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Linen Stain Removal

Updated on August 22, 2014

How to Remove Stains on Vintage and Antique Linens

If you like vintage linens, you probably have a box or even a shelf full of items inherited from your family or found over the years.--many of them too pretty or sentimental to throw away, yet too stained to use!

My crocheted collar, shown here, was a good example: It was still intact but so ugly and stained that I couldn't possibly use it for anything. In this lens I'll show you how I restored it to pristine white, and now I'm looking forward to recycling it in a new project.

I know you care about your old linens, or you wouldn't be keeping them. So, I am going to tell you the right way to bring these treasures back to life. You will see a lot of really BAD advice out there: "bleach them in diluted regular bleach; no, use oxygen bleach; wait -- you should use powdered dishwashing detergent, or maybe peroxide, or lemon juice; it's OK to wash them on the gentle cycle in your washing machine; just hang them in the sun." All well-meaning advice from people with good intentions, but wrong, Wrong, WRONG!

Basically you want to avoid doing anything that will even slightly weaken the delicate fibers in antique linens. All of the remedies above will damage them, even the sun. (Look at old drapery linings. They're usually in tatters.) True, those stains may have come out but imperceptible damage will grow worse over time. One by one the weakened fibers will break, and then one day you'll discover a hole that ruins the piece. It's important to use a method and a product that won't harm the fibers.

All Content and Photos on this page Shelley H. Stewart

New Product, Time-tested Formula - Safe to use on treasured family heirlooms

Mama's Miracle Linen Soak
Mama's Miracle Linen Soak

I was lucky to have a mother who collected lace and appreciated beautiful things. Through trial and error she developed a formula that removed stains and kept her linens in pristine condition. I have packaged the same formula that my mother created, and I now sell it under the name Mama's Miracle Linen Soak.

That's the important part-- the soaking. Heat some water, mix in the product, and SOAK your precious linens. It may take only an hour or it may take a couple of days if stains are severe. If you're patient and let time do the work, you can remove stains without damaging the lovely piece you're trying to save. Doesn't that make more sense? Yes!

Mama's Miracle Linen Soak is gentle, unscented, and will not harm the fragile fibers in vintage or antique linens. It removes yellow stains and brown discoloration, dingy gray residue, and tiny spots of oxidation that come from age or poor storage conditions. Best of all, it safely restores linens to their original whiteness. I'll tell you how to use it.

Buy the Product on Amazon - It Comes in Two Sizes

Mama's Miracle Linen Soak is sold on Amazon.com. You can feel confident that the product really works, that it will be shipped promptly, and that your transaction is secure.

Mama's Miracle Linen Soak 16 Oz. (Enough for approx. 50 batches) (16 Oz.)
Mama's Miracle Linen Soak 16 Oz. (Enough for approx. 50 batches) (16 Oz.)

This is the size to buy if you have a lot of pieces to bleach, or if you have several large pieces that will require a lot of the solution to cover them.

 
Mama's Miracle Linen Soak 5 Oz. (Enough for approx. 12 batches) (5 Oz.)
Mama's Miracle Linen Soak 5 Oz. (Enough for approx. 12 batches) (5 Oz.)

Buy the smaller size if you have only a few pieces to bleach or if you wish to try the product with the least out-of-pocket expense.

 
Soaking Stained Lace
Soaking Stained Lace

Mama's Miracle Linen Soak Takes Out Stains

Mix the Solution & Soak

This process is safe for any water-washable fabric. Heat activates Mama's Miracle Linen Soak, which is why you start by boiling the water. The general rule is to use 1 Tbsp. of Mama’s Miracle Linen Soak for every 2 quarts of boiling water but adding a little more will not hurt.

Sometimes I even re-use the same solution to whiten a second batch of linens, heating it again and perhaps adding a little more of the powder to it. Do not store the mixed solution for more than a few days because it gradually loses strength.

You may be surprised to see how many linens you can restore at one time. The solution should be deep enough to cover them. Do not pack them in the pot too tightly, but do keep them submerged. It is hard to say how long the stain-removal process takes because every stain is different. Just try to be patient!

Cool the mixed solution before soaking items made of wool to avoid shrinking them. Old silk is extremely fragile; be especially careful when handling it. Do not try to remove stains from badly frayed fabric; any handling will only damage the fabric more.

