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Vintage tablecloths are delicate items from the past and require more careful handling than new textiles.
They prefer hand washing and hanging to dry rather than being dried in the dryer. They should always be well rinsed because
chemicals left in the fibers can cause deterioration.
For stains, I usually use OxyClean. There are some tablecloths
that oxy is not recommended for. These include thinner pure rayon tablecloths and cloths with metallic threads or dyes.
Caution should also be used when using oxy on red print cloths, early 40s overdyed and deeply colored textured cotton. Reds
can run in oxy and textured cotton fabrics can fade excessively. I use a heaping scoop of OxyClean in about 4 inches of water
in the bottom of one of those clear tubs from Target. I start with as hot as possible then turn the water down to warm if I’m
soaking tablecloths with darker colors.
For any kind of soak, keep the cloth in only as long as required. Swish it around to limit any bleeding of
dye and check the cloth frequently. Rinse then wash in a gentle laundry detergent and rinse thoroughly in my front loading
washer to spin out excess water. If the tablecloth is hung when too wet, the weight of the water can stretch it out of shape
and can make the cloth more likely to tear. I fold the tablecloth inside out selvedge to selvedge and hang over a shower bar to dry.
Dye bleeds may be cautiously removed by a short soak in a mild chlorine bleach solution.
Stains can also be lightened by laying the tablecloth wet out on a sunny piece of grass,
known as “crofting”. ;Something to do with the chlorophyll in the grass helps to create a
natural oxygen bleach.
I always iron my tablecloths on the wrong side. I’m not a perfectionist ironer because I always worry that
excessive ironing might stress the fabric. I use a slightly lower temperature for ironing high rayon content
tablecloths. For linen, I spray it with water then fold in half and roll it up. Then I set it aside for a
few minutes to let the water disperse. I don’t recommend ironing folds into the textile because I think that
stresses the fabric.