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How to wash Vintage Clothing

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

You may be scared to wash your vintage, but I'm going to (hopefully!) reassure you, that it's not as hard as you may think. Trust me, you're going to LOVE washing your vintage clothing after this!

Washing vintage clothing

Don't forget, these pieces have been knocking about long before your trusty PJs or towels were ever born into this world, so they are much more resilient than thought of. Of course this all depends on the delicacy of the fabric, detailing, and condition of the item. For instance, I wouldn't recommend sticking a 1930s pure silk beaded gown with feathers on in the old Hotpoint.

pink toy washing machine

So...How to wash vintage clothing...

For the majority of vintage, it's in pretty good knick already to be sold on to you and therefore would most likely withstand a delicate cycle with low spin at a maximum of 20 degrees. I do this with my 50s cotton dresses, 60s polyester dresses and my 70s maxi dresses with integral lining and man-made sheer layer. 80s pieces are much more of the same, cottons and manmade fabrics. The main rule is to never tumble dry. A 400 spin is usually just fine too, so they needn't be just dripping wet when you take them out. If they do feel too heavy, then lie them flat to dry. I am guilty and wack my 70s dagger collar shirts/ maxi dresses in my tumble dryer on a cold air delicate dry ,but are just so robust I think they might enter the new series of Gladiator coming back to our screens.

I use normal washing detergent and fabric conditioner too, although for wool and cashmeres, hair conditioner is really good. Again, vintage wools and cashmeres are fine on a delicate/wool cycle on 20 degree maximum.

For older pieces or things which seem tricky, hand washing in a sink with load of patience and commitment is the one.

How to hand wash

First of all, make sure that your sink or bath is clean and make sure that the zips and buttons are done up so that nothing snags as you are moving the fabric about in the water. Add your detergent and warm water before you fully submerge the item of clothing. Imagine you're washing your body but don't be too rough, before rinsing in clear water at least 2 times. Wring it out as much as you can before lying it flat to dry.

Now go on, take the leap and go for it!

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