You just bought or inherited that beautiful piece of antique lace, but it's dusty and dirty and may have stains or even food or soil spots on it. How do you go about cleaning antique lace? Here are a few tips that may help.
Linen and cottons are easy to clean. Go to your local laundry shelves and find a presoak agent and presoak all lace articles according to package directions. If extremely dirty soak a second or third time. Most dirt will lift out; if some stains remain, soaking up to 3-5 hours won't damage your lace. After wards, a good washing with warm water and a pure soap will do well. If a few stubborn stains remain, take the lace from the soapy water, wring out and lay it in the sun to bleach. Keep wetting with water and sun bleaching until the stains are gone, turning over once or twice, and then give a good rinsing.
Lace collars, cuffs and apparels will need little ironing if wrung out in a towel and placed on a flat surface to dry. You can dab and stretch out most wrinkles with your hand. Treat like a fine wool sweater. If ironing is needed, use a cotton setting and steam press, moving the iron gently sideways, never using hard pressure. Avoid using the tip of the iron as it often snags weak spots. A handkerchief placed over lace and then ironed is helpful.
Lace can survive several garments and therefore a little extra care can add a long life span and pleasures for you.
Silk and black lace require special care. Always check your silk or rayon to determine how delicate they are. Some are very old and strong while some are so fragile a little water will cause them to come apart. This is true of black laces since a lot are also made of silk or rayon. Lace made of aloe fibers looks and feels like silk and can not be washed. Aloe fibers were used to imitate silk, mostly in Spain for knitted laces.
Dip a corner of any silk or black lace piece into water and feel, if it turns rather soft and jelly-like it's aloe and should be promptly dried.
Wash silks only in cool water and Woolite or gentle sweater soaps. Never bleach as it ruins and also turns silk yellow. If spots don't come out you can tint your lace. Handle them very little while wet, as wet laces are extremely delicate. A common method is to put it into an old nylon stocking or nylon laundry bag and lift gently up and down.
To give a soft yellowish brown or aged cream color to white lace soak it in tea. Depending on the strength of the tea, various tints can be achieved. One needs to remember that with age, lace with a tea tint has turned darker and some of these old yellowish brown shades will take patience to match. Make sure you don't use green or herb teas.
Black lace should be washed in tea only. Brew a strong pot of tea and use as wash water. If bad stains or dirt need to be removed or if the lace has a musty smell, wash with a mild soap and then tea wash and rinse out with tea.
As a whole lace is extremely durable and able to withstand constant use. A lot of fine delicate pieces have outlasted many garments. If you have a pretty collar try wearing it over a sweater or turtleneck, or under an open shirt; the contrast is beautiful.
Among the many interesting aspects of lace is identifying the age and type. This takes most experts years to acquire. Since we're talking here more about wearing instead of collecting, some simple tests will show you hopefully what you have. By looking at instruction books and comparing stitches it's possible to identify many of the laces, other will require further research.
A decent small pocket magnifier is helpful. It's a delight to discover what takes place in the microscopic details of fine lace.
Libraries frequently have books on lace history which are most captivating, regarding the history of trade, marketing, and fashion. Several books are also available on the methods of making various laces.