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Cleaning Antique and Vintage Colored and Printed Fabrics

Unlike white and off-white fabrics, antique colored and/or printed fabrics should NOT be treated with OxiClean or other "safe for color" bleaches unless you test a small piece of the fabric first. Old dyes and dye techniques were different than those of the present day, and it is not possible to know in advance how the colors will react with new products. And, of course, never use chlorine bleach, as it will damage the textiles as well as remove the colors.

I recommend cleaning antique printed textiles by washing them separately and by hand in cold water. Do not let the fabrics sit in the water, and do not fold or stack them against each other when you remove them from the water. I use regular laundry detergent and a sheet of ColorCatcher, which will pick up any stray dyes in the wash.

Some fabrics will remain colorfast -- often any non-colorfast dyes will already have been washed out -- but this is not true in all cases. I have had problems even with fabrics I have successfully washed before, either leaving them in water too long or folding them together when still wet and seeing colors rub off onto other areas of fabric.

Sometimes dry cleaning textiles will clean them without making them run, but it is not guaranteed; again, the best procedure is to ask your dry cleaner to clean a sample for you.

Air drying is recommended.