Saturday, August 30, 2014

Vintage Christening Dress - The Washing

Thanks for all the wonderful advice and comments about this dress!

Everything I read on the internet seemed to say it was an okay thing to wash it, EXCEPT for
the one article that said washing vintage clothing can sometimes result in it dissolving.

Uh...did it really say DISSOLVING? 
As in, DISAPPEARING? Okay, that scared me!
I certainly did not want this washing to result in a only few threads left in my tub.

With a shaky hand and thumping heart, I took on the task of washing the dress
to remove the stuffy smell and any remaining weevil shells.

Since I had a huge bag of baking soda on hand and using it was among the highly recommended
methods on the internet for cleaning this at home (plus, Sharon said it was okay so it must be okay),
I decided this was how I was going to start the process of cleaning the dress.

I started by adding one quarter cup of baking soda to two cups of boiling water.
I stirred it until it dissolved...I loved watching it bubble and brew...then let it cool down.

Next, I gently laid the dress in my clean bathtub and slowly started filling the tub with lukewarm water.
I poured the dissolved baking soda mix into the running water to incorporate into the water in the tub.
I read that you just let the dress float up in the water allowing it to soak in the water on its own,
but after a few minutes of letting it float I gently pushed it into the water to totally cover it.

I left it to soak for one hour and came back to gently agitate not wring it or lift it!
Water makes fabric heavy and lifting it can damage those delicate threads holding it all together.
 I let it soak another half hour and then drained off the baking soda water.

Once the water was drained I filled the tub with cool water, gently agitated the dress, 
and drained the water. I did this FIVE times to remove the baking soda mixture from the dress.

It didn't dissolve (whew!), but it still smelled a little musty.
 I definitely needed something to take away that yucky smell.

Oxyclean or BIZ was recommended on several internet sites to whiten and clean vintage clothing, but I 
didn't want to whiten the dress because I love, love, love the creamy color of it. Luckily, my sister had
some BIZ so I borrowed only a tablespoon and dissolved it like I did the baking soda. Once again I 
soaked and rinsed repeatedly just like I'd done with the baking soda. It was a long day and my back 
didn't appreciate all the bending over the tub, but it was worth it because it smelled so much better!

Once all the rinsing and rinsing and rinsing was done, and the tub was drained of all the water,
I rolled it into a towel without lifting it up (I didn't want to damage those delicate threads!) 
After gently pressing on the towel to help remove some of the water, I left it there for about a half hour.

Still being careful not to lift the wet dress or pull on it, I unrolled it and left it in the tub for an hour.
For the next several hours I turned the dress over onto a dry towel using the wet towel to support it.
Right before going to bed to ease my aching back, I placed a dry towel underneath and left it to dry.

No dissolved dress, no musty smell, no ripped seams!
It didn't even need to be ironed because it looks just fine like it is.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not a pro at this and do not claim that I knew what I was doing.
I was just lucky thanks to all the wonderful advice and research.


  1. Wow. Thanks for sharing your process. It looks super white now.

  2. I'm so thrilled that not only did it survive.... it was revived and looks fabulous! Great job!

  3. You took such tender loving care of that sweet little dress Carol- I could swear that it actually looks happy now!

  4. It came out beautifully!!! Well done you for having a go and doing so well! xx

  5. Hooray! I'm so glad that your efforts were so successful, Carol. It's such a beautiful piece of family history and I can't help marvelling at not only the workmanship but how well preserved it is. Funny to realize that this gown was made the same year my great grandma was born!

  6. Yea! A great lesson in how patience pays off. :). Blessings, Marlene

  7. I am glad that you could clean it with no damage, it is such a beautiful gown and such a treasure to have.


  8. You're a much braver woman than I am, but look how beautiful it turned out!

  9. Looks lovely...but what a chore, I so feel for your back.

  10. you did a wonderful job. Everything I've read says you used all the right ingredients, including patience, and treated the fabric just right - gently agitating and not lifting. I think restorers have large screens they place fabric on so they can lift it from the tub of water. You gave this precious heirloom a new life and it looks amazing.

  11. WOW! It turned out beautiful! Well, it was beautiful to begin with but it's even more beautiful now! What a patient lady you are to go through the process you did! It paid off!

  12. I feel like this dress must be breathing a sigh of comfort and thanks after all the TLC you gave it.

  13. The dress turned out beautifully!!! Amazing what happens when we get brave!

  14. Looks awesome.
    Glad it stayed in one piece and didn't dissolve.


Comments are always appreciated!

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