Vintage Clothing Care Guide: Taking Care of Latest Purchases

Vintage Clothing Care Guide: Taking Care of Latest Purchases

Welcome our vintage clothing care guide! Whether you are a seasoned vintage enthusiast or a newcomer to the world of timeless fashion, this guide aims to provide you with valuable insights and practical tips on preserving and maintaining the beauty of your cherished vintage garments. Vintage clothing possesses a unique charm and character that sets it apart from contemporary fashion. However, due to its age and delicate nature, proper care is essential to ensure its longevity. By following the advice and techniques outlined in this guide, you will be equipped with the knowledge to safeguard your new vintage clothes, allowing you to enjoy their elegance and style for years to come.

Washing Your Vintage Clothes

When it comes to washing your vintage clothes, it is crucial to exercise caution and follow proper care instructions to preserve their unique qualities and extend their lifespan. Vintage garments often require delicate handling due to their age and potential fragility. Before washing, it is advisable to inspect the clothing for any loose threads, weak seams, or delicate embellishments that may be prone to damage. It is recommended to hand wash vintage clothes using a mild detergent and lukewarm water, gently agitating the garments without excessive rubbing or wringing. After washing, carefully rinse the clothes to remove any soap residue, and then gently squeeze out excess water without twisting or stretching the fabric. Finally, lay the vintage clothes flat on a clean towel to air dry, avoiding direct sunlight or heat sources that may cause fading or shrinkage. By following these guidelines, you can ensure the preservation of your vintage clothing collection for years to come.


Clothes drying on a washing line outside

Understanding Fabric Types And Proper Cleaning Methods


When washing cotton clothing, it's important to know that cotton is a durable, breathable fabric that can generally withstand high temperatures. However, it can shrink if exposed to excessive heat. For proper cleaning, follow these guidelines:

  1. Check Labels: Always check the care label for specific instructions.
  2. Temperature: Use warm or cold water for washing, as hot water can cause shrinking.
  3. Detergent: Use a mild detergent.
  4. Gentle Cycle: Opt for a gentle cycle on your washing machine.
  5. Drying: Air dry or tumble dry on a low setting to prevent shrinking.

By following these steps, you can ensure your cotton clothing remains in good condition.


When washing nylon, a synthetic fabric known for its strength and durability, consider the following tips:

  1. Cool or Warm Water: Use cool or warm water, as hot water can cause shrinkage and fading.
  2. Mild Detergent: Opt for a gentle detergent.
  3. Gentle Cycle: Choose a gentle cycle on your washing machine.
  4. Avoid Excessive Heat: Dry on a low heat setting or air dry, as high heat can damage the fabric.
  5. Ironing: Use a low heat setting if ironing is necessary.

Nylon is generally easy to care for and resistant to stains and wrinkles, making it a low-maintenance fabric.


When washing polyester, a popular synthetic fabric, here are some key considerations:

  1. Cool Water: Use cool water to prevent shrinking and fading.
  2. Mild Detergent: Choose a gentle detergent.
  3. Gentle Cycle: Use a gentle wash cycle to prevent damage.
  4. Avoid High Heat: Dry on a low setting or air dry, as high heat can damage the fabric.
  5. Ironing: If ironing is necessary, use a low heat setting.

Polyester is durable and easy to care for, but be mindful of heat to maintain its quality.


When washing spandex, a highly elastic synthetic fabric, follow these guidelines:

  1. Cold Water: Use cold water to prevent shrinking and maintain elasticity.
  2. Mild Detergent: Choose a gentle detergent, avoiding chlorine bleach.
  3. Gentle Cycle: Use a gentle wash cycle or hand wash.
  4. Air Dry: Air dry spandex or use a low-heat setting in the dryer.
  5. Avoid High Heat: High temperatures can damage the elasticity of spandex.

Spandex requires gentle care to maintain its shape and elasticity.

