Design & DIY

Weekly Hack: Lighten yellowed linens

By Rustle/Shutterstock

Got any white tablecloths or other delicate linens? Then you know they don’t stay white forever. Stains are a pain to remove, sure, but linens that have yellowed because of exposure to acidic material during storage (common culprit = cardboard box) are even harder to rehab. It takes time, but it’s not impossible.

Tricks to try

A) Handwash the linens with a mild detergent, then lay them flat to dry. (With a vintage or antique item, be gentle—don’t tug on it or wring it out aggressively.)

B) Soak the linens in a mix of non-chlorine or “oxygen-based” bleach and water, for at least eight hours or overnight. Didn’t work? Try again with a fresh bleach-water mixture.

C) Put the linens in a large pot of water with ¼ cup salt and ½ cup baking soda. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and leave the material in the pot for two to three days before rinsing thoroughly.

D) Wash with a specialty cleaning product: a linen wash or antique-fabric cleaner (several are sold online). Not cheap, but if you love Grandma’s vintage napkins, it may be worth the cash.

Success? Store your rehabbed linens wrapped in another piece of material, such as a cotton bedsheet, so they can’t come in contact with anything that might cause them to turn yellow again.


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