When it comes to the clothing you wear every day, the answer to this question is obvious. But when talking vintage clothing, and especially antique garments, the answer is not often so clear.We at Vintage Vixen include recommended washing instructions for all the vintage goodies in our catalog. These instructions are what we'd do to wash and/or care for the item. While you could read instructions item by item and learn our standards of care via the catalog, I thought a good overview of how we wash, dry, press & steam clothing would also be helpful, so you can decide how to best protect your vintage clothes.
I've divided the basic cleaning processes into various stress levels in the table below. The table outlines the kinds of washing processes, drying processes and wrinkle treatments you commonly use in clothing care, and it's sorted from most stressful to least. This addresses the question of "should this garment be washed?" based on its fragility, fiber and age. The question of whether a fiber is washable or dry cleanable (without considering its age) is addressed in our daily care tips .
|Most Stressful||Dry Cleaning||Machine Dry||Hard Ironing||Durable dry-clean only fabrics||Many items, primarily 1940s and later|
|Machine Wash||Machine Dry||Iron or Hard Press||Durable washable fabrics, post-1940s|
| Many items, primarily 1940s and|
|Gentle Machine Wash||Drip Dry||Pressing||Durable silk & rayon, some cottons, linens, wools||Most wearable vintage clothing in washable fibers|
|Hand Wash||Dry Flat||Steaming||Antique cotton and linen, some silks & rayons, many types of knits||Items that are being conserved (with dual goals of display and preservation)|
|Least Stressful||No Washing||N/A||None||Antique silk, most clothing pre-1890 or|
|"Retired" clothing; items that must be preserved|
|That being said, we can still make some good use of these generalizations. Let's start with the washing process. I've placed dry cleaning as more stressful than machine washing only because the dry cleaning attendant is not likely|
to be as observant as you are toward your own clothes. Cleaners should look for garments that potentially damageable (or damaging to other items cleaned in the same load).
However, leaving a prized vintage garment in their hands is only advisable if you trust them already. If not, you should assume machine dry cleaning is acceptable only for very sturdy garments that are not rare or antique. Dry cleaning by hand (essentially an all-over spot cleaning) is also possible. We do this here, but it's rare to find a professional dry cleaner who will provide this service.
A dry cleaning machine is actually quite similar to the clothes washer you're already familiar with. The major difference is that its solvent is dry cleaning fluid instead of soap & water (dry cleaning isn't actually a
| It seems pretty obvious that the least stressful way to wash something is not to wash it. Some antique clothing|
should, in my opinion, not be washed or worn. If respect for its age outweighs the thrill of the wear, then it should likely not be washed, except for necessary spot-cleaning under careful and well-prepared hands (see Wearability
Factors). Antique garments in archival storage are not washed, as the stress of cleaning far outweighs any helpfulness obtained by removing dirt or dust. A sound archive will keep dust, pests, and other "enemies" out by prevention rather than cleaning.
How you remove wrinkles can make a huge change in the lifespan of your vintage clothes. I'll touch on fiber types as they relate to this subject, but I want to focus on the wear factor of ironing versus pressing & steaming. Some fabrics, like cotton and linen, need a hard ironing and/or pressing to make them look really great. Many wools, cotton blends & linen blends will need a gentler version of the same. Although you must press or iron
What's the difference between pressing