Handling Vintage Fabrics

With vintage clothing becoming ever-more popular amongst fashion, it is a good idea to understand exactly how best to handle the various fabrics that can go into making vintage clothing, especially if you have picked up a legitimately old item rather than purchasing something that has been created in a vintage style.

vintage retro shirts

With that in mind here are a couple of tips that should help your new find last longer and ensure that you get plenty of use out of it.

Be careful when cleaning

Always bear in mind that a vintage fabric will have been created in the days before the washing machine. Furthermore, many current cleaning products will contain chemicals that may well clash with the makeup of the fabric, leading to it becoming unusable.

Never place a vintage piece of clothing in a washing machine. The likelihood is that the rotations of the machine, couple with powders and fabric softeners, will utterly ruin the fabric and make it unwearable.

rack of vintage clothing

Hand wash any older fabrics that you have, using mild soap that has little to none of the added chemicals that many cleaning products of the current day do. Wherever possible use a natural soap to better emulate the products available during the period when the fabric was made.


While most vintage fabrics are safe to iron it is very important to ensure that you do so carefully and with the iron at the correct setting. If you are unsure it is always best to speak to the person who sold you the item to see if they can let you know what temperature the iron will need to be at to achieve optimal results.

Bear in mind that, much like with newer fabrics, vintage wools and velvets need to be steamed rather than ironed, to avoid any possibility of scorch marks or otherwise damaging the fabric.

Proper storage

Do not place a vintage item in an area that is subject to damp. The moisture will get into the fabric and will generally lead to the composition being utterly ruined. Instead, always ensure that you place the item in an area that is airy and dry, preferably at room temperature.

Also ensure that you do not place the item directly on wood, especially if the wood has been treated with any form of chemicals as many items of furniture are. Wherever possible use a piece of 100% cotton fabric without any form of chemicals to act as a barrier.

Finally, if the item is intended to go into storage for a long time avoid placing it in any tightly confined spaces that may cause irreversible creasing and damage to the material. Use dried lavender instead of mothballs to keep moths away from the clothing while also ensuring no unwanted chemicals find their way into the vintage fabrics.


Perhaps most importantly, be sure to enjoy your new find. There’s no use buying a vintage piece and then never wearing it, so don’t be afraid to break it out every once in a while to wow your friends. With the proper research and care the item will last as long as any other piece of clothing in your wardrobe and can give you many years of faithful service.

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