How to Restore Antique Linens and Garments

Family heirlooms such as tablecloths or even antique garments (wedding dress for example) handed down from family member to family member often yellows from age and use over the years.

Many things in the atmosphere will cause yellowing. Gases in the air will cause what is referred to as Fume Fading. Items stored for a long period of time in plastic will yellow from the gases emitted from the plastic as well as the air trapped in that plastic turning in to an acid state.

Stains not remove prior to storage will age, and we are not just talking about visible stains, we are talking about all stains. Champagne, lemon lime soda, salad oil, and oily hands are a few stains that don’t leave a visible mark, but will cause substantial damage over time.

Improperly cleaned items are disastrous. Foreign matter left on the material such as detergent, re-deposition from dirt or other foreign matter that was not thoroughly rinsed out during the wash will age and oxidize due to heat and moisture while stored.

This technique will work on most material such as cotton, silk, linen, acetate and rayon. I would not attempt this on wools, cashmere, angora and camel hair.

Always test the item for colorfastness before attempting any type of restoration or stain remove on any material.

For the best results apply as much heat as possible without causing damage. The most likely damage will be shrinkage, for a cotton tablecloth shrinkage will not be a issue but for a silk wedding dress heat will cause enormous damage.

Something extremely important to consideration is that antique items are often weaken from the oxidization and age. Any type of restoration can be damage item.


  1. Start by gently re-cleaning the item with a mild detergent to remover what ever is removable.
  2. Soak the item in a bucket with 4 oz of a non-chlorine bleach detergent (Clorox 2, Tide with bleach) per 1 gallon of water for several hours or overnight. Keep the item submerged at all times by adding something heavy on top such as a bucket of the same size or a little smaller. Then rewash and examine. Do not put into the dryer.
  3. Depending on the result will determine if you should repeat step 2 or continue with a different product. If step 2 showed movement in the stain then repeat again, if step 2 had no results then continue to the next step. Remember to always use as mild of a product as possible to reduce the chances of damage.
  4. Continuing on to the next step, use the same technique as in step 2 with 1 oz of non-chlorine bleach detergent and 4 oz of OxiClean per 1 gallon of water. Same as in step 2, soak for several hour or overnight. Rewash and examine. Repeat this step again if you see signs of improvement. Do not put into the dryer.
  5. If needed use the same technique as step 2 with a completely different solution. In this step we are going to use Hydrogen Peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide you buy at the pharmacy is a 3% concentration which will be perfect for soaking. Use enough hydrogen peroxide to cover the entire garment and keep it submerged as in step 2. Rewash and examine.

Use these steps with care on valued heirloom items as it may cause damage to weaken material or colors. Seek professional help if unsure about any of the steps or onĀ  irreplaceable items.


Pacific Heights Cleaners in San Francisco and Sausalito is

your non-toxic alternative, proudly leading the way in garment

care today-and into a healthy future.

Karl Huie

Pacific Heights Cleaners

San Francisco, Sausalito

The First Dry Cleaners to be Certified Green By San Francisco Environment and

The Bay Area Green Business Program Marin County.

Other Articles of Interest:

Techniques Used For Stain Removal And Cleaning.

Stain Removal Products and Tips

What water temperature do I use for washing clothes? Hot-Cold or Warm?

How to remove ink stains

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