some things.
It helped a little – more than the buttermilk did – but I was not entirely satisfied. And the stain on the back of the linen was still very visible.
By this time, I figured it was time to cut to the quick. I really didn’t want to spend a whole week going through every type of cleaning option.
So I jumped straight to what I knew would work, and that was OxyClean White Revive. I have both types of OxyClean, but since I was going for white, I just grabbed the White Revive.
I sprayed the stain down with OxyClean Max Force stain remover.
There’s still a very very faint shadow of the stain, but it’s nothing near what it was:
I was pretty satisfied with the stain remover. It’s the first time I used it, and it worked well.
I had to sew new lace on, because I really didn’t want to fiddle with washing and pinning out tiny lace trim. It wasn’t worth it!
For the second trim, I selected a piece of hand tatting that I had on hand. The linen used on this project is a natural white, not an optical white, so I didn’t want to use any new, bright-white lace that would, in effect, make the linen look dingy. The tatting is a natural white as well.
Do Your Research!
I’ve got many, many laundry products for working with textiles! From Orvus, to OxiClean, to Vinegar, to Ivory, to Retro Wash & Retro Clean, to Restoration, to Sodium Percarbonate, to Hydrogen Peroxide, to Borax, to Bleach, and so forth – my laundry cabinet looks like a lab.
Since I initially had time to fool around with it, I wanted to give the buttermilk thing a try. So I gave it a Good Chance. It’s not something I’d bother with again.
Before plunging into cleaning any textile, if you have time, do some research on the type of fabric (what’s it made out of? is it a plant-based fiber? protein-based?) and the type of cleaner, and even the type of water you have. Did you know that some detergents don’t work as well in hard water? Did you know that some detergents can permanently adhere to fabrics, when using the wrong kind of water? And some soaps react certain ways to hard water, too, due to the mineral content. Did you know there’s a difference between soap and detergent? These are things that are kind of fun to research, if you like that sort of thing.
But if that type of reading doesn’t float your boat, here’s my tip: at least carefully read the labels on any soap or detergent that you use. Some work better on plant based fibers (like cotton, flax), and are not recommended for protein based fibers (silk, wool). Pay attention to those types of warnings! OxyClean works great on cotton and linen. It’s not recommended for silk.
I love tying up loose ends, and this is another one all tidily tied together. The pall is clean, reassembled, and returned.
There’s still a stack of little (and big) things that I need to catch up on, though. When in situations like this, I pick the smaller projects that I know I can get out of the way quickly, so that they aren’t hanging over my head and so that my time is freed up for tackling larger projects.
Between catching up on a backlog of work and moving forward to keep things going at Needle ‘n Thread, life is very busy!
You’ll find some ready-to-stitch towel sets all prepared and restocked for you in my shop, if you’re looking for some Autumn designs to stitch (try the Autumn Variety set or the Festive Fall set – or both!). There are also a few Holly & Evergreen ready, if you’re working towards Christmas right now.
I’ll be introducing at least one new Christmas design for the ready-to-stitch towels soon, too. The designs on this set are simple and quick, making them great for gifting!
I’ll be restocking Elisabetta’s A Sea to Stitch very soon. (I reviewed it here.) New books are on their way! I’ll email the Advanced Notice list folks first, so if you are eager for a copy, drop me a line and I’ll put you on the list.