Methods of Cleaning Lace

Methods of Cleaning Lace

“How Shall I Clean My Lace?”

Journal readers frequently ask. In answer to these constant inquiries here are some methods that I have used successfully. Remember that no matter what the process of cleaning may be, three things are necessary for success: care, patience, and time.

With these three things, a good lace may be made to look as well as when new. While it would not pay one to follow the same method in common as with delicate laces, still it always pays to do a thing properly. The reader will use her judgment in selecting the process for her particular kind of lace.

Cleaning Common Laces

Make the suds as for fine laces and let the lace soak in this for ten hours or more; then rub gently between the palms of the hands. Wash in second suds, in the same manner, then rinse until the water is clear. If the lace is to be tinted, do it now, then starch.

Have a flannel tacked tightly on a board; spread the lace on this and pin to the cloth. Be sure to draw the lace out correctly and fasten each point to the flannel with a pin.

Alternatively, the wet lace may be drawn out perfectly smooth, covered with a piece of cheesecloth, and ironed with a moderately hot iron until quite dry.

Dry-Cleaning Laces

Put the laces in a bowl and cover with naphtha. Let them soak for an hour, then wash by sopping and rubbing between the palms of the hands. Rinse the lace in the second bowl of naphtha, then pull it into shape. The texture of the lace is not changed in the least by this method of cleaning.

If you want to stiffen it, dip it in a thin solution of gum-Arabic, pin it to a covered board and let it dry. When washing the lace with the naphtha, there must be neither fire nor light in the room, and the windows must be open.

Starch for Laces

Mix one teaspoonful of starch with two tablespoonfuls of cold water and pour on this one pint of boiling water. Place on the fire and add one-fourth of a teaspoonful of sugar, and one-fourth of a teaspoonful of gum-Arabic that has been soaked in one tablespoonful of cold water.

Boil for five minutes, stirring: all the while. Strain through cheesecloth. For a lighter starch effect, double the quantity of water. For heavy laces that are required to be somewhat stiff, use just half the amount of water.

Tinting- Lace

To give thread lace a soft, old look pass it through slightly blued water that has a little black ink added, — one drop of ink for every half pint of water. For an ecru tint, use tea, coffee or saffron.

Make the tinting fluid relatively strong and try a corner of the lace in it; if the tinting fluid is too strong, add water. To my mind, tea is the most satisfactory agent, but it does not give as yellow a tint of coffee or saffron.

Gum-Arabic Starch

Make gum-Arabic Starch by putting one-fourth of an ounce of the best white gum-Arabic in a cup or wide-mouthed bottle with one gill of cold water. Let it soak for two or three hours, then place in a basin of cold water and put on the fire to dissolve.

Stir frequently; strain through cheesecloth. This process makes a very stiff starch. For articles that need less stiffening, add a quart of water or more to the dissolved gum-Arabic.

Cleaning Lace with Absorbents

Mix equal quantities of cream of tartar, magnesia and powdered French chalk. Spread the lace on a piece of cloth and sprinkle it thickly with the mixture and roll up.

Let the lace lie in this for a week or ten days, then shake off the cleaning mixture. With a soft, clean cloth wipe the lace. This method will only answer for laces that are not much soiled.

Washing Fine Laces.

Have a strip of flannel, on which baste the lace, using care to have every point basted down smoothly. Make some strong suds with white soap and water. Dissolve one teaspoonful of borax in half a pint of boiling water and add it to two quarts of the suds.

When this liquid is tepid, lay the lace in it and let it soak for ten hours or more. Then sop and squeeze the flannel but do the work carefully and gently; then squeeze out all the suds and drop the cloth in a bowl of hot suds. Work gently in this water. Now rinse in fresh water until the water looks clear.

Finally starch and squeeze as dry as possible. Tack the flannel on a clean board, drawing it very tight in all directions. See that every part of the lace lies smooth and that all the meshes are open. When dry, cut the basting threads and draw them out very gently.

If you dislike dead white, you can tint the lace in the last rinsing water. If the lace has a point or raised designs, it will be necessary to lift the raised design work with a small, pointed instrument such as a toothpick.

“My Methods of Cleaning Lace,” in The Ladies’ Home Journal, Philadelphia: The Curtis Publishing Company, Vol. XVIII, No. 11, October 1901, p. 40.

Note: We have edited this text to correct grammatical errors and improve word choice to clarify the article for today’s readers. Changes made are typically minor, and we often left passive text “as is.” Those who need to quote the article directly should verify any changes by reviewing the original material.


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