Boil water to dissolve Mama's Miracle Linen Soak
Boil water to dissolve Mama's Miracle Linen Soak

How to Mix Mama's Miracle Linen Soak

Boil Water, Dissolve Powder

Select a large enough container for the linens, and measure enough water to fill it about 2/3 full. Bring the water to a boil and turn off the heat. Measure and add approximately 1 Tablespoon of Mama's Miracle Linen Soak for each 2 quarts of water, mixing it thoroughly until dissolved. Cool the water a little (or completely, for wool items) and add the stained linens. Stir very gently with a long-handled spoon. (I have used both metal and wooden spoons, but the spoon needs to have a long handle.)

I make sure that linens stay submerged by placing a heavy plate on top. Remove the plate occasionally to gently stir the linens, check to see if the stains are gone, and if they are not, then continue soaking.

Soak in Mama's Miracle Linen Soak as long as it takes to remove stains.
Soak in Mama's Miracle Linen Soak as long as it takes to remove stains.

Soak Your Linens

How Long? Just Keep Checking!

This is where patience becomes a virtue! Old stains are usually a mystery; just soak them until they come out, however long it takes. I have had pieces that look unblemished after an hour but others took up to two days. If your water becomes extremely discolored during the first hour, you may want to drain it and start the process over with a fresh solution, but it's not usually necessary.

Note: Mama's Miracle Linen Soak is formulated to remove organic stains such as food and discolorations caused by age. It works extremely well on set-in stains too. It is NOT designed to remove RUST stains caused by actual contact with metal (such as old sewing pins). Anytime that deep reddish stains remain after soaking your item for a day or so, you should suspect that they are rust. To remove actual rust, sprinkle the spot heavily with table salt and squeeze the juice of a lemon on it. Then place the item in bright sun until the juice is completely dry. The rust stain should be gone.

Amazon Sells Utensils to Use with Mama's Miracle Linen Soak - You'll Need a Large Pot & Long-handle Spoon

Select a Pot: The ideal pot for most items will be either enamel-coated or made of stainless steel, wide and deep, holding at least 10 quarts. I prefer one that has a well-fitting lid. I have also used small pots for bleaching only one or two items, but they fill up fast. Whichever pot you use, you'll need to clean it thoroughly, preferably in the dishwasher, before using it again for cooking food.

Select a Spoon: I have used stainless steel, wooden, or bamboo spoons, and it really doesn't matter. Make sure that the spoon has no sharp or splintery edges that might catch the fibers of your textiles. It should also have a very long handle so you can reach to the bottom of the pot.

Finished with Stain Removal? - Look at the Difference!

Mama's Miracle Linen Soak works miracles on stains!
Mama's Miracle Linen Soak works miracles on stains!

When stains are gone, remove the linens from the solution and place them in a sink of clear water. Swish them around very gently in several changes of water to remove all traces of Mama's Miracle Linen Soak. Blot them with a thick towel but do NOT wring, and dry flat if possible. If ironing is needed, place slightly damp linens facedown on a clean towel and press with a dry iron set on cotton. They should look as white as they were when they were new. Compare the Before (stained) collar on the left with the After-being-soaked collar on the right. After soaking, it was so white that I had to change the background from a white sheet to colored fabric so you could see it!

Buy Vintage Linens on ebay - They always have a great selection!

I often search for linens on ebay, where they are listed in various categories. You can simply look up vintage linens, antique linens, or old linens. Or, you can get more specific and look under categories such as crochet doily, lace tablecloth, or embroidered pillowcases under either Antiques (for items made prior 1930) or Collectibles (made after 1930 but still old). Just use some combination of vintage or antique with whatever you're trying to find and see what pops up!

Read A Personal Review of Mama's Miracle:

Here is a testimonial from a believer in Mama's Miracle written by Mickie_G right here on Squidoo. Go visit Rescue Stained Vintage Linens to see how she used my mother's product to save some of her own precious family linens.

Other Sites Featuring Vintage Linens - You Can Learn a Lot by Visiting!

Now that you know how to remove stains, it's time to start using your own vintage linens to beautify your home. Get inspiration galore from these sites, which showcase creative ideas.

Tell us how this worked for you - and show us your own linens -- Before & After!

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    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 3 years ago from Missouri

      I need to order some of this. I like to purchase vintage and antique linens and doilies, and they usually need some age stains removed.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Wow, that's an amazing demonstration!

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 3 years ago

      I am trying this linen soak product this week and will be writing my own review very soon. I will say that so far the linens look so white. The beauty of Mama's Miracle Linen Soak is that it preserves all the charm of vintage linens without harming them.