Wednesday, 26 September 2012

DIRTY LAUNDRY

SCOTCH WASHING

I struggle to make my whites sparkle. Years ago, my good friend J and I had a lot of fun at a little antiques fair in York, selling old bits and pieces we'd found at jumble sales and church bazaars. J always put me to shame with her crisp, uniformly ice-white linens but I've never learned how achieve this result (I did ask her the secret - she shrugged, "Nothing special".) Nevertheless, I still can't resist buying dainty lawns and sturdy linens and...


...they pile up in our attic, in varying shades of off-white, awaiting - what?


This cloth is very fine, hand-worked using all kinds of techniques. I've soaked it in odd potions, boiled it up in a jam pan and hung it in the sun for hours, but still the pale brown stain persists.


Smocks are my favourites but inevitably, being work clothes, they are often stained.

I wonder what potent brew some tired agricultural labourer dribbled onto these Dorset buttons - I can't get rid of it!

This luscious nightdress is fit for a grand lady, but its front is fatally be-smirched.


I won't be trying that then - any ideas before I tuck my skirt in my knickers and jump in the wash tub?


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22 comments:

  1. I really wish that you had the answer of how to remove red wine stains from very white cotton...

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    Replies
    1. Ha Ha!
      Only one way to do that - drink champagne.

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  2. I'm always tempted to buy beautiful old linen when I see it at antique fairs, and now at vide greniers in France. The quality always seems to be so beautiful....but such hard work to keep in anything approaching sparkling white pristine condition.
    I remember our next door neighbour , in the early 60s, was the envy of the neighbourhood on wash day, her washing line was always full of incredibly bright white linens....her secret, she always claimed, was just boiling in a pan, on the stove top, in water and Persil....my mother never believed her, she always suspected another secret ingredient.

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    1. Boiling always seemed to work for my Mum, but I find it doesn't always work. Must be one of those "women's secrets" like how much childbirth hurts - but I found that one out.

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  3. I know I'm a bit weird but...I tend to think the "stains" add to the garment.

    Now I'm probably the only one who feels this way (I also like damaged oil paintings) but I can never understand the haste everyone feels to make whites whiter than white; once they're washed and fresh I think the marks add to the history as would a darn or repair....however, should you really need crispness and a bright white that will be the envy of your friends, I recommend that you wait until the full moon and frosts are due and hang the damp washing out for the night- I used to do this with all my "for sale" linens and boy, did they sing brightness!

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    1. Gosh, I don't know that trick - are you sure you didn't cast a spell as you hung them out? I'll put on my pointy hat & try it as I need to clear the pile in the attic. That's the trouble - if you want to sell them on they have to be virtually perfect.

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  4. Those smocks are lovely. I just love buying old, screwed up, grey linens and transforming them into beautifully white, starched items. I have bought this in the past and it does work on the rust spots - they disappear instantly http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/RUST-REMOVER-FOR-FABRICS-IDEAL-4-ANTIQUE-LINENS-100ml-/230846577838?pt=UK_Antiques_AntiqueTextiles_EH&hash=item35bf873cae#ht_648wt_1344
    It is expensive though, she used to do it in smaller quantities.

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    1. Thank you, I'll try this. I am convinced that some people are much better at this than me, though. My ironing skills are not up to much either.

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  5. I share your envy of those who can really get white whites - I've tried everything but am never totally convinced. My mother-in-law's linen sheets are most impressive and I know she doesn't have a secret as I've used her washing machine lots...so I'm none the wiser.
    These old whites are gorgeous though, even with the odd stain and mark. I think you should find a close friend and tuck your frock up - looks rather intimate and quite good fun!
    Axxx

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    1. Yes, those mothers-in-law can be so THOROUGH - mine used to iron her tights!

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  6. What gorgeous linens, I was in seventh heaven, such embroidery, smocking, lace, buttons etc etc, I could go on. I have bought lots of stained linens and lace and usually just soak it in cold water overnight. I looked on the internet which said white vinegar but the best success I had was using oxi action foaming powder. I wouldn't use it on precious lace but I usually dye mine anyway which covers most things. Sorry not much help jayne x

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    1. I've tried boiling & Biotex - but maybe Biotex is not the same as oxi action powder. I will look into it further. Thank you Jayne.

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  7. Hello,
    Don't have the answer am afraid, but enjoyed this post!
    As always I am leaving you with a smile on my face!!
    LoVe Maria x

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Maria!

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  8. I use Oxi Fabric Stain Remover which can be used on a 30ºC wash. However, I always soak first in the Oxi. I would be wary of fine fabrics unless I tried a corner first.

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    1. I am going to try this, Rosemary, though I definitely think that being a good laundress is a skill one is born with - or not!

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  9. I always use napisan. Put some in a bucket with boiling water, add item and leave for a few days - always works. Or for rust use lemon juice over night

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    1. That's a good idea. Gosh it's a long time since I had napisan under my sink!

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  10. When your mother-in-law ironed her tights, did she take them off first?

    I reckon that's a bloke on the left of "A Scots Washing"....... Maybe it was the only way they could meet...............

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  11. Ha Ha! You won't be old enough to remember but when nylon & silk stockings came in a cellophane packet they were flat, as if they'd been ironed (as are socks today). I think she took great pleasure in recreating the good as new appearance. The poor woman worked full-time as a secretary too.

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  12. I have found that white vinegar and lemon juice left overnight often works on rust and iron mould. Sometimes the lemon juice leaves a yellow stain but that tends to disappear after a couple of washes.

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  13. I have taken off stubborn stains from a pair of white jeans once by using cheap coconut soap, rubbing a lot into the stain and leaving it in the sun to dry, then washing as usual....

    When I lived in Brazil the local housewives use to use regular laundry coconut soap for everything... it was cheap too. But I don't know how to come by it here in Europe...

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