About Me

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I'm a communications specialist with a passion for vintage and I run an online vintage business called Vintage Baubles & Bits.

I consider myself a saver of beautiful items from the past and a repurposer of treasures!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Vintage Clothing Picking - The Cleaning Process

The "Before" Picture
Cleaning vintage clothing is a much debated topic. I recently participated in a discussion among other vintage lovers and sellers about the best way to clean vintage items and the tips and tricks they use. After getting my large collection of clothing from the Donnaland warehouse I knew I needed to really clean these pieces. They were in storage for more than 20 years, they were dirty, grimy and smelly... I debated going to a dry cleaner, but figured that would up my costs significantly for the number of pieces I had and since I'm still growing my market base, it wasn't a cost I was comfortable passing along. So I asked around and got some advice and here is my tale! I went this route - but I recommend  you test items yourself and create a process that works well for you.

The Dirty Bath Water Soak Process

Step 1 - Pre-Soak
Many of the items I bought had pretty heavy dirt, so I purposely decided to do a presoak on them. I filled a bathtub with hot water and OxiClean and submerged a large number of items in the tub.

First lesson - Test bright colors for bleeding! The first item I put in the tub was a bright red vintage full-length coat. I just so happened to put several other coats on top of it as I was filling the tub and to my horror - the water started to turn blood red! I quickly removed the leaking culprit, drained the tub, rinsed all the other coats until no more pink came out and then refilled the tub. Same experience two tubs later with a purple jumpsuit, which got a private soaking in the sink.

The "After" Photos
Second lesson - Only soak/wash lingerie with other lingerie. The only color leaking piece I missed was a brown dress with flowers and it was less of a leak and more of a transfer. After finishing up the wash I discovered that several of the pretty slips I had put in the tub had flowers imprinted on them, so I sadly lost those. The rest of the slips, bras, camis, nighties and bustiers all got their own special bath.

Step 2 - Delicate Wash
After soaking in the tub for about an hour or two, I drained the tub, turned on the shower and rinsed all the clothes for about 5-10 minutes. Then I transferred it all to a bin and took it down to the washer. Now, I have a new washer with lots of fancy settings, I would have hesitated to do this in my old washer, just an FYI. My new washer does not have an agitator, so I felt safe to put the items in on delicate, slow spin and with an extra rinse cycle. I saw no damage from the washing and the clothes all smelled tons better. I used regular detergent with stain removal and color safe features and Clorox2 with color shield, as several of the pieces had some staining.
After photo women's coat, blouse and skirt.

After photo - clothes in action!
Step 3 - Delicate, Low-Heat Dry
I put all of the items in the dryer for at least a cycle. This allowed much of the wrinkles to come out and softened fabrics, that hadn't be in a good environment for over 20 years, into wearable clothing. I did however remove the coats and men's sports jackets after one cycle, even though they were still a little damp. I didn't want them to shrink or damage the lining, so I let them air dry for two days in order to make sure they kept their shape.

It's a lot of work, but I think the end results speak for themselves!


  1. I just shopped donnaland on saturday! It was awesome but laundry took a long time! Everything cleaned up pretty well. I just did a blog post yesterday about washing vintage clothes. Its scary to do but once you do it a few times, it gets easier to figure out what works and what doesnt

  2. @Brittany_Va-VoomVintage - Loved your blog! I read your cleaning guide and your Donnaland experience too! Isn't in just amazing?? I can't wait to sell enough to go back again! Would love to meet you sometime, hopefully our paths will cross!


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