How to Clean Antique Lace

antiquelace

Judie asked: How do I clean antique lace? I was given a 118 year old veil of tule and a lace jacket worn over a wedding dress that is 85 years old. Both items need to be cleaned, but I don’t want to ruin them. Is Woolite and cold water the best way?

Antique lace is both beautiful and delicate and should be treated as a fragile item. Before attempting to clean antique lace yourself, inspect it thoroughly to ensure that it can tolerate being cleaned. If it is strong and in good condition, it should be able to withstand the cleaning process. However, it is frail and tears easily, either leave it as is or have it professionally cleaned.

You Will Need:

  • Large bin or sink (large enough that the lace can be submerged in water)
  • Biz
  • Water
  • Soft towels

Steps to Clean Antique Lace:

  1. Fill the container/sink with warm water and mix in the Biz. The amount of Biz used will depend on the amount of water in the container/sink.
  2. Carefully place the lace in the water and allow it to soak. Wet lace is more fragile than dry lace, so do not agitate or swish it around in the water as it may cause tears and damage. If some movement is needed, gently press it down in the water or stir it slightly.
  3. Allow it to soak until the water cools.
  4. When the water is cold, remove the lace and drain the water.
  5. Refill with warm water and repeat the steps above.
  6. Continue replacing water and allowing the lace to soak for 24 hours.
  7. The temperature of the water can be increased as the lace soaks, but use caution because lace can shrink in hot water.
  8. If you choose to use hot water, add the hot water slowly to the warm water to raise the temperature slowly. Then allow it all to cool again too cold.
  9. Continue replacing the water/Biz and soaking the lace until you achieve the desired whiteness.
  10. When the lace is as white as you’d like, rinse it by placing it in a clean container of water.
  11. Remove it from the water and lay it on a towel.
  12. Roll the towel up, with the lace inside, and gently press out the water. Do not wring out the lace as this can cause it to stretch and tear.
  13. Unroll the towel and transfer the lace to a dry towel. Lay it flat so that it can dry correctly. Placing it in the sun to dry will help to whiten it further as the sun has natural bleaching effects.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • If the lace is not an heirloom and doesn’t need to last for many years, regular bleach can be used to whiten it. However, be aware that this will definitely shorten the life and strength of the fabric.
  • Provide extra support for wet lace as it is more fragile.
  • If you are unsure of how the lace will hold up, remove a small section and test it prior to cleaning the entire piece.
  • As always, if you are hesitant about cleaning the lace yourself, contact a professional.

Comments

  1. Pam says:

    I also have an antique wedding dress, made entirely of lace (it was “lined” by wearing a full length satin slip underneath). I plan to follow your directions to refresh it, but I also remember seeing a recipe for cleaning lace several years ago which involved Borax. Have you heard of this?

  2. joanella says:

    What is Biz?

  3. Charlie says:

    Why would anyone recommend bleach on antique lace?
    My god, NO!

  4. Martin says:

    What is Biz? I haven’t seen it in Canada (although with Walmart and Target taking over all our institutional stores, maybe we will soon).

  5. Melanie says:

    Joanella and Martin,
    Biz is a multipurpose cleaner. Here is a list of stores that carry Biz; http://www.bizstainfighter.com/buy-now
    If you can not find it in stores, you can buy it online. Many stores, such as Walmart or Target, will ship directly to your home, as well as to your local store. You could also ask one of your local institutional stores to consider carrying the product or acquire samples for a trial use if possible.

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