Put like colours together

When washing vintage clothes, it is advisable to put the same colours together for several reasons. Firstly, vintage garments are often made from delicate fabrics that may be prone to color bleeding or fading. By separating the colors, you can minimize the risk of color transfer and preserve the original vibrancy of each garment. Secondly, vintage clothing may have been subjected to previous wear and tear, making them more susceptible to damage during the washing process. By grouping similar colours together, you can ensure that any potential damage, such as fabric pilling or stretching, is limited to garments of the same colour family. Lastly, segregating colors allows for more precise control over the washing process, including selecting appropriate water temperature and detergent, thus enhancing the longevity and overall appearance of your cherished vintage pieces.

Check the care label first

Checking the care label on vintage clothing before washing is crucial because they provide specific care instructions tailored to the fabric and construction of the garment. Vintage clothing can be made from a variety of materials, each requiring different care methods. The care label indicates the ideal washing temperature, whether dry cleaning is necessary, and other important details to prevent damage like shrinking, colour bleeding, or fabric deterioration. This is especially important for vintage items, which can be more delicate and less replaceable than modern clothing.

A Steamer

Using a steamer on vintage clothes offers gentle wrinkle removal without direct contact, reducing the risk of damaging delicate fabrics. Handheld steamers are compact and portable, ideal for light use or travel whereas standing steamers are larger, with more power and capacity, suitable for heavy use.

Tips for steaming vintage clothes include:

  1. Low Heat: Start with a low heat setting.
  2. Distance: Keep the steamer a few inches away from the fabric.
  3. Test First: Test on a small, inconspicuous area.
  4. No Stretching: Avoid stretching the fabric while steaming.
  5. Use a Press Cloth: For very delicate fabrics, use a press cloth or in a pinch, a muslin, between the steamer and the garment.

These tips help maintain the integrity of vintage clothes while keeping them looking fresh.

Wash and Stain Bars

A wash and stain bar is a type of soap specifically designed for hand-washing clothes and treating stains. It's often more gentle and less abrasive than regular laundry detergents, making it suitable for delicate fabrics, including those found in vintage clothing. The bar allows for targeted application directly on stains or soiled areas, offering effective cleaning while minimizing potential damage to the fabric. It's particularly useful for spot cleaning and can be a vital tool in preserving the integrity of delicate and vintage garments.

They allow for targeted cleaning, which is especially useful for spot-treating stains without having to wash the entire garment. This is beneficial for vintage clothes that might not withstand regular washing. When using these bars, it's important to:

  1. Test on a small, hidden area first.
  2. Gently rub the bar on the stained or soiled area.
  3. Rinse or blot out the soap carefully to avoid water damage or residue.

These methods help preserve the integrity of vintage fabrics while keeping them clean.

How to get a bad smell out of vintage clothing

Vintage clothing often comes with a rich history, but sometimes, it can also carry lingering odors from its past. Removing these smells is a crucial step in restoring and enjoying your vintage finds. In this section, we'll delve into effective and gentle methods to eliminate unpleasant odors from vintage clothing, ensuring they're not only visually appealing but also fresh and ready to wear. From natural deodorizing techniques to careful cleaning tips, learn how to rejuvenate your cherished garments without compromising their integrity.

Distilled White Vinegar

To remove smells from vintage clothes using distilled white vinegar, mix equal parts vinegar and water. Lightly spray this solution onto the garment, or dab it onto the fabric with a cloth. Then, hang the clothing in a well-ventilated area to air dry. If the vinegar smell remains after drying, you can gently rinse the garment in water. This technique leverages vinegar's natural acidic properties to neutralize odors effectively, without causing harm to the fabric.


Using vodka to remove bad smells from vintage clothing is a simple and effective method. The alcohol in vodka helps to break down odor-causing molecules. To use this technique, lightly spray the garment with vodka, ensuring it's damp but not soaked. Then, let the clothing air dry. The vodka will evaporate, taking the unpleasant odours with it. This method is especially useful for fabrics that can't be washed frequently or are too delicate for stronger cleaning agents.

Beeswax Bars

A beeswax bar is a handy tool for maintaining zippers on vintage clothing. Beeswax can be used to lubricate sticky or stiff zippers, making them easier to open and close. By gently rubbing the beeswax along the teeth of the zipper, it helps to smooth the zipper's movement. This is particularly useful for older garments where the zipper may have become less smooth over time. Using a beeswax bar is a simple, effective way to care for these delicate components of vintage clothing.

