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How to Wash Vintage Clothes

What’s better than finding that perfect vintage piece at the thrift store? Washing it, of course! There are many considerations to keep in mind when washing vintage clothing. Vintage clothes are usually delicate and should be handled with care. The best way to wash vintage clothing is by hand using a gentle detergent or soap.


vintage clothing rack


The goal is to preserve the original look of the clothing as much as possible, but also make it wearable again. So, take your time and think about what you want beforehand to avoid ruining your favorite pieces. Washing vintage clothes is a delicate process. Here I will show you a step-by-step guide on how to wash and dry your vintage clothes.



Preventative Care Before Damage Control

With the rise of vintage fashion, people are thrifting vintage clothes for their unique design and to save the environment. But how to keep them looking great through the years? The first step is to go home and properly clean the vintage clothes before storing them away for future use. This will help preserve the color and make them look better when they are worn again in the future.

70s romper

The general rule of thumb is to store clothing in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing clothes in places that are excessively warm or humid, as these conditions can cause the fabric to deteriorate over time. Pay attention to the type of surface that our items are stored on. Fabrics made from natural fibers, such as cotton and wool, will be more susceptible to damage from contact with concrete or other hard surfaces.

Hand Washing Vintage Clothes Vs Machine Washing

Hand washing vintage clothes is not just a way to keep your clothes in good condition. It’s also a way to find out how they were treated in the past. Careful washing can help you understand how the fabric was made, what kind of treatment it had, and what the previous owners did with it. Hand washing vintage clothes also ensures that dirt and grime are removed from these delicate items so they last longer.


hand washing vintage clothes


There are many ways to clean your vintage clothes, but hand washing is one of the best methods for maintaining its quality and authenticity. Start with a clean sink, tub or bucket, then add your soap such as Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap or RetroWash. Put the garment inside the bath and fully soak it. When the water turns yellow, drain the water and press out excess water from the garment, do not wring out the garment. Be sure to change out your water for each garment you need to be cleaned so that it’s always fresh and clear.


What you should hand wash:

  • Plain Weave Rayon
  • Pure Silks
  • Cotton
  • Rayon – if it is a plain weave. Crepe
  • Linnen
  • Anything with delicate detailing or embroidery

Items that should be attended to by a professional cleaner:

  • Crepe
  • Raw Silks
  • Knits

Items that are safe to be machine washed:

  • Cotton
  • Some Polyester
  • Linen – be sure to steam after wash!
  • Nylon
  • Spandex
  • Most Acetates
  • Synthetic Blends


Tips for Drying Vintage Clothes

When it comes to drying vintage clothes air drying is the way to go. It’s a process that can make your old clothes look new and fresh while preserving the quality of the clothes. Once you’ve pulled your clothes out of the bath or was, you’ll want to hang dry or lay them flat immediately. With bulkier and heavier items such as dresses, sweaters and jackets you can lay those on a flat surface. More often than not a heavier item won’t hold on a typical clothesline.


vintage dress on clothesline


Be sure to never use wire hangers on your vintage pieces as they can rust and discolor your item. Wooden hangers work best and won’t stretch out your shoulders or cause the garment any discoloration. If you plan to hang the garment outside on a clothesline, turn it inside out to protect the outerlayer. Sun can also cause a lot of damage to more delicate items.

How To Clean Special Items Like Leather Jackets

Vintage is in and will be here to stay as styles tend to circulate again and again over the years. See our blog post on vintage trends to stay up-to-date with the cool kids! Since it’s fall, we know that vintage leather jackets will be making their way through the ‘gram, and that means we should discuss how best to clean them. Honestly, the best way to clean a vintage or thrifted leather jacket is by taking it to the dry cleaner. But if you are feeling ambitious, here are some tips on how to clean your leather jacket at home.

leather vintage jackets

  1. 1. Remove any dirt particles from the surface of the jacket with a damp cloth or towel.
  2. If there are any stains, gently rub them with a mild soap and water mix and then lather the stain with an old toothbrush. If it’s a tougher stain, , mix white vinegar with water in a 10:1 ratio and use it to wipe off the stains. Be sure to do this on an inconspicuous part of the jacket first before applying it all over.
  3. Leather is a tricky material to clean. For best results, you should clean it with a dry cloth then condition it using another dry cloth. The conditioner should be applied in the opposite direction of the natural grain of the leather.
  4. To remove grease, mix together warm water and dishwashing detergent then wash the area that has grease
  5. Let your leather jacket air dry
  6. Once dry, you can apply furniture polish or saddle soap to bring out its natural shine. They also make specific leather conditioner which should be applied in the opposite direction of the natural grain of the leather.

distressed leather jacket

Remember that buying or thrifing your leather jacket is much safer for the environment. The livestock industry is responsible for nearly 20% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions and contributes significantly to deforestation. We hope these tips help keep your vintage clothing and jackets looking beautiful for years to come!


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Spring into Savings
As the flowers bloom, so do our deals! Step into spring with style, savings, and fresh new finds at our thrift store.
Spring into Savings
As the flowers bloom, so do our deals! Step into spring with style, savings, and fresh new finds at our thrift store.