Am I the only who missed the boat on spring cleaning this year? Recently, while lamenting all the laborious chores around the house we've been putting off now for weeks, it occurred to me that it wasn’t all that long ago that spring cleaning—indeed all cleaning—was much harder and more time-intensive than it is today. In the old days, before washing machines, we relied strictly on a washboard and Mother Nature to care for our heirloom linens—lemon juice or chlorophyll to remove stains, sunlight to whiten them. Fortunately, for all of us these days, simple, time-saving solutions abound, including one of my all-time personal favorites from our friends over at The Laundress.
When it comes to reviving and caring for the antique and vintage linens I’ve collected over the years, nothing beats The Laundress! Co-founded by my friend Lindsey Wieber Boyd and her business partner Gwen Whiting, The Laundress is an eco-chic line of specialty detergent and fabric care that takes the chore out of doing laundry. Long frustrated by dingy white t-shirts, ruined items from the dry cleaners and chemically treated cashmere, Lindsey and Gwen developed their own solutions to simplify and master the fine art of laundry. The result is a product mix of pure genius! Put simply, it's everything you could ever need to care for every kind of fabric you’ll ever come across.
If you’ve ever put off cleaning your great-grandmother’s chenille bedspread because you weren’t sure how to do it safely, then my favorite product from The Laundress will help you do the trick. The All-Purpose Bleach Alternative is non-toxic, allergen-free, and doesn’t rely on any of the harsh chlorines that most detergents do. That means it’s gentle enough to safely brighten colorful vintage linens like the green and white ones here—as well as all those beautifully embroidered hemstitch napkins you’ve been too afraid to use until now!
And to wash and revive light linens like the ones I used for this outdoor tabletop, I love the Whites Detergent, which keeps even the most delicate fabrics looking as good as new. So why not go ahead and dig out the "good" tablecloth and hand-pulled linens you’ve been saving only for special occasions? Antique linens are such a great way of adding character to new china, glassware and silver as well.
These days, not only do I no longer worry about ruining the linens I own, but I almost never pass up the chance to buy others just because they have a stain or two. I recently came across this antique linen table runner for only $8 at a flea market. Though sullied in a couple of places, the overall quality was outstanding, and I knew that with the help of The Laundress, I’d be able to restore it to its original condition. And sure enough, after cleaning it gently with the All-Purpose Bleach Alternative and drying it in the sun for a couple of hours, my old, vintage runner was as good as new! Just remember, it's concentrated stuff, so a little goes a long way.
Now that you’re getting used to the idea of using your favorite vintage linens day in and day out, why not go ahead and put together a complimentary mix of them in the powder room? Antique hand towels are not only a wonderful luxury for your guests, but using and reusing them is a great green alternative to disposable paper napkins. I love layering shades of white, all with unique edges, embroideries, hemstitches and even monograms.
Even the most treasured of family heirlooms—the christening gowns and baby clothes that have been passed down for generations—can be trusted to the care of The Laundress line. Lovingly restore the ones you have, then seek out vintage ones at flea markets and antique malls. They're far sweeter than anything you’ll find new today, and you can buy with confidence knowing how easy it is to restore the garments to their original beauty.
So the next time you encounter a hodgepodge box like this one at a thrift store, tag sale or flea market, take a minute before dismissing it as a lost cause.
Chances are, you’ll no longer have to pass on buying beautiful vintage linens because you’re unsure of how to care for them. As long as you unfold them completely and inspect them carefully for rips and holes, you’ll most likely come away with linens to last you a lifetime! Happy spring cleaning, everyone!