How to clean your antique lace

Hand-made lace is one of the most beautiful, treasured and delicate of fabrics – but what is the best way to clean it? We went to the experts for advice.

Making Lace

Lace being hand-made by a member of the Queensland Lace Guild

You may have collected or inherited a piece of hand-made, antique lace but you may be unsure how to clean and care for it. The members of the Queensland Lace Guild have produced a video and booklet to show how it’s done, and although it’s not a quick process, the time is justified when looking at the value (sentimental or otherwise) of your lace.

Below is an extract from Care of Antique Lace by the Queensland Lace Guild that outlines their cleaning method.

Vacuum cleaner
Hair dryer
Washing solution – water with natural-based detergents, eg washing soda or soap flakes
Distilled water
Washing tubs
Netting, sewing thread, needle, scissors, brass pins
Sheets of plastic
Ether foam (do not use polystyrene)
Kettle or large pot to heat distilled water
Non-acetate blotting paper

A. Block – Take a piece of ether foam big enough to pin the piece of lace you are cleaning on to. Cover this in blotting paper. Then plastic. The block is now ready to use.
B. Lace – Take the lace to be cleaned and place it between two layers of netting, allowing the net to extend beyond and around the lace. Hand-stitch the net layers together so it will hold the lace firmly between (like a sandwich). If it is a large piece of lace, stitch between the holes of the lace but not through any threads. The idea is for the netting to hold the piece of lace firmly in place while you launder it.

1. Gently vacuum any excess dust off the lace.
2. Prepare your washing and rinsing tubs. One tub of washing solution and three (or more) tubs of clean, distilled rinse water. All distilled water must be tempered. (Tempered water is 2/3 cold to 1/3 hot).
3. Soak lace (which is encased in netting) in the washing solution; allow to stand for a short while.
4. Rub lace with the sponge. The net will protect the lace so you can rub quite hard to remove the dirt.
5. Once satisfied that all the dirt has been removed, lift the encased lace out of the solution and allow excess washing solution to drip off before placing into a tub of clean, tempered distilled water.
6. Pat and swirl the clean water through the lace. Repeat this method til you end up with clean water. Best to have at least three tubs of rinse water lined up (or however many it takes to rinse the lace fully).
7. Remove excess water by squeezing, but do not wring the lace.
8. Once you are satisfied the lace is clean remove the net. Lay the clean lace flat on the block (which was prepared beforehand). Using brass pins, pin the lace in place, making sure to pin through holes and not through any threads.
9. Once the lace is fully secure you may now use a hair dryer to dry the lace (on cool setting), or allow to air dry out of direct sunlight.
10. Store lace in fresh acetate-free paper, making sure you refresh the paper often.

The Queensland Lace Guild will be at the Brisbane Love Vintage Show (April 5-7). Come and watch the experts as they demonstrate lacemaking… and try it for yourself. The guild members are happy to share their knowledge and advice on making, identifying and caring for lace.

qldlace.orgThe Australian Lace Guild was incorporated in 1985 and operates nationally with branches in each state. The Queensland Branch has it’s own state committee which, among other things, operates a library, organises workshops and holds open general meetings.
The aim and objectives of the guild are:
 – To promote lacemaking as a craft throughout Australia
 – To bring together people interested in all forms of lace and lacemaking
 – To provide a forum for the exchange of information on lace and lacemaking
 – To establish and maintain standards of excellence in the craft of lacemaking in all forms
 – For personal and public education


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