Antique fabrics can lose their pristine quality over time, often due to dinner-party spills, dirt settling into folds, and discolorations caused by ironing and starch. Some may be too delicate to machine-wash. . Fortunately, with a little bit of patience, you can revive them.
WWMD: ( What would Martha do?)
If the pieces have been exiled to the deepest corner of your linen closet for a while, give them a long bath in plain cold or tepid water to loosen set-in grime. Replace the water when it gets cloudy, and repeat until it stays clear. (And we do mean a long one: This can take up to a week.)
Fill a tub with tepid water and mild laundry detergent. Wearing rubber gloves, slosh the linens around gently. Rinse well.
Martha Stewart Living home editor Lorna Aragon swears by Engleside Restoration Fabric Restorer to remove stubborn stains. Dissolve three scoops per gallon of water, then soak the fabric for six to eight hours. Remove and rinse.
The sun has natural fabric-brightening powers. Lay your items flat on a towel outside (or in a sunny spot inside).
To keep antique linens in mint condition, store them in a dry, dark cupboard on shelves that are painted or lined with acid-free paper (oils in wood can discolor them), and tuck sheets of acid-free paper in their folds, too.