First check your tablecloth to determine
its approximate age (see Dating Your Tablecloth section).
Tablecloths made prior to 1935 will have dyes that may not be
colorfast and may fade or clean unevenly. Watch for any signs of
the colors running out of the cloth. The water will be tinged with
red, green or orange. Remove the tablecloth immediately and rinse
in cold water. Always check your tablecloth while you are soaking
or cleaning it to check for fading colors or possible
disintegration of the fabric.
Here's a tip from Martha Stewart: Line
your wash basin with a sheet before filling it with soap. Place
larger or more fragile pieces in the basin to soak. When you are
through, simply lift the material by the corners to remove from
the basin. This will help keep fragile fabrics and linens from
stretching or further damage. Do not kneed, twist or push the
tablecloth too hard when removing the excess water from the
tablecloth. This will further damage and rip any areas where the
fabric is thin. Make sure the tablecloth is free from significant
wear holes that may be made larger by vigorous washing.
I have found that nature is the best
bleacher. Hanging tablecloths from a clothesline or laying it
outside on a sheet in the grass after washing will do a beautiful
job of lightening yellow stains. Make sure that if you hang your
tablecloth on the clothesline, you are not stretching the ends.
Use several clothespins to hang it straight across the line.
Using Oxygen products:
First rinse the cloth thoroughly and launder with a an Oxygen
product like "Oxyboost". Since this can damage some cloths is
should not be used with any cloths containing metallic threads or
dyes. Check your cloth carefully before soaking. Take 1/4 c of
Oxyboost and dissolve it first in 2-4 cups of the hottest water
possible, then take that mixture and add it to very warm water
THEN soak your cloths, watching them careful. Sometimes it will
take a few trys. It's always better to soak the cloth the shortest
time - the small yellow stains will most likely be bleached out
when you hang it to dry. If not, then try again!
All-purpose synthetic detergent (liquid or powder). Use liquid
detergent full strength. Mix powder with water to form a paste
when working into stain.
Non-chlorine powdered bleach:
Powdered, bleach product such as
Bays may be used to remove stains by soaking in tepid water
for length of time. Dry-cleaning solvents: Stain and spot removers
available at grocery and hardware stores. A nonflammable type is
safest to use.
An enzyme-based cleaner available at grocery and discount stores.
Most effective on food, grease, oil, protein, and dirt-based
stains and can be used on any fabric and color. It can remain on
fabric for up to one week. I found the Carbonaź products
to be the best at removing specific stains, especially rust.
OUT DARN SPOT!
If you know what type of stain is on the cloth, the following
suggestions are very helpful in removing new and sometimes older
Wine Launder with detergent in the hottest water safe for the
fabric. If it is a new stain, do not use soap (bar, flake, or
detergents containing natural soap), since soap could make the
stain permanent or at least much more difficult to remove. If it
is an old stain, soak in a solution of water with one half of a
scoop of powered non-chlorine bleach. Watch carefully. Soak for at
least 2 hours, (more if necessary). Line dry in sun. Soak tough
stains for 30 minutes in 1 quart of warm water and 1 teaspoon of
enzyme presoak product. The removal of old or set-in stains may
require washing with non-chlorine powdered bleach that is safe for
the fabric. Always check for colorfastness first. If all the
sugars from the wine or alcohol are not removed, a brown stain
will appear when the fabric is heated in the dryer or is ironed,
as the sugar becomes caramelized in the heat.
Treat new blood stains immediately! Flush cold water through the
stain and scrape off crusted material. Soak for 15 minutes in a
mixture of 1 quart lukewarm water, 1/2 teaspoon liquid hand dish
washing detergent, and 1 tablespoon ammonia. Use cool/lukewarm
water. Rub gently from the back to loosen stain. Soak another 15
minutes in above mixture. Rinse. Soak in an enzyme product for at
least 30 minutes. Soak aged stains for several hours. Launder
normally. If the blood stain is not completely removed by this
process, wet the stain with hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of
ammonia. Caution: Do not leave this mixture on the cloth longer
than 15 minutes. Rinse with cool water. If the blood stain has
dried, PRE-treat the area with PRE-wash stain remover, liquid
laundry detergent, or a paste of granular laundry product and
water. Launder using bleach that is safe for the type of fabric.
Harden the wax by rubbing with ice. Remove the surface wax by
carefully scraping with the dull edge of a butter knife, if that
doesn't work, you can try the next suggestion. Sandwich the wax
stain between folded paper towels and press down lightly on top of
the towel with a warm (not hot) iron. Replace the paper towels
frequently to absorb more wax and to prevent transferring the
stain to new areas. Continue as long as wax is being removed.
Saturate the stain with a pretreatment stain remover. Rub the
stain with a heavy-duty liquid detergent and launder in the
hottest water safe for the fabric. If it is a new stain, do not
use soap (bar, flake, or detergents containing natural soap),
since soap could make the stain permanent or at least more
difficult to remove. If it is an old stain, soak the tablecloth in
a solution of water with one half scoop powered non-chlorine
bleach. Watch carefully. Soak for at least 2 hours, (more if
necessary). Line dry in sun.
