clothes maintenance

Stains – How To Remove Them From Vintage Clothes

Do yourself a favor, and treat that spot the next minute you notice it on your garment. Here are selected vintage vendors’ tips on how to do it professionally.
Stains – How To Remove Them From Vintage Clothes

“Whether you’re sipping on cocktails or chowing down on a burger, make sure to treat the stain ASAP. Letting the stain soak into the fabric and dry will just make it more difficult to get out later”, knows Allyson Hillerby of Birthday Life Vintage.

Seasoned vintage vendors shared their best tips. Read and learn!

Any stains on vintage garments

Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover is great for removing stains from cotton and synthetic fabrics. I have seen it work on lighter-colored silk but you have to be careful with darker colors. It has a bit of peroxide in it so it can bleach darker fabrics if you leave it on for too long. I put a bit on the stain, rub it in with the tip of the bottle, let it sit for about 20 minutes, and then soak the garment. I’ve found it to be best for food and grease stains and also those random brown spots that seem to be on almost every vintage garment!” – Laura Lanz-Frolio, La Poubelle Vintage

Grease and oil stains

“I’ve had some luck with Dawn dish soap to remove grease stains. I mean, if Dawn is safe enough for birds caught in oil spills, it’s okay for your vintage clothing! The fresher the stain, the better. Rub it into the fabric so it soaks into the fibers, wait about 15 minutes, and handwash. Repeat as needed”. – Allyson Hillerby, Birthday Life Vintage

“A paste of baking soda and Dawn dish soap. Let the paste sit, and repeat if the grease doesn’t come out after washing”. – Lily Greig, Love Charles Vintage

“Dry clean process is made to remove oil. You can choose an eco-friendly dry cleaner, but there’s no home cleaning that will be more effective.” – Julie Bergmans, Fabgabs Vintage

Yellowed armpits and neck

“The best way to remove yellowing in armpits is to make a paste of dish soap, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide and apply to the yellowing. Let the paste sit for a bit, rinse it out, and then let the garment sit out in the sun. This can cause fading to some fabrics, however, so if you are afraid of color fade/bleed, be cautious about using this technique.” – Stephanie Snyder, Blue Fennel Vintage

“I am a fan of using a paste made of crushed aspirin. This is a mild acid, so be aware it could mildly fade colored fabrics or cause prints to bleed. For whites and lights, I recommend hydrogen peroxide and cream of tartar. There’s bleaching properties to both aspirin and tartar – you have to keep an eye on it with colors or prints.” – Julie Bergmans, Fabgabs Vintage

“I love lemon juice for white garments, especially cottons. I use it on most of my Edwardian cotton pieces.” – Julie Bergmans, Fabgabs Vintage

Rust stains

“Lemon juice, salt, and sun. The lemon and salt (or cream of tartar) are equal parts. If for colors, use without sun at first as it can lighten fabrics. Leave for 30 minutes then rinse thoroughly or wash. Apply enough to cover the stain.” – Susana Ash, Selvedge Fine Vintage

Blood stains

“On a fresh bloodstain, just wet it, then pour hydrogen peroxide on it. It is always best to test for colorfastness when using hydrogen peroxide though. Here is how it works: Hydrogen peroxide reacts with iron present in blood which is Fenton reaction. This reaction makes molecules more water soluble. In addition, the pigment present in blood is degraded by hydrogen peroxide, and thus becoming more colourless.” – House of Edgertor

“I use hydrogen peroxide and cream of tartar for older blood stains, mixed as a thick paste. It might take several passes, but it’s highly effective.” – Julie Bergmans, Fabgabs Vintage

Ink stains

“Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover is quite good on ink, too, but even better for ink is S-32 stain treatment.” - Julie Bergmans, Fabgabs Vintage

Stains on suede leather

“Suede is tricky to clean but I've had the best luck with suede eraser-brush kits. The eraser can help scrub off any surface marks or crud that is stuck on, and then the bristles of the brush help smooth out the nap of the suede and disguise the stain. You're literally removing a little layer of the suede so be careful but I have cleaned or at least lightened many suede stains this way.” – Laura Lanz-Frolio, La Poubelle Vintage

Spot removal & delicate fabrics

“I use the no-rinse Eucalan on very delicate handwashing because it is even gentler than Woolite. I rinse it out but it only needs one rinse.” House of Edgertor

“For more delicate items, I evaluate each piece individually before diving into cleaning. Some are so unstable that washing/soaking is not an option. For those pieces that can withstand a wash, I start with soaking a single item in blue dawn or Woolite. My best advice is to keep a close watch and continually check to see the progress of the piece. After the first soak, I remove it from the bath and rinse using cold water. I usually let them drip dry out in the sun on a drying rack. Sunlight can be a miracle worker for stains! I evaluate the piece and if it needs another soak, in it goes until the bath water is clear. If more concentrated attention to stain removal is needed, I work with baking soda/hydrogen peroxide paste for whites and baking soda/vinegar for colors.” – Tracy Grosner, Moving Mamas Vintage

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Stain removal & colorful fabrics

“Shout Color Catchers are a miracle product – if you are washing any colored garment, you should be using them.” - Julie Bergmans, Fabgabs Vintage

Read more:

Vintage Clothing Stain Guide by Vintage Vixen
Care of Vintage – Stain Removal Tips by Denise Brain