Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vintage and Thrifted Clothes: Solving Common Problems

what to do about stinks and stains
Does this sound familiar?  

You find a fab vintage or thrift-store dress and bring it happily home…..only to find later that you also bought somebody’s vintage body odor.  
Eeew!  Talk about a buzz-kill.  Second on the list of gross smells is old cigarette smoke.  

Or you find yellowed pit stains, or mystery spots on the skirt—problems you didn’t notice at the store, in the thrill of discovery.    

Stink and Stain are two common problems with thrifted or vintage clothes.  But they don’t have to rain on your parade.  With three simple products, you can eliminate nearly all these problems at home.  These are:  table salt, Oxyclean or Biz Stain Remover, and powdered dishwasher detergent.
NOTE:  Before trying these, please see “Read This First” at bottom. 

Treating Body Odor and other Stinks

Body odor can be removed with a concoction of hot water and salt.

Fill your sink or a giant stockpot half-full with hot water, which will be needed to dissolve the salt.  Dissolve about 1/2 cup regular ol’ table salt (dirt cheap is fine) with a spoon, and fill up the rest of the pot or sink with cold water.  

You now have some lukewarm salty water. 

Plop in your dress, and leave it there for 24 hours, or at least overnight.  Rinse out the salty water very well and hang your dress up to dry.  The smell should be gone.  If it’s not, try the same treatment again. 

Vintage body odor often reveals itself when heat is applied to the dress armpit.  If the dress seems to smell fine after washing, but you want to know for sure, try ironing the pits and sniff them.  This is the true test.

For cigarette smoke, try machine or hand washing your garment with a cup of white vinegar in the water.  If this doesn’t get the smell out, try the salt treatment. 

Treating Pit Stains and Mystery Spots

For this problem, I use a method that’s strong enough to remove old baby formula stains—notoriously hard to get out.  I can vouch that it works on baby formula, armpit stains, and almost everything else. 

This works best on cottons and rayons, which also seem to catch pit stains the most.  Before trying this treatment, though, please see Read This First below. 

Moving right along.  Fill up your sink or big stockpot half full with hot water.  Dissolve in this:  1/4 cup *each* Oxyclean or Biz powder, and powdered dishwasher detergent (I use Cascade).  Try to dissolve 
all the little crystal-y pieces.  You need this hot water initially to dissolve them. 

Fill up the sink/pot the rest of the way with water to result in the hottest water your garment can stand.  Plop ‘er in, and swirl it around.  

Sometimes, general stains come out in a couple hours, but pit stains usually take longer.  If you’re concerned about your dress spending too much time in this detergent bath, check it every few hours to see how it’s coming.  At the end of 24 hours, or when the stains are gone, wash everything out.  

You’ll probably have a completely stain free dress that’s so clean you could serve the Pope on it.  Not that you’d want to.  

For lots of clean vintage clothes with no stains or vintage body odor, check out my collection at Chronologie Vintage.  Thanks for visiting!

*Read This First!  Vintage clothing can be delicate, and these treatments – especially the stain treatment -- *MAY* damage certain fabrics.   
The rule of thumb in all vintage cleaning it to try the gentlest method first.  You should only try these treatments if regular washing hasn’t gotten rid of the stinks and stains.  My logic is, if it stinks or has deal-breaking stains anyway, are you going to wear it?  Maybe you can afford the risk. 
Salt is relatively harmless, but the OxyClean/Dishwashing Detergent formula can fade and/or weaken delicate fabrics, in rare cases.  That said, I have used both these methods successfully on hundreds of garments.  I rely on them for my vintage clothes shop and my own vintage clothing. 


Kat Mortensen said...

Not only is the salt-in-the-sink a great idea, but it precludes me from having to wash the dishes, which is even better!

Thanks sallymandy!


Anonymous said...

Can these soaking treatments be used on vintage shoes? I am getting married in a month and have my fiance's great grandmothers wedding shoes from 1932! The shoes are made of white satin and gross grain. They have yellowed with age. I'm worried that soaking will cause the glue and other parts of the shoe to come apart. Any ideas? I so desperately want to wear these, but my mother is throwing a fit that they are too yellow. Please help!

~blythee~ said...

thanks for the tips.. I definitely will try this on my long-time-no-wear dresses :)