If it is an old stain, soak the tablecloth in a solution of water
with one half of a scoop of powered non-chlorine bleach. Watch
carefully. Look for signs that the dye is colorfast. Soak for at
least 4 hours, (more if necessary). Line dry in the sun. Repeat
the process if still yellow.
Dye Stains, Dye Transfer
Soak the entire tablecloth in a diluted solution of powered
non-chlorine bleach. If the stain remains and the tablecloth is
colorfast, soak the entire tablecloth in a dilute solution of
liquid chlorine bleach and water. Again, test for colorfastness
first and watch carefully. Not recommended for tablecloths that
were made prior to 1935. Check the "Dating Your Tablecloth"
section for clues as to the approximate age. Caution: Chlorine
bleach may change the color of the tablecloth or cause
irreversible damage especially in PRE-1940s tablecloths.
Therefore, it is important to check for color fastness before
using. If the stain does not come out within 15 minutes of
bleaching, it cannot be removed by this method and any further
exposure to bleach will weaken the fabric and remove the color. I
do not recommend this for general stain removal. Note: To check
for color fastness to liquid chlorine bleach, mix 1 tablespoon of
bleach with 1/4 cup of water. Use an eyedropper to put a drop of
this solution on a hidden seam in the tablecloth. Let it stand two
minutes, then blot dry. If there is no color change, it is
probably safe to use the product. Powdered non-chorine bleaches
have directions for colorfastness tests on their boxes. There are
also a number of dye removers/strippers, which are available in
drug and grocery stores. However, color removers will also take
out fabric colors as well as the stain so be careful.
Mildew is a growing organism that must have warmth, darkness, and
moisture to survive. Mildew actually eats cotton and linen fibers
and can also attack manufactured fibers, causing permanent damage
and a weakening of fibers and fabrics. To treat mildew, first
carefully brush or shake off mildewed area. It is very difficult
to remove and will damage the value of a vintage tablecloth.
PRE-treat the stains by rubbing the areas with a heavy-duty liquid
detergent. Then launder in the hottest water safe for the fabric,
using bleach safe for fabric. Always check for colorfastness and
for the age of the tablecloth before using any type of bleach. Let
the item dry in the sun. Badly mildewed fabric may be damaged
beyond repair. Old stains may respond to flushing with dry
cleaning fluids. Carefully read and follow the instructions on the
Removing rust stains can be difficult. These stains cannot be
removed with normal laundering. Do not use chlorine bleach, as
chlorine bleach will make the stains permanent. Small stains may
be removed with a few drops of a commercial rust remover, or by
repeated applications of lemon juice and salt on the stain. Do not
let the fabric dry between applications.
You can also use liquid laundry detergent
and oxygen color safe bleach or non-chlorine powdered bleach. If
safe for the specific fabric try this old home remedy, boil fabric
in a solution of 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar per pint of water.
Rinse thoroughly. Rust removers that contain hydrofluoric acid are
extremely toxic, can burn the skin, and will damage the porcelain
finish on appliances and sinks. Use as a last resort. I do
recommend using the Carbona Rust remover products, but again,
watch your cloths carefully.
Scorching permanently damages the fabric. The heat
burns and weakens the fibers, and can also melt manufactured
fibers, such as polyester. If the damage is slight you might be
able to improve the look. Brush the area to remove any charring.
If the tablecloth is washable, rub liquid detergent into the
scorched area. Launder. If the stain remains, bleach with an
all-fabric non-chlorine bleach.
Some of the older tablecloths that have been stored
for many years have that "old smell" and yellowing in the creases.
You will also find tablecloths that have been in a smoker's home
with that "tell tale" smell. I have not had any problems removing
either of these problems from my tablecloths. If the tablecloth is
not seriously frayed or damaged in any other way, soak the
tablecloth is a solution of tepid water and one scoop of
non-chlorine powdered bleach or Oxy. Watch carefully for any signs
of dyes fading. Remove immediately if you see a green or red
"tinged" water. Soak overnight and place outside out all day in
the sun. Repeat if necessary, but it should work in one treatment.
Saturate the area with pretreatment laundry stain remover. Wait a
couple of minutes for the product to penetrate the stain. For
stubborn stains, rub with heavy-duty liquid detergent. Launder
immediately. If the stain remains, soak the entire tablecloth in a
diluted solution of all-fabric powered bleach. Be aware that all
the colors may lighten. If the stain persists and the tablecloth
is white or colorfast, soak in a diluted solution of liquid
chlorine bleach and water. However, be sure to read the tablecloth
label regarding the use of bleach. Bleach can damage some dyes and
prints, and bleaching damage is irreversible. Also, if the stain
is not removed in 15 minutes, it cannot be removed by bleaching
and further bleaching will only weaken the fabric.