Oak City Vintage Guide to Washing Vintage Clothes

Washing vintage clothes can be so daunting! It’s not about just throwing in the washer & dryer and it’s all good.  But we don’t want you to shy away from buying those more delicate pieces so we put together a handy guide on how to care for your vintage.  The footnotes are below with more info in our stories!

First Things First - Generally speaking, garments made after 1979 will always have a care label. What you may not know is the factory only has to provide one way of washing, not ALL the ways. But it's still always safest to follow the instructions given. If there is no care label or you don't understand those symbols (cuz like who does?), refer to the next tip

Hand Washing is always the safest option when it comes to laundering vintage (and all clothing for that matter).  The machine is really rough on delicate fabrics and stitching so it’s best to be gentle. Start with hot water to dissolve the detergent, then add cold water until the item can be fully submerged. It's important to check every 30 mins or so (if this is the first wash), to make sure there is no color bleeding. The older the garment, the more susceptible it is to water. Once the water runs cleans, hang dry or lay flat.

Fabrics you can hand wash

Silk – in pure form. Note that crepes, knits, and raw silks all need to be professionally cleaned

Rayon – if it is a plain weave and only in cold water. Crepe should be attended to by a professional cleaner

Cottons, linens, and polyester blends with ornate detailing or embroidery.

Wash on Cold - Heat can damage the fibers and even cotton can start to break down during repetitive heat exposure.  Washing on cold is also better for the environment and there are lots of great detergents meant for cold water. You can always dissolve the detergent in warm water, but make sure to quickly transition to cold so the water is cool enough when the garments so in

Air Dry or Tumble Dry on Low - The dryer can also be rough and heat damages the integrity of a garment when it’s wet. If life was perfect and we had all the time in the world, we'd tell you to air dry everything. But we also understand that is not always possible. Instead, we suggest air drying your most delicate garments (such as silk or rayon) and placing everything else in the dryer on low. Less heat = longer lasting garments!

Dry Cleaning - Ahh the dry cleaner. Perhaps the easiest way to clean anything, but it can be costly! Yet, if you can swing it, go for it! Cottons, Linens, Rayon, Silks (1970s and newer), Wool, Velvet & Iron-on Patches and Other Trims can be dry cleaned. Make sure to check the label as some pieces can not be dry cleaned. But when it comes to fur, leather, heavy beading, rhinestone buttons & antique silks, the dry cleaner is won't be your best friend.

Our BEST piece of advice?

Don’t wash after every wear!

You’re really not that dirty after a normal day so your garment isn’t that dirty either.  It’s best to steam clean in between wears and wash only if it’s starting to get smelly. We also recommend using a fine mister bottle full of vodka to spray the garment. Vodka will help disinfect and deodorize. This is great solution if an item cannot be cleaned at all. Reducing the amount of washes also helps to make all that hand-washing & air drying crap more manageable.


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