Use Gentle Hand-Washing Techniques

Treating vintage clothing with the utmost care is key to preserving its beauty and integrity, and gentle hand washing plays a crucial role in this process. In this section, we'll explore why delicate hand washing techniques are paramount for your vintage garments. Understanding the need for a softer touch can prevent damage, maintain original textures, and ensure the longevity of these timeless pieces. We'll guide you through the best practices for hand washing vintage clothing, ensuring they continue to tell their stories for years to come.

Steps for hand washing vintage clothing items

In the realm of vintage clothing care, certain fabrics necessitate a professional touch. Delicate or aged silk, woolen garments that risk shrinking, pure velvet, leather, suede, and fur, all require specialized cleaning methods beyond what can be achieved at home. Additionally, items adorned with intricate embroidery or beadwork are particularly vulnerable to damage during hand washing. Entrusting these materials to professional cleaners ensures they are treated with the expertise and care needed to maintain their unique character and quality.

Sort clothing by lights and darks and wash separately

Sort light and dark clothes as well as seperating colours to avoid colours leaking and bleeding into each other. If you're washing an item for the first time we recommend that you was it separately from other garments to avoid damaging other clothes.

Fill up sink or plastic tub with water

Ensure your tub or sink is clean before filling it with cold water. To make sure the sink/tub is completely clean wipe it with a white towel or kitchen roll and if it stays white then you're ready for the next step. If there's any grime or discolouration to the towel then rinse the tub/sink and check again.

Pour in small amount of laundry detergent

Add a small drop of laundry detergent to the water and swirl the water around so the laundry detergent dissolves. Depending on how dirty the garment is we'll wash it a number of times so there's no need to use lots of detergent on the first pass.

Make sure all buttons, zippers, hooks and eyes, etc.

Make sure all the buttons and zips are done up to avoid them snagging on other parts of the garment

Put clothing into water and gentle move them in the water

This ensures that each item is soaked through and stops it floating to the top of the sink/tub. Do not twist or squeeze because the clothing is delicate.

Let them soak

Let your clothes soak as long as you like - I normally wait ten minutes

Take the clothing out and drain the water

Carefully remove each item rom the water and if it's a heavy or stretchy garment make sure to support it from both sides to avoid stretching it. The water might be a brown/yellow colour as the dirt that was trapped in the fabric is now left in the water.

Gently Rinse

Rinse the clothing gently under the tap to wash off the dirty water and suds. Do not wring out your clothes because this could distort their shape. If the water you dumped out was clear then you’re ready to dry the clothing, if not then fill up the tub and repeat the washing steps until the water does run clear.

Air dry your vintage clothing whenever possible

Air drying vintage clothing is recommended because it is the gentlest method to dry these delicate items. The intense heat and tumbling action of a dryer can cause shrinkage, damage fabrics, and deteriorate colours, particularly in older garments. Air drying, preferably away from direct sunlight to avoid fading, allows clothes to retain their shape and texture, prolonging their life and preserving their unique qualities. This method is essential for maintaining the integrity of vintage fabrics, which are often more susceptible to damage from harsh drying methods.


Clothes drying on a washing line outside

Steps for drying inside

To air-dry vintage clothes inside, follow these steps:

  1. Gently Squeeze Out Water: After washing, carefully squeeze out excess water without wringing the fabric. Vintage materials can be delicate and wringing can cause irreversible damage.
  2. Lay Flat on a Towel: Spread the garment on a clean, dry towel. This supports the garment's shape, preventing stretching or distortion that hanging might cause.
  3. Roll Up the Towel: Roll the towel with the garment inside to absorb more water. Rolling in a towel gently removes excess water without harsh squeezing, protecting the garment's integrity.
  4. Lay Flat to Dry: Place the item on a fresh dry towel or a drying rack, shaping it to its original form. This allows the garment to retain its shape and size, avoiding the stress of hanging.
  5. Avoid Direct Heat and Sunlight: Keep the clothes away from direct heat sources and sunlight to prevent fading and fabric damage. Direct heat or sunlight can fade colours and weaken fibers, especially in older fabrics.
  6. Flip Occasionally: Turn the garment over occasionally to ensure even drying. This ensures even drying and prevents moisture from settling in one area, which could lead to mildew or fabric weakening.

