So as we all know, vintage clothing doesnt always fall into our hands in perfect condition. Many times, clothing smells, has stains, is dusty or needs seamstress work. About 25% of the pieces I sell, come into my shop needing some sort of work. Sometimes they are sold "As-Is" and sometimes I am able to work some magic - well, I cant take all of the credit - I have a great seamstress, Erin Abraham who works so many of the pieces into perfection. I also give credit to a few of my "Magic Potions" I have made up throughout my vintage collecting/selling. So now, I will share them with you. Here are the staple ingredients:
Fels Naptha Soap
Bleach (chlorine free)
Now - youre probably wondering - Bleach?! Yep. It works, in very small doses though. Much of the clothing I get is cotton - and can tolerate a bit of bleach - it helps greatly to get dingy colors to POP!
So here is what I do:
I make a paste out of the Borax, with warm water. The consistency should be similar to toothpaste - but obviously not as smooth because of the crystals in the powder. This can be applied directly to stains. But most often, I just add the powder to my wash tub. It gives whatever detergent Im using a huge BOOST. Most often, I use the Fels Naptha soap to treat spots. Whats great about the soap, is that you can melt it down into a gel of sorts, and use it that way, instead of using that huge bar. To melt it, just have it sit in a tupperware with warm water in it for a few days. It will slowly disintegrate into a blob and will not look very attractive. I have a cup of it in the shop, and a friend of mine asked me if I threw up in the cop - HA!
Here is what it looks like melted down:
Now, all you have to do is dip a cotton swab into the gel, and spot treat. Just make sure to wet the fabric first. I put a clean washcloth (white) under the stain, wet it with a cotton swab, then clean with the swab that has the gel on it. Be careful though, lighter colors are prone to water marks because the rest of the garment may have some dirt in it - and when you wet it, a ring of dirt MAY appear. This would then require you to either hand wash or dry clean the entire garment. Water spots/rings are hard to make go away - but to be honest, if they appear, it means the garment would need to be cleaned entirely anyway.
Today, I had a white cotton 1950s shirtwaist dress that I brought home from the shop. It was stained very badly along the skirt, with a dark yellow stain - about the size of the palm of my hand. I first tried hand washing it in a tub with warm water, Borax and spot treating with Fels Naptha gel. It got lighter, but not to my liking. So then I rinsed the tub out of all the yucky water and refilled it with warm water, Borax, Woolite and a few tablespoons of bleach. I let it sit for about a half an hour - but thats it. Dont let vintage clothing sit TOO long in anything with bleach it it - as the bleach is a harsh chemical that loves to disintegrate delicate threads. After it sat, I rinsed it several times to make sure that all of the soap was out. Rinsing is key, as residues often stick to the clothing. And much to my surprise - the stain is GONE! Here is a photo of the dress drying - photos of it in it's entirety will come later this week.
Im actually very proud of my stain removals, Ive gotten a few wedding dresses PERFECT, as well as many, many other pieces that would have been thrown in the trash but I was able to give them my "vintage CPR" with my "Magic Potions"
Feel free to ask me any questions - as there are so many details in regards to fabrics, older pieces, etc - that all cannot be discussed at once!