Fashion from yesteryear was made to last, but as garments get older the fibres begin to weaken and many modern-day washing techniques and products can cause damage. By following these gentle maintenance techniques using traditional products, you can preserve your favourite vintage items and enjoy wearing them for years to come!
Vintage items can have a musty smell due to long periods of storage, but this can be removed naturally and safely. Simply fill a bath tub 10cm deep with very hot water, and add 500ml White Vinegar, then hang the item above the bath as close to the water as possible without touching it. The White Vinegar steam will naturally deodorise the musty odour, and will also help any creases to drop out!
Make sure any repairs are made to the garment before washing, as the agitation from washing can worsen any pre-existing damage.
Some washing machines have a delicate or handwashg setting which may be suitable for garments, but if you want to be as gentle as possible, hand wash delicate items.
Steer clear of modern laundry detergents as harsh chemicals can damage the fibres. Using a product like Liquid Soap Flakes is ideal because they are simply pure soap with no fragrances, bleach, optical brighteners or detergents, in fact many of the vintage garments around today were probably originally washed in the original Soap Flakes! We now produce Liquid Soap Flakes which offer the same gentle cleaning power but in an easy to use liquid form. Add 1-2 capfuls of Liquid Soap Flakes to a large bowl or bathtub of warm water, press the garment into the water and gentle push and squeeze the soap suds through the fibres. Never vigorously rub or twist the garment as this may cause damage. Repeat the technique in clean water as many times a necessary to completely remove all the suds, or rinse the item using the shower head.
Heat is the main cause of damage for many older garments, so avoid tumble drying at all costs! Leave items to dry naturally laid flat on a drying rack or mesh, as drying on hangers can pull the fabric and misshape the garment.
If the garment needs ironing, take extra care. Use the lowest setting to start, and slowly increase the heat until the creases are removed. Some fabrics like velvet should never be ironed, so do your research before grabbing the iron!
Steaming garments is a preferable alternative as it doesn’t involve direct contact with heat. If you don’t have access to a professional steamer, try hanging the garment in the bathroom when you have a shower.
Storing delicate garments carefully is important to ensure they are kept free from harm. Always fold delicate garments rather than hanging, as it can stretch and cause stress to the fibres. Another no-no is using plastic to store items as it can damage fabric by trapping in moisture as well as affecting plastic buttons and embellishments. Wrapping the garment in acid-free paper is the best alternative.
Following our top maintenance tips will keep your prized vintage items looking great for longer!
What’s your favourite piece of vintage clothing?