These steps ensure that your vintage clothing dries gently, maintaining its shape and condition as well as the quality and longevity of your vintage garments.

Steps for drying outside

Drying clothes outside follows the same principles as drying clothes inside however there are a few extra bits to consider. Here is a step by step guide to drying your vintage clothes outside.

To air dry vintage clothes outside, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a Mild Day: Avoid strong sunlight or high winds which can damage delicate fabrics. Strong sunlight can cause fading and weaken fabrics, while high winds might stretch or misshape garments.
  2. Use a Clean Drying Area: Ensure the clothesline or rack is clean to avoid soiling the clothes. Dirty lines or racks can transfer grime onto the clothing, undoing your careful washing.
  3. Hang or Lay Flat: Use padded hangers for sturdy items, or lay delicate garments flat on a clean surface. Padded hangers prevent stretching for sturdy items, while laying flat preserves the shape of more delicate pieces.
  4. Avoid Direct Sunlight: Place in a shaded area to prevent fading. This prevents color fading and fabric degradation, especially in older materials.
  5. Flip Occasionally: Turn the garments periodically for even drying. This ensures even drying and prevents moisture buildup which can lead to mildew.
  6. Check Regularly: Monitor the drying process to avoid leaving the items out longer than necessary. This monitoring avoids overexposure to the elements, safeguarding the garment’s integrity.

These steps help protect vintage clothing from the elements while air drying outside.

Maintaining Your Vintage Clothes

Maintaining vintage clothing is not just about preserving a piece of fashion history; it's about sustaining its life and vibrancy for future enjoyment. These garments, often crafted with unique materials and techniques, require thoughtful care to protect their delicate nature. By investing time in proper maintenance, we not only extend the lifespan of these treasures but also ensure they remain as vibrant and captivating as the day they were first worn. This care reflects a respect for their heritage, allowing these pieces to continue telling their stories for years to come.

Repairing Damage

There will often be small issues with vintage clothing over time such as snagging zips, loose buttons or fraying threads. Each snag, loose button, or seam tear, however minor, can quickly escalate into significant damage if left unattended. Timely repairs not only restore the garment's integrity but also extend its wearable life. This proactive approach to maintenance embodies a commitment to sustainability and respect for the garment's historical significance, ensuring that these cherished pieces continue to be enjoyed and appreciated for years to come.


Sewing clothes

Top tips for repairing vintage clothes while maintaining their authentic look and feel include:

  • Matching Materials: Use thread and fabric that closely match the original in texture and color. Using similar materials maintains the garment's original appearance and integrity. It ensures repairs blend seamlessly with the fabric, preserving the historical authenticity.
  • Preserving Original Features: Try to retain original buttons, zippers, and trims when possible. Original features like buttons or trims often have period-specific styles. Keeping them maintains the garment’s historical accuracy and charm.
  • Minimal Intervention: Keep repairs as minimal and unobtrusive as possible. Minimal repairs prevent over-alteration, keeping the garment as close to its original state as possible.
  • Hand Stitching: Use hand sewing techniques for delicate fabrics and visible areas. This technique is gentler on old fabrics and mirrors original construction methods, helping to preserve the garment's vintage character.
  • Professional Help: For complex repairs, consider consulting a professional experienced with vintage garments. Professionals have the skills and resources to handle complex repairs without compromising the garment's original style and fabric, ensuring longevity and authenticity.

Only wash when dirty

One of the things that shortens the life of clothing the most is washing them too often. Washing vintage clothes only when absolutely necessary is crucial for their preservation. Each wash can stress and wear out the fabric, potentially leading to fading, shrinkage, or weakening, especially in older materials. Limiting washing to instances when the garments are truly dirty or smelly helps to maintain their original condition and extend their lifespan. This practice not only respects the garment's unique history but also aligns with sustainable fashion principles, minimizing water usage and wear. Try these tips before resorting to a wash:

  • Spot Cleaning: Gently dab stains with a mild detergent.
  • Air Out: Hang outside in fresh air, avoiding direct sunlight.
  • Steaming: Use a steamer to refresh and remove odors.
  • Dryer Sheets: Place in a garment bag with a dryer sheet to absorb odors.
  • Baking Soda: Sprinkle on the garment, leave for a few hours, then brush off.
  • Vodka Spray: Lightly mist with diluted vodka; it evaporates, taking odors with it.

