September 09, 2015

Before & After: Something's Buggy

We handle a lot of old clothes... stuff that's been sitting for decades, usually in the most out-of-the-way places like attics, basements, the sparest of spare closets.  We've even pulled bundles of clothes from barns, trash heaps, and abandoned houses (with permission, of course).  Those kinds of places tend to be the worst for textiles. 

 Fabric absorbs just about any liquid it touches, and when combined with decades of heat, cold, humidity and such, the resulting stains can be brutal.


So when we got to this hand-painted vintage shirt, the damage on it looked pretty rough.  It's a fifty-year-old fabric that'd been sitting in the attic of a Victorian home for most of that time.  A fabulous find, but not with these stains all over.  And the paint was worrisome, as some cleaning solvents would wreck this beautiful work.

 The issues were widespread - and like most vintage clothing, it's hard to tell exactly what created those stains in the first place.  Knowing that key bit of info could unlock the door to removing its stains much more easily and quickly, but with old clothes, it's sometimes impossible.

So instead, we read the tea leaves, so to speak.  The cross-hatching seen below shows that there's an oil base to these stains.  That's an important clue.  Dappled tan marks like this often mean air pollution, but the placement of these suggested that it was pest damage.  Ewww... but not a problem once we mask up and put the gloves on.

The work takes days, sometimes weeks.  The soaks are many, and the chemicals can range from something as simple as water to concoctions that are temperature and time-dependent.  We danced the dance with the little buggers...

And voila!   Several days later, a freshly cleaned shirt is unveiled.

The mottled beige marks and cross-hatched areas were gone, after a series of four or five different soaks and careful scrubbing to the fabric.  This is an acetate material, known to be particularly susceptible to abrasion, so the manual cleaning had to be especially gentle and slow.

The only hint of a remaining stain is an extremely faint yellowish cast that cannot be visually perceived when worn or on camera, though if the fabric were scrupulously inspected and compared from one area to the next, a very keen eye could pick it up.  All in all, a nice solution to a pest of a problem.

Always feels good to get the bugs out! 

This shirt's a modern size 12 and listed in our Etsy shop.


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