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Cleaning Old Linens and Quilts

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Caring for Antique Linens

Chances are that you have come across old and antique linens such as baby garments, dresses, christening outfits, and quilts at tag sales, in musty attics, and at auctions. Frequently these linens have beautiful stitching, gorgeous lace, and handwork, but sadly are unappetizing in appearance since they are often dirty, moldy, and stained. But there is a way to renew many of these once lovely items. It’s a marvelous cleaning method that originated with heirloom sewer and teacher Martha Pullen. It’s called the ‘BIZ Bucket.”

BIZ is a mild powdered cleaning and whitening product found in the laundry product aisle of your local supermarket. To create your BIZ Bucket you’ll need a plastic mop bucket and one cup of BIZ. Fill the bucked ¾ full with warm water, add the BIZ, mix until dissolved, and then add your items. Soak your garments until the stains are gone. I have soaked some very dirty garments for several weeks. When your items are clean, be sure to rinse thoroughly and press between towels to remove excess water. Don’t twist or wring old garments as they can be delicate.

You can also soak items in your washing machine for a day or two. Add water to your machine (using the HAND WASH cycle), 2 cups of BIZ, and your items to be laundered in a zip mesh bag. This is a good method to use for large items such as old quilts, but be sure to launder using the HAND WASH cycle.

Since I collect and decorate with antique garments and quilts, I am particular that they be clean and fresh. I don’t bother with items that are torn or badly damaged, and I don’t use BIZ to clean anything that is of top museum quality. For very high quality items, you should consult a museum curator for the best method to clean and preserve these items.

I’ve used BIZ for about 10 years and even with long term soaking nothing has been ruined. I have seen a few mild color changes after long term soaking (ecru to white, for example) but the resulting clean and sparkling garments have more than compensated for the color shift.


By Florence Dove Google

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