Proper storage

Storing your vintage clothes correctly will help them to last for many more years to come, in the section below we explore some top tips on storing your vintage clothes.

Storing Your Vintage Clothing

Proper storage of vintage clothing is pivotal for preserving their unique qualities and extending their lifespan. Vintage fabrics and constructions can be susceptible to damage from light, moisture, and pests. Correct storage techniques, such as using the right hangers, avoiding plastic covers, and maintaining a stable environment, safeguard these garments from such threats. This care is essential not just for maintaining their appearance, but also for preserving the historical and sentimental value that makes vintage clothing so special.

Guard Against the Sun

Storing vintage clothing out of direct sunlight is crucial to preserve its colour and fabric integrity. Sun exposure can significantly damage clothes, especially vintage ones. The UV rays can cause fading and alter the color of the fabric. Over time, this exposure can also weaken and break down fabric fibers, leading to brittleness and tears. Additionally, sunlight can deteriorate certain fabric finishes and embellishments. These effects are often irreversible, underscoring the importance of protecting vintage clothing from prolonged sun exposure.

The ideal storage location for vintage garments is in a cool, dry, and dark environment, such as a closet or a drawer, where they are protected from light exposure and fluctuations in temperature and humidity. This careful storage not only maintains the garment's appearance but also safeguards its historical and aesthetic value.

Preventing Moths and Other Clothes Eating Pests

Protecting your vintage clothing from moths and other insects such as silverfish and carpet beetles is essential to preserve their quality and longevity. These pests can cause irreparable damage by eating through fabrics, particularly those made of natural fibers like wool or silk. In this section, we will discuss effective strategies to deter these insects, including the use of natural repellents and proper garment storage techniques, ensuring your cherished vintage pieces remain in pristine condition and free from the ravages of unwelcome critters.

To safeguard your clothes from insect damage, regular cleaning is key as pests are attracted to stains and bodily residues. Storing garments in airtight containers or bags can also offer protection. Natural repellents like cedar and lavender sachets not only deter insects but add a pleasant aroma to your wardrobe. It's important to regularly inspect and clean your storage areas to prevent infestations. While mothballs are effective, they should be used cautiously due to their strong odor and chemicals. Additionally, dry cleaning items that aren't frequently washed can also help in keeping these pests at bay.

Shoe Tree

Using shoe trees is an excellent way to maintain the shape and condition of vintage shoes. They help in preserving the shoe's form, preventing creases and wrinkles that can occur when shoes are not worn. Shoe trees also aid in moisture absorption, keeping the interior dry and preventing material degradation, especially in leather shoes. Additionally, they facilitate air circulation within the shoe, reducing odors and extending the footwear's life. Regular use of shoe trees is a simple yet effective step in ensuring your vintage shoes stay in top condition for years to come.

Garment Bags

Using garment bags for storing vintage clothes is an effective way to keep them in pristine condition. These bags shield the garments from dust, dirt, and light exposure, which can cause fading and fabric deterioration. They also offer a barrier against humidity and pests like moths, which can damage delicate fabrics. By using garment bags, you create a controlled environment that preserves the garment's integrity, color, and shape, ensuring your vintage pieces remain as timeless and elegant as the day they were crafted.

Using reusable garment bags for storing vintage clothes offers additional benefits. They are environmentally friendly, reducing the need for disposable plastic covers. These bags often come in breathable materials like cotton, which is better for fabric health compared to plastic. Reusable garment bags also tend to be more durable, providing long-term protection for your precious vintage pieces. This choice not only preserves your clothing but also contributes positively to environmental sustainability.


