In this tutorial I’ll show you how to remove rust stains from antique and vintage clothing without damaging the fabric.
A while ago I bought an antique Edwardian princess petticoat with rust stains on the fabric and lace. Rust stains should be removed because they’ll eventually break down fibers and cause holes. So I searched the internet how rust stains were removed in the Edwardian era. To remove rust stains, iron mould or ink, Victorians and Edwardians usually used lemon juice, lemon juice and salt, cream of tartar, oxalic acid, or milk and salt (A Manual Of Home-Making, 1919/ Encyclopedia Of Practical Receipts And Processes, 1872). In this tutorial I’ve tried two methods: lemon juice and boiling water, and lemon juice with salt.
- boiling water
- optional: salt
Here’s how the petticoat looked before: many large and small spots, mainly at the shoulder. Probably the petticoat was dried on a metal hanger sometime.
The lemon juice recipe is for ‘rust stains on white washable materials […] This method is rather slow but does not injure delicate white cotton or linen fabrics.’ (A Manual Of Home-Making, 1919)
Squeeze the lemon to saturate each rust stain with some drops of lemon juice.
Hold the fabric over the boiling water for a while. Then rinse the fabric in cold water. Repeat the process as often as necessary.
Rinse the fabric in cold water and put it into the washing machine. The stains will look slightly different prior to washing but won’t disappear till after washing.
Alternative: You could also cover the stains with a paste of lemon juice and salt and let it soak for some hours. Then rinse the fabric and wash in the washing machine.
This is how the petticoat looked after washing in the washing machine: The small stains are completely gone and the larger stains are smaller. I think they’ll also disappear when I repeat the process.
Here you’ll find more Victorian laundry tips and tricks.