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1. For cleaning vintage clothing at home, the most important advice we can give is to BE VERY CAREFUL. First you need to understand the risk you take when cleaning vintage clothing. For antique items, the fabric could disintegrate. Old silks and chiffons are especially fragile and should be treated with extreme care. We advise investigating the fabric first. Is this fabric washable? Once it has been established that the fabric is washable, check for colorfastness. If the fabric has holes, the holes may worsen. Rust stains are difficult to remove and can becomes holes when cleaned.

2. Dry cleaning is a risk. We advise that you have first-hand knowledge that a dry cleaner can treat antique clothing. Even if they advertise vintage clothing expertise, do a test-run first. Talk to the dry cleaner about the fabric, ask questions about the equipment they use. For example, many dry cleaners use equipment that exposes clothing to extremely high temperatures. This can melt buttons and beads, break down fragile fabrics, etc...

3. If it is just a smell you are trying to eliminate, try home dry cleaning kits. These kits work in your dryer and steam and scent the clothing. This is great for eliminating cigarette or cigar smells.

4. Try to clean any recent spots before storage. Stains set over time and will be difficult or impossible to remove later. In some cases stains can cause disintegration. Rust spots and underarm staining are extremely harmful to clothing. Unfortunately, many stains that have set cannot be removed without professional care. For washable fabrics, Gentle Woolite or Shout can be helpful. Please do not attempt to clean out spots without first investigating the fabric you are cleaning. Also, consider whether there is a risk in washing the fabric - it may be better to leave it alone.


1. Store your vintage clothing in acid-free tissue or cloth (i.e. clean muslin). Unbuffered acid-free tissue works well with most fabrics. The tissue helps absorb harmful acids and protects your clothing from disintegration. Most tissue should be changed every two to three years. You can purchase this tissue online from archival dealers or from certain craft or quilting stores (or from Hemlock).

2. It is important to store fragile items flat. Storing any type of item on a hanger can be harmful, but especially for old silks and chiffons. The force of gravity stretches the fabric and can lead to tears and rips over time. Many times the hangers will poke through shoulders and, as commonly seen with 1920's beaded dresses, completely rip and disintegrate the shoulders of clothing. NEVER store a beaded 20's dress on a hanger. The weight of the beads will stress shoulder fabric and lead to tears.

3. You can store items flat in boxes. The best, but most expensive way to store clothing flat is to purchase an acid-free archival textile box. These boxes can run between $25 and $150 depending on the size and make. Normal cardboard boxes can damage your clothing. Most cardboard boxes have harmful acids that eat fabric, yellow it and break down the fibers. Plastic boxes may be a good alternative if the clothing is fully wrapped in acid-free tissue or cloth and stored in a climate controlled area. With plastic boxes you do run the risk of mildew. Do not store clothing in basements or humid environments.

4. Try to clean any recent spots before storage. See number 4 under CLEANING.

5. Light fades fabric - store vintage clothing in darkness. A common fading found with vintage clothing is shoulder and side fading. This fading occurs when items are stored on hangers in closets and exposed to light on top and on the side facing outward. Natural light is just as bad.

6. Cedar is good for protecting clothing from bugs and other environmental factors. Make sure to wrap the clothing in acid-free tissue or cloth first. Cedar, like all wood, contains acids which can damage fabrics.

III. EXAMPLES OF POOR CARE (photos taken from Ebay)

1. THE HANGER: Rips in the shoulders from being left on a hanger too long.

2. SHATTERED FABRIC: Poor storage can lead to the drying out and disintigration of fabric, ESPECIALLY silks and satins from the 1920's and back..