Earlier this month I did a post on the many Practical Household Uses for Salt and one of the tips was for brightening yellowed cottons or linens. The timing couldn’t have been better because right after that I purchased a beautiful Battenburg lace tablecloth and 12 matching napkins from the consignment shop in town. (Same day I found my office chair! It was a banner day for thrifting!)
I have always had a “thing” for Battenburg lace. I started collecting it when I was a young girl and my Mom bought me a “Hope Chest”. (Do they even make those anymore?) Anyway………
The lady I purchased it from said she bought it probably 20 years ago while over in Germany, and it had basically sat in a box since then. Of course we all know what that usually means (well maybe not all of us)…the dreaded yellowing! Yellowing occurs on fabrics that are stored improperly and react with the cardboard box or wooden shelves. My tablecloth and napkins were no exception.
Luckily they weren’t too bad…but there were enough yellow stains that I knew I wanted to find a way to restore them to their earlier glory.
One thing you should know from the outset…this process takes time!! This is not going to be fixed with one quick run through the washer, BUT if you have some things you really want to salvage, it’s well worth it! Fortunately I was not in a hurry to get these stains out because Christmas (when I wanted to use them) was still several weeks away.
This is the method/recipe I used:
Put yellowed items in a large pot of water. Add 1/4 cup salt and 1/2 cup baking soda. (Alternatively you can do this same method using an oxygen bleach.)
Bring to a boil and turn off the burner. The secret to cleaning linens is hot water. Allow to soak (with occasional stirring) for as long as needed. It’s not uncommon for it to take 2 to 3 days. Some people recommend changing out the water everyday, but I didn’t. I also re-heated the water a couple of times a day to allow the hot water to do its’ magic!
Continue to check the progress of the stain removal and when satisfied, drain the water and rinse thoroughly! Soap left in your linens will turn brown when ironed and will also eat away at the fibers over time…so rinse, rinse, and then rinse again.
If possible, allow to dry in the sun on a flat surface. Putting them on a clothesline will damage them by stretching them out of shape. Even in winter, with a weak sun, outside drying is recommended because the dryer tends to dull linens.
My tablecloth and napkins took about 72 hours total before the yellow stains were completely gone. But it was worth the wait! They have now been restored to their former brightness and ready to be put to use come Christmas day. :-)