Secrets of Snow-white Linens

Antique French lace monogram napkin



Freshen up for your decor with Linens.  Antique and Vintage Linens can bring that clean, fresh look to your home.  Though a staple in country kitchens long ago, linen towels and napkins are finding new life lately as curtains, slipcovers and pillow covers in every room of our homes.  Many of the antique tablecloths we sell are being used as bedcovers, duvet covers, shams and dust ruffles, as their beauty is unsurpassed. {some, of course, still grace the table at Sunday dinners}  Here are a few of my best tips to restore your antique linens to their former glorious condition and color, the Secrets of Snow-white Linens






Of all the emails I get about Linens, most have a question or two about how to care for antique linens, and how to get stains out.  While antique linens are sturdy, some care does need to be taken to preserve their sturdiness for the next decades.




antique French monogrammed linens




1.  To Remove Stains.

Pour Lemon Juice through wet Linen and sprinkle with salt all over, then place in the sun for several hours.  I suggest you lay your linen on the grass, being careful that there is nothing underneath that will stain the linen.  This was common practice long ago, housewives laid out their washing in a field to dry and “bleach” in the sun.  Rinse, and rinse again. Be sure to remove all traces of the lemon and salt.  Hang to dry on a clothesline, or if the weather is warm, simply lay your linen back on your grass to dry as the chlorophyll in the grass will act as a natural brightner


2.  Remove stubborn set in stains by soaking.

If there are stubborn stains, you can soak them out in a bucket of tepid water and a non-chlorine whitener or stain remover.  I use a mixture of water and Dreft. In cases where I feel the fibers can withstand it, I use Oxy Clean or Biz. This is not really recommended by antique textile experts, but sometimes it’s what I use to save a piece for my own use. Do not use bleach. The antique fibers just aren’t able to withstand bleach, you will do more harm than help. Often bleach makes holes where spots used to be. No matter how you soak, be sure to rinse, rinse, and rinse again. Better to rinse too much than not enough!  For sturdy fabrics you can pre-soak in your washing machine, then wash with mild laundry soap.  I use two rinse cycles then, but this is truly only for sturdier linens, not laces or the finer fabrics.


3.  Iron your Linens.

To see how to iron your antique and vintage linens see this post.  And please be sure that you have rinsed enough!


4.  Store Linens with great care. 

Store you linens in a well ventilated closet.  Fresh Lavender Sachets add a wonderful scent, as well as keeping moths at bay. Rather than folding, which weakens fabrics at the folds, it’s preferable to “roll” your linens on cardboard tubes {left over from wrapping paper, or better yet, slightly larger mailing tubes} , cover these with acid free tissue, then tie with a ribbon.  When you unroll the linen, there will be no creases to iron, and you can use your tablecloth or towels right away!





With some care, these beautiful antique linens will grace your home for many more years.  Not all linens have to be perfect, I find a certain charm in a carefully patched tablecloth or pillow cover too.  That will be something to discuss in a future post.  I hope this will help you rescue some of your antique pieces, so that you can use them with joy!  Have any other great tips for linens?  Please share, I’m always anxious to learn something I don’t know!

If you want to romance your Home and Garden with antique and vintage treasures to make you smile each time you come home, visit our shop FrenchGardenHouse.

24 thoughts on “Secrets of Snow-white Linens”

  1. Lidy,
    Many thanks for sharing these tips. I have a few older pieces, more of sentimental value than of monetary, that I will work on this summer.

    1. It’s wonderful to see the yellow turn into snowy white again, and then be able to “show off” your cherished pieces in their proper place. 🙂

  2. Wonderful, “natural” tips! Thank you so much! I’ll be trying the lemon/salt one since I’ve never heard of that one before! 🙂

    xoxo laurie

    1. It truly works most of the times. I prefer the natural too, just make sure that the fabric is truly sturdy, and not lace etc. Good luck!

  3. Thanks, Lidy. I get this question from my younger relatives. Good to know.

    1. The soaking method in Oxy-clean truly works miracles, if they aren’t into the natural more time consuming method, or live somewhere without a lawn of their own.

    1. You’re welcome Cynthia….I love using all the antique linens all over our home.

  4. I would just caution against putting the linen directly next to the cardboard tube. All paper products made from wood contain acid and lignen, which will cause “burns” or brown spots. Make sure paper is labelled acid and lignen free for long term storage.
    I did not know about the chlorophyll in grass helping with whitening.
    Thanks for the step by step.

    1. You’re welcome, Jeannine. I love linens, and most of the antique ones still have so many years of use left in them!

    1. Hope it works, older linens are so beautifully made, aren’t they?

  5. Raewyn

    The lying on the grass rather than hanging on the line is really important but I have no idea why? I have used this method with most stain removals over the years drilled by my grandmother who I thought was an original “Greenie.”
    Thanks for the storing tips as well.

  6. Very nice post, thanks so much for all the information you shared. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to mention that I have truly loved browsing your posts.

  7. Vera L Greaves

    I will try the lemon juice and salt but I live in Arizona and do not have grass yard.
    Would laying linen out on a table with toweling under neath be okay? Thanks

    1. I think that would be perfectly fine. Vera, if you think that the textiles could stand it, I would use the detergent soak first.

  8. Shelley Stewart

    I have just come out with a very gentle product based on the formula my mother used to keep her large collection of linens looking pristine. I call it Mama’s Miracle Linen Soak in honor of her. This gentle, unscented product removes stains and discoloration from vintage and antique linens, restoring their original whiteness without damaging delicate fibers.

  9. Amy Flynn

    What about the fact that most of our lawns are treated with all kinds of chemicals?

  10. Amy, that is a very good point. My own grass is NOT treated with chemicals other than organic fertilizer. If yours IS, then you may not want to transfer those chemicals to your antique linens.

  11. Teraita

    Years ago,I bought an expensive summer wool blend dress for a special wedding, pale mauve and ivory. A child I loved spilled red /purple punch in my lap. I blotted it at the time and later had it treated at a dry cleaners. The stain remained, however some lighter. One sunny day, I dampened it over and over with lemon juice (bottled) and kept it in the sun on the grass all day Bingo -the dress was totally saved.

  12. I’ve known about laying linens in the grass – but do you lay the stain/dinge toward the grass, or facing up to the sun? Thanks!

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