Monday, February 3, 2014

Cleaning antique lace

I have a weakness for antique lace. I don't care how dirty or crumpled it is when I find it--if it's a good price, I'm buying it. I've accumulated what to me is "a lot" and I've been thinking for a while now that I need to clean it, but I've been too scared. But recently I bought a bag of antique lace trims at a thrift store for about $5, and most of these laces were in such terrible shape I decided I didn't have much to lose by washing them.

I bought a ziploc bag of something called "Victorian Pre-Soak" from one of my favorite antique vendors. The ingredients are listed as "peroxyhydrate carbonate". The instructions say to dissolve 2-4 tablespoons per gallon in hot water, allowing up to 10 minutes for the stuff to dissolve, and then soaking your items for 6-24 hours.

I started with this crocheted chemise yoke, which I have no idea of the age, but crocheted chemise yokes were popular in Edwardian times, and people haven't been wearing chemises under their dresses in about 100 years. And the condition it was in was, honestly, disgusting.

Here is the before:

I cleaned it with a solution of 2 parts hydrogen peroxide and a few teaspoons of baking soda, and got this:

I thought that was as good as it was going to get, and couldn't believe it when it looked like this after 24 hours soaking in the Victorian pre-soak:

I'm thrilled! I spent days soaking and rinsing and handwashing antique lace, and didn't even think about it. I was completely absorbed in it. It was so gratifying to see these old beauties restored, if not to their original condition, to something very close.

Here is another amazing example of before and after:

And these:

I still have some left to soak, but I just can't wait to try it on everything!

I sort of suspect that it's repackaged Oxy-Clean, but Oxy-Clean is made from something called sodium percarbonate. I am almost out of the Victorian Pre-Soak, so I bought some Oxy-clean to see how it works. Right now I'm soaking a couple of my blouses that have ring around the collar and underarm stains, and a vintage multicolor tablecloth that isn't very precious to me. I hope it works as well as the Victorian Pre-Soak.

I feel invincible now when buying vintage textiles!!


  1. How wonderful! I love it, too. Must be in the genes. I have a suitcase full of 'rescued' lace. Some old, some not so old. Not sure what I will do with it, but it is not languishing at Goodwill!

  2. I definitely think loving old stuff is in the genes! I just love textiles of all kinds, but lace just does me in. I spent $32 on some fabulous antique lace at the City Wide Garage Sale a couple of weekends ago. Totally worth it, really. I'm going to start using it in the clothes I make, now that my craftsmanship has improved so much.

    If you ever decide to part with your lace, can I have it/buy it from you?