Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Resurrection- How to Raise Vintage From the Dead Part I


☀As a teenager, I wanted to be a fashion designer when I grew up and create a line of vintage reproductions. When I got to college, I changed my mind and became an art history major with the intent of becoming a restoration artist. Now that I am all grown up, I find that my job has oddly become a combination of both these two fields of study.

Those of us that handle vintage for a living will understand what I mean. Finding perfect, unused and powder fresh vintage is not impossible and is a real treat when it happens. However, most of it needs laundering, mending, stain removal- sometimes it just needs to be shocked back to life!

This post is a hard earned lesson full of trial, error, and tears. It's part one of a series on restoration techniques that I am slowly learning to master. Today, I will teach you how to handle and unleash a secret weapon that if used correctly has magical powers. If used incorrectly, it can cause complete and total devastation. It is called Oxy Clean.

Oxy Clean comes in many forms, but I always buy the scent and irritant free powdered form in a big huge bucket. In my experience, it's the only one that works. So go buy some. Ok, now that you have it, here are the rules:


Oxy Clean works amazing on natural fibers like cotton and linen, and cotton poly blends.


☠☠NEVER☠☠ use it on silk, wool, rayon, nylon, polyester, acetate, or viscose. It will either not work at all or completely melt and shred your garment to oblivion. Honestly, I pretty much only use it on cotton to be safe.

Bright colors, especially solids in cotton almost always bleed or run. Vintage dyes were not often colorfast they way they are now, and Oxy Clean tends to exacerbate the problem. Bleeding can be minimized by soaking your load in cold water, and adding a cup or two of distilled white vinegar to your load. Always soak bright colors and prints by themselves or with similar colors.

☠ Watch out for collars, trim, and details on cotton garments in contrasting colors. Example: navy blue dress with a white collar (I just ruined one this week). This type of garment is usually NOT a good candidate for a soak. ☠

------HOW TO USE IT---------

Dissolve your Oxy Clean and vinegar in a little bit of tepid water. Fill up the remainder of your basin or washing machine with cold water. I generally use one giant scoop that comes with the container per two gallons of water. I soak garments in my machine; usually I fill it for a medium load and add 5 or 6 scoops, which will clean about 6 garments. The higher the ratio of Oxy to water, the stronger the potion!

Add your garments in and gently swish them around, making sure they are completely submerged. Every four hours or so, give them a gentle swish. Usually 24 hours of soaking does the trick quite well.

Once the soaking is done, thoroughly wash out your garments by hand in cold water, or run them through the gentle cycle if they aren't fragile. I prefer washing by hand to be safe. Oxy Clean takes a good deal more washing out than a normal detergent, so have patience!

Drip dry garments from a hanger. You can roll them up in a towel to get excess water out, but never ever wring your vintage! If the garment is fragile and becomes heavy with water weight, just lay it flat on a towel to dry as hanging it might cause the shoulders to shred.


♡♡♡All of the bright pretty cotton you see hanging above was formerly a faded, yellowed, yucky mess. With some patience and Oxy Clean, they are now all perfect, bright as the sun and ready to be worn. ♡♡♡


  1. You are like a vintage girl's fairy godmother with this excellent post!

  2. Had no idea you had a blog! Yippy! I'm much like you, I wanted to be a fashion designer but instead switched to Art Management and totally would be thrilled to do Fashion, Textile, and Museum Theory at FIT for conservation. Thanks for the tip! I was just about to test some on a white sweater of mine that I know is probably some type of blend. Good save!

  3. Sarah a little bit added to a normal load won't hurt a blended white sweater (though it might hurt a colored one). One scoop plus normal detergent in a big load will boost stain fighting without harming it.

  4. Wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with Oxy Clean. I collect vintage fabrics and lace as well as clothing (when I can afford it), and some of my treasures have had a pretty traumatic past. That is to say, they were stored under horrendous conditions...and it shows!

    I recently used Oxy Clean to get some hot pink dye stains as well as the inevitable dirt out of a crochet collar, which I found in the back yard of a foreclosed house in my neighborhood. It required several treatments, but eventually it worked. Fortunately, the collar was cotton so it survived all the soaking and scrubbing-- even though I didn't actually know what I was doing. But I could easily have tried the same thing on a synthetic or blend or silk if not for your heads-up. Thanks again for sharing your experience.

  5. Oxyclean has beautifully revived many of my vintage dresses...I love that stuff!

    Even though it says on the label to not use it on silk, I have and it worked just fine. I had a gorgeous mint green 50s vintage dress made from silk chiffon with an acetate lining. The chiffon had several yellowed age spots, and a soak in oxyclean removed every single one without any damage to the fabric! The only drawback was the silk chiffon shrunk up from being wet, so I very carefully dried it with my hair dryer on the low setting while gently stretching and reshaping the chiffon. A somewhat arduous task, but the end result was well worth it!

  6. Hi, I found your post after searching for vintage-specific directions for OxyClean. I just bought a beautiful vintage light blue and white striped skirt and blouse set that is a bit dingy. I'm terrified to actually try any way to clean it for fear of ruining the dress! My biggest concerns are that the fabric is striped, and also that it has metal zippers.

    I notice in your picture above, you have some garments that aren't completely solid, so I'm assuming that you didn't have any issues with colors running in a printed garment? Also, have you had any issues using OxyClean with metal zippers or other metal closures?