front porch trash

front porch trash

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I love vintage linens.

Crocheted tablecloths, bedspreads, doilies, tea towels, sheets and just about any fabric that is vintage.
My problem has been getting those nasty stains out of things without destroying the fibers.

My first attack on the stain is alcohol. The alcohol gets into the stained area and absorbs the stain and then evaporates, at least in theory. Sometimes that works.

My next attack is pre-treat and wash. I pre-treat with my homemade soap concentrate. I poured a small amount of the soap base in a yogurt container before adding water to make my laundry soap. This sets up as a semi-solid and I just scoop it out with my finger and rub it into the stain. Let it sit and then wash in a day or so. Sometimes that works.

When I wash the stained item I add an oxyclean type powder to the wash. Sometimes that works.

But, lets face it. Nothing works all of the time on all stains. Blood, chocolate and tomato based stains are the worst to remove. And when you find a vintage line with any of those stains, the stains are vintage also.

What to do?

I was browsing that time sucking web site that I will not name (Pinterest) the other day and came across a recipe for a linen soak that sounded good. I wrote it down. Sorry, I don't pin. If I like it I use it then and not in six months.

My test was a vintage Vera white sheet with yellow and blue flowers on the border. The border was ok, it was the rest of the sheet that was a mess. I could use the border for a craft project but could I "save" the rest of the king size sheet?  I tried.

Into the new soak it goes. I soaked for two days in my washer. And.....IT WORKED.  All of those nasty stains came out.

Now, when I soaked I used hot water as stressed. I did not boil water and add a potful to the washer but I did boil a cup in the microwave to dissolve the borax. Our hot water is at 130 for the DW so I felt that was hot enough. I also agitated all of the ingredients for about a minute before I added the things I wanted to soak. Then in goes the sheet and my cloth "paper towels" with spaghetti stains and gray stains from cleaning the kitchen. The true test for my new potion. I also let the washer agitate for 4 minutes before I opened the lid to let the soak begin. I did go back several times over the next two days and close the lid and let everything agitate for several minutes and push everything down in the water.

What is this magic potion, you ask? Well, I used the formula with bleach because I was using colorfast, mostly white items. But the original post stressed that if you wanted to soak colored items to use color safe bleach, Clorox II, or something similar. I don't have any of that so I don't know what the results of that would be.

Here is the recipe that I found on Pinterest. If it is your recipe, I would give credit but I didn't save the original post so I can't credit the author of this recipe.

1 cup laundry detergent
1 cup dishwasher detergent (the original recipe said powdered, but all I had was liquid)
1 cup bleach (Clorox or generic)
1/2 cup borax
Hot, Hot, Hot, Hot water
1/2 cup white vinegar, for final rinse
Soak your items in the smallest amount of water that will allow the items to get thoroughly wet and stay wet. I used the small setting on my washer. Use Hot water. If your hot water is not at least 130, add hot water to the tub. Make sure the borax is dissolved. It takes very hot water to dissolve borax.
Soak your items as long as necessary. You can check the items progress and adjust your soak time. And you can soak again if the item is still not quite clean.
For colored items replace the bleach with a color safe bleach, such as Clorox II. Be sure and add vinegar to the final rinse to make sure that the bleach is neutralized. A Downey ball works just fine with vinegar.The vinegar odor will go away when dry.

But, as usual, I went a step further. I got to thinking, always a bad sign, that I need to spot treat some items sometimes and I wondered if I could mix up a concentrate and keep it for special problems. Sooooo, I divided the recipe by 4 and mixed up a small batch. 1/4 cup of everything except borax. Dissolve 2 Tbs borax in 1 cup hot water and add everything else and mix well. Then I put it in a recycled plastic jar so I could shake it to remix when needed.
My trusty pyrex bowl

I had a white shirt that I had just purchased at the thrift store with red sharpie on the bottom. My thrift store marks things to go in the last chance bins with a red X. The red X is supposed to be on the tag, but sometimes they get carried away with the sharpie. I have seen beautiful white items in the bins with red sharpie all over them and passed them up because I thought they were lost causes.

Not a bad sharpie mark, but permanent
I stretched the t shirt across the bowl and just dipped the stained area in the mixture and used my plastic handle to get the spot soaked.
Then I went inside, got a load of sheets from the washer and hung them out on the line. Checked my stain and this is what I found.
Stain was gone!! I estimate soaking time at about 5 or 6 minutes. And that bad boy was gone. Then I took the t shirt to the sink and rinsed the mixture out. Now for some reason the soak mixture turned the shirt light blue, but I rinsed several times and the blue came out. The t shirt was 100% cotton and new and cost 25c so I figured I would take the risk.  I really don't like bleach on most items. I prefer to use something less harsh.

I guess sometime you just have to break out the big guns if you want to blow away the enemy.
Soak On!!

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