How to get a stain out of a vintage dress?
April 28, 2014 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I am the proud new owner of this vintage picnic-checked pink gingham maxi dress, which I picked up for a song! Unfortunately, the dress has a stain on the bust that I need to remove (see the fifth picture in the link), and I am looking for advice about the best method(s) to try without ruining the dress. The dress is missing a tag indicating fabric, and the brand label has been cut out of it. I don't know much about the dress or the stain, but here are a few things I do know:

- The washing instructions read: "Machine wash, warm: delicate cycle; tumble dry, low; use cool iron".
- The fabric has a sort of seersucker stripe running through it (the white stripe), and the pink one is smooth. The fabric has a matte woven-cottony feel, but I think it may be a blend (not sure). The second and sixth pictures in the link to the auction page show fabric close-ups.
- The stain appears to me to be possibly slightly greasy, and a light yellowy-orangey color, with a hint of brown. It shows up in a few spots on the front - one large spot (maybe 1cm radius), and then a few smaller spots (see fifth picture in link).
- The rest of the dress appears slightly dirty (especially the ric rac trim), and I would also like to remove this dirt if possible.
- I'm guessing that the dress is from the 1960s or 1970s (late 1960s?).

I use OxiClean on stains in my normal (non-vintage) clothing. I have heard that Biz gets stains better out of vintage clothing? I have seen cocktails online for removing stains from vintage clothing with Biz and OxiClean, or Biz/OxiClean/dish detergent, etc. I'd love to hear first of all what luck people have had with different mixtures versus others, and exactly what you did (powder/liquid, what mixtures, what concentration, how long you soaked for, etc.). How gentle do I need to be with this dress to avoid ruining it? I'd also love to hear if people have any specific recommendations about what to do (or what not to do!) for my dress and its stain, based on the information I've given. Thanks so much!
posted by ClaireBear to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The sewing blog had some advice on cleaning vintage clothing a while back. Here's a link to the author's methods, with additional advice in the comments:
posted by terooot at 11:48 AM on April 28, 2014

Here's a guide to determining fiber content if you want to make sure you know what you're dealing with.
posted by cabingirl at 11:52 AM on April 28, 2014

I heard a vintage clothing restorer/expert speak on the radio, and she said that Oxiclean works using enzymes, and thus does not damage the fabric.
Her suggestion was a concentrated mix in warm water, with the stain/garment submerged for "days" - you may not want to leave it that long, but the longer, the better/more complete the enzymes can do their job.
posted by dbmcd at 12:17 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding dbmcd's comment about OxyClean. I use Oxy on vintage, delicates, etc. Works like a charm.
posted by ArgyleGargoyle at 12:33 PM on April 28, 2014

I just had a ton of luck getting rid of various old, dried-in stains using a mix of blue Dawn and hydrogen peroxide. I would test it in an inconspicuous area first to make sure it won't lighten the fabric, but it seriously amazed me with its power. I used this recipe.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 12:55 PM on April 28, 2014

If all else fails, you could embroider a flower or some other motif over it to hide it.
posted by ATX Peanut at 1:42 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Or I was going to suggest some little iron on appliqu├ęs that you can find at fabric stores to cover the stains. I remember having a dress similar to that one and it had little flowers ironed on it.
posted by tamitang at 2:51 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have used baby shampoo on various greasy clothing stains, with good results. I'd start with gentle treatments and escalate to more vigorous methods. A drop of whatever you use, a gentle scrub with a soft toothbrush, and launder as usual should do the trick. And oxyclean will almost certainly brighten the rick rack trim. Good luck!
posted by LaBellaStella at 4:41 PM on April 28, 2014

I got rid of 30 year old sweat stains on an almost 90 year old cotton dress (my great-grandmother's 1914 wedding dress, which my mother's bridesmaid had worn in 1968, and then I wore as a wedding dress in 2002) by soaking it in a weak solution of OxiClean for a day or so. It went from dingy yellow to bright white.

So, I wouldn't hesitate to just see what soaking it in OxiClean for a couple of days does as a starting point.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:09 PM on April 28, 2014

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