HNW - Old/Antique needlework

Reid, Andrew (MED_GEN) reida at mail.wch.sa.gov.au
Thu Jul 1 19:27:27 PDT 1999


Hi all,

I've read with some interest the messages about the cleaning of old linens.

The most important thing to consider is that the fabric should be left as
clean as possible and as 'Ph neutral' as possible if you are to prolong the
life of the item.  I would not consider using anything like lemon juice
(yikes!) as has been suggested to clean old linens, as this would leave it
incredibly acidic and may work in the short term but could have long term
repercussions.  All the acid-free storage tissue in the world would not help
preserve an item if it is put away with a significantly acid Ph.

I would recommend specialist dry cleaning, especially by a company that is
used to dealing with antique linen.  Dry cleaning is not without its
problems, but if done correctly should not significantly change the natural
Ph balance of the fabric.  Most washing powders make fabrics alkaline, which
causes problems of its own.

If you don't have access to specialist dry cleaning there is possibly a
fabric advisory telephone service you can call (some washing powder
companies have their won, but they will only recommend which of their
products are most suitable - look on the pack), or try a museum conservation
department (as has already been suggested).  There are some very neutral
washing sodas available which are aimed at the fabric dyeing/craft market
which might also be appropriate, perhaps try a major crafts supplier in your
area.

I hope this has helped, or been of some interest at least!

Andrew Reid
Adelaide - South Australia
(SCA - Bartolomeo Agazzari)
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