When storing stretchable fabrics like knits, bias-cut, and heavily-embellished or heavy garments, it's crucial to avoid hanging them as they can become distorted. Instead, store these items flat in a breathable garment box or folded with acid-free tissue to prevent creasing. The choice of hangers is also important for other clothing types: broad-shoulder hangers are ideal for heavier coats, pant-suit hangers with clips work well for slacks, and padded hangers offer cushioning for delicate items, ensuring each garment maintains its shape and condition.

Acid-Free Tissue Paper

Acid-free tissue paper is ideal for storing vintage clothing, especially when placed in drawers. This method is preferable to hanging for certain fabrics as it avoids stretching and distortion over time. Acid-free tissue provides a safe environment, preventing yellowing or fabric deterioration, crucial for delicate and aged materials. Storing clothes flat in drawers with this paper ensures they maintain their shape, colour, and overall integrity, making it a superior method for preserving the quality of vintage garments.

Recycling Your Vintage Clothing

Resell Your Clothes

To effectively sell your vintage clothing, consider these avenues: Online Marketplaces like Etsy, eBay, and Depop offer widespread reach and target different demographics, each with its own fee structure and audience. Social Media Platforms, particularly Instagram and Facebook, provide a direct channel to engage potential buyers. Local Vintage Clothing Stores may offer direct purchase or consignment options, providing a physical space for your items. Participating in Vintage Fairs and Flea Markets can attract enthusiasts and collectors, while creating a Personal Website gives you complete control over sales and presentation, though it requires more effort in marketing and setup.

Selling vintage clothing online offers various platforms, each with its pros and cons. Etsy is renowned for its dedicated community looking for unique and handcrafted items, but it charges listing and transaction fees. eBay reaches a vast audience but is highly competitive and also involves fees. Depop caters to a younger, fashion-forward crowd and is great for trendier vintage pieces, though it takes a sales commission. Each platform has its unique audience and fee structure, so choosing the right one depends on the type of vintage clothing you're selling and your preferred selling experience.

Donate and Gifting

Donating or gifting vintage clothing to give it a new life can be done in several ways. Consider donating to local charity shops or organizations specializing in vintage fashion. These donations often support good causes while finding your garments a new owner. Gifting to friends, family, or community members who appreciate vintage style is another personal way to pass on your clothing. Additionally, you could participate in clothing swap events, where your vintage items can find new admirers in exchange for other pieces. These methods ensure your vintage clothes continue to be cherished and enjoyed.


Upcycling your vintage clothing involves creatively repurposing or modifying the pieces to give them a new look or function. This can include altering the fit, adding new elements like lace or embroidery, dyeing the fabric for a fresh color, or even transforming a dress into a skirt or top. The key is to enhance the garment while preserving its unique vintage charm. You can also combine parts of different vintage items to create something entirely new. Upcycling not only gives your vintage clothing a new lease on life but also allows for personal expression and sustainable fashion practices.


Swapping vintage clothing with others who share your passion is a delightful way to refresh your wardrobe and connect with like-minded individuals. Dive into online communities or social media groups where vintage enthusiasts gather to share and exchange items. Additionally, keep an eye out for local events or swap meets in your community, offering a more personal and interactive experience. These swaps not only revitalize your collection but also foster a sense of community among vintage fashion lovers. Remember, clear communication about your items' condition and size ensures a happy and fair exchange for all involved.


Renting out your vintage clothing is a fantastic way to monetize your collection while it's not in use. Online platforms dedicated to garment rental, such as Rent the Runway or Style Lend, offer an accessible way to reach a wider audience. Create captivating listings for your items, complete with detailed descriptions and quality photos. Additionally, local vintage shops or boutiques might offer rental opportunities, giving your pieces more visibility. This approach not only generates extra income but also allows your cherished vintage pieces to be appreciated by a broader audience.


In conclusion, caring for vintage clothing is a rewarding journey that intertwines respect for fashion history with sustainable practices. By following the guidelines outlined in this guide—be it gentle cleaning, meticulous storage, or thoughtful repairs—you ensure these timeless pieces not only retain their charm and function but also continue to tell their unique stories. Embracing these methods not only preserves the garments themselves but also honours the artistry and history they embody, allowing you to enjoy your vintage treasures for many years to come.

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