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Cleaning and Caring for White and Off-White Antique French Linens:

Most of the antique linens sold by La Maison Violette were made to last 20 years or more, and are much sturdier than linen produced today. However, they require different care than newly purchased textiles.


French linens, including sheets, used to be boiled on the stove (with attention paid so that they did not stick to the bottom of the pot and scorch) to remove grease and stains. I find that washing them in the hottest water available with OxiClean to be a good alternative, or soaking them in OxiClean if they are grey or yellow (from overnight to several days, as needed).

If the fabric is fragile, wash items by hand or place them in a garment bag in the washer to reduce strain on the fibers.

One of my clients washes her antique linen apron with borax in every wash, though I haven’t tried this.

NEVER USE CHLORINE BLEACH, as it damages the fiber!


The good news is that stains are easier to remove from whites than from printed fabrics. This is because many stain removal methods will also affect colors.

The rule of thumb is to treat stains as quickly as possible, before stains can set: keep wet stains wet and dry stains dry.

Do not use chlorine bleach; there are many color-safe bleaches available.

Rust is a common stain on antique linens you may purchase, but is fairly easy to remove by using Whink (available in hardware stores, sometimes in the automotive section) – as it is highly toxic, be sure to follow instructions for use! For more fragile fabrics, lemon juice, water and the sun are often recommended.

Surprisingly, some sunscreens may cause yellow stains that must be treated with a rust remover such as Whink.

If you are planning a dinner and using your linens and will be serving red wine, I recommend that you look for ways to treat stains BEFORE using them (search for methods and products online), and keep any necessary products on hand. I will update this page after I’ve had a chance to test some different practices.

For other stains, you can download a general stain removal guide for free, the Iowa State University’s “Quick ‘n Easy Stain Removal Guide” at:



Items can be hung to dry, laid flat, or put in the dryer. Drying in the sun helps to brighten whites.

Sheets: when dried on a long clothesline in the sun there are very few, if any, wrinkles as long as any wrinkles are smoothed out by hand when the sheets are hung. Sheets can also be dried in a conventional clothes dryer, but must be quickly removed and any wrinkles smoothed, and then folded.

Clothing can be hung to dry, as there are fewer wrinkles than using a dryer. Sturdier items that are stiff can be put into a dryer to soften them up a bit.


Press with a hot, clean iron, using steam. For fragile textiles, lift and press each spot rather than pushing the iron across the surface, as this will stretch the fibers and put stress on delicate areas. Pressing embroidered areas face down on a towel will help prevent “raised” embroidery from being flattened.

To “refresh” wrinkles in linen clothing or sheets, spray them with a mister, pull the fabric taut, and allow the wrinkles to “relaxe”. If you like, put lavender essential oil into the water to add a delicate lavender scent, as some French women do!

Aprons -- My aprons have been tested by a professional chef who wears them to work. Here are her pointers:

· Wash with regular laundry detergent and borax

· Whites are easier to clean than colors, which can fade – especially when treated for stains

· There are some food stains that just will not come out – avoid working with beets and pomegranates when you are wearing something you do not want stained!