Cleaning Vintage Part 2 - And Smelly Smells

Cleaning Part 2 -

Wools - wools can also be handwashed, if you are daring and patient. Sweaters, whether wool, cashmere or a synthetic do nicely in Woolite or Eucalan. Press the water out of them, and lay them flat out on a towel to dry. I wouldn't wet anything with older metal sequins, because the color may come off of them if they get wet. If they are plastic sequins they will wash fine in cool water. Most beading is fine to get wet as long as they aren't those older beads that have old coloring or metallics inside of them.

Some wool skirts and jackets can be handwashed too, depending on the lining fabric - don't wash wool items with creped linings, or else the linings will shrink. It's probably best to dry clean suits or wool dresses to avoid possible shrinking and mis-shaping. Spot washing is fine for light stains, but watch to make sure that you rinse out all of the cleaner really well or it may affect the color of the fabric.

A hair brush with soft bristles is good for getting surface dust off of wools and fur coats. Works nicely on felt and wool hats too, and on fabric purses and shoes. If you are concerned about cleaning out hats, shoes and purses before you use them. I usually spray the insides of hats, purses and shoes with Lysol. That freshens them and kills any old germs.

I smell a smell, a smelly smell - Vintage clothing just doesn't smell like brand new clothing. Some items just hang onto that old fabric smell, not bad or offensive, just a faint old scent. Now, if you buy online, or from a shop, your item should already be taken care of and smell-free, and the seller, if they are a good one, should mention any possible smells that the item may have. I work hard to get any smells out, and I do note if an item has a musty smell that I just wasn't able to budge (usually only on pre-1920s items) But if you buy from an estate sale and need to freshen clothing yourself, the best thing for smelly vintage clothing is fresh air. It works for musty and mothball smelling clothing.
I personally do not recommend any of those sprays like Fabreeze. They usually only just cover the smell, and they leave behind a chemical smell. Days or weeks later, the original smell may return. I learned that the hard way. Several years ago I tried those sprays when they first came out. They did work to cover the smell. But I did receive a few letters on certain items arriving with musty or mothball smells, after I thought I had banished them. See, the sprays wear off, and the smells come back out again in certain items, especialy after they have been bagged and shipped and possibly gotten warm during shipping. Heat will reactivate old smells if you don't get them out totally. Maybe those sprays work better now than when they first came out, but spraying vintage with those items will leave a residue on the clothing which may affect delicate items over time.

If your item is musty smelling, it probably has mildew in it which needs to be killed or else it will continue to make more smell. Those sprays just don't kill those spores. Any clothing that is washable should be washed in hot water. Items that cannot be washed should get the fresh air treatment. I sometimes leave items outside for a few days to get rid of musty, mothball or old storage/attic smells. Mothball smell will take a longer time to get rid of. I've recently found that humidity helps get smells out when you hang the items outside. If the item ends up feeling a little damp, I just throw it on low tumble in the dryer and it comes out very nicely. Steaming may get out smells too, I'm talking about steaming in a shower. Hang the item in the bathroom and turn on the shower very hot, shut the door and let the steam fill the room. Let it hang in there for awhile, after the steam cools, open the window for a few hours. You may try a hand steamer to get out a smell, but that would probably take awhile to do, and you don't want to breath in the smells that come out of it - there's nothing like smelling 50 year old BO smell! It is so strong it will gag you. Spray a little vinegar and water on smelly underarms, but only on washable fabrics that will dry without laving a ring.

Dryel and other at-home dry cleaning kits for your dryer - yuck! I've used Dryel, and it leaves a coating on the clothing, which many people have an alergic reaction too. I used Dryel several years ago on some musty wool skirts that I bought. I ended up with a rash all the way up the inner side of my arms. If it doesn't bother you personally, then go ahead and use it. It doesn't work for getting out old stains and dirt, but it may freshen some clothing. But if you are planning to resell the item, then don't use Dryel because it may affect your buyer. Also if you are selling, don't store your items with dryer sheets in them either, and please, don't ship your item with a dryer sheet in the box! Yuck, that may also cause bad reactions to people who are allergic, or bothered by the strong smell of dryer sheets which is very concentrated. You may enjoy the smell of clothing fresh from the dryer after a dryer sheet has been used. But the smell on a sheet is so strong, and stored in a box intensifies the smell even more.

On items like purses, hats and shoes, I have sprayed them with scented Lysol with great results. Lysol kills any germs, and removes any smells from mildew, mothballs etc. Really smelly items will still require fresh air and may need spraying over a few days. I had a bunch of really smelly old hats that came out of an abandoned house. I tried every kind of spray and steam and Ozium in a steam room. Nothing worked until I sprayed them with Lysol and put them outside. I had to kill that mildew to keep the smell from coming back.

On heavier coats and furs, I have also sprayed Lysol up inside of the linings to freshen them too.


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