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3 Steps to Fighting Stains in a 1950s Tablecloth
By: A Cat Eye Girl  -  4/13/2011


The 1950s tablecloths that we sell at antique shows are so pristine, so vibrant, that we are frequently asked, "how do you launder them?" and "where do you find so many perfect tablecloths?"  Here is "Our Trade Secret."

First, we start with a respectable tablecloth.  Yes, it may be stained but the overall condition is characterized by:

  • No holes, rips or tears.antique show, Portland, Seattle, Yakima, Kennewick, Pasco, Washington
  • Minimal stains.
  • Classic 1950s colors that have not been bleached out in a previous, and failed, attempt at removing stains.

Starting with a respectable tablecloth we then take a three step approach.

Step 1

Step one is, well, actually "step one" for all of our "antique show" tablecloths . . . it is where we start.

  1. Fill your washing machine with hot water and add a generous amount of Oxyclean (4-12 scoops depending on the number of 1950s tablecloths you are washing -- more is better in this instance) and a normal wash load amount of laundry soap. 
  2. Agitate the tablecloths and Oxyclean for a minute or two and then turn your washing machine off. 
  3. Let them soak.  Be patient. 
  4. Return every hour or so and agitate for a minute or two. 
  5. They should soak 6-24 hours.
  6. Remove and inspect the stains.  Are they still there?
  7. If so, proceed to step 2 if, and only if, the stain is located on the white background of the tablecloth otherwise proceed to Step 3.

Step 2

Step 2 only applies to tablecloths that have stains in the "white background" that remain after being laundered with Step 1.

  1. Lay the tablecloth on your kitchen counter and isolate the stain.  If the stain is positioned in the colored part of the tablecloth, skip this step . . . though if it is located on the white background proceed.
  2. Gently spray or brush or pour a small amount of Tilex on the stubborn stain.  Let it sit for 10-15 minutes.  Typically, Tilex has just enough bleach in it to lift the stain. 
  3. Launder again in your washing machine with a little Oxyclean and laundry soap. 

Step 3

Step 3 is used for any tablecloth that has made it through Step 1 and / or Step 2 and the stain remains testing both your persistance and patience.

  1. Again, fill your washing machine with hot water.
  2. Add 1 cup of bleach and a normal wash load amount of laundry soap.
  3. Wash normally.

If, after walking your tablecloth through our 3 Step approach to 1950s tablecloth restoration, the stain persists in your 1950s tablecloth . . . it may be time to reconcile with the fact that you own a permanently stained tablecloth that might need a new lease on life.  Repurpose it as:

  • Kitchen valances.
  • An apron.
  • Swatches, bursts of 1950s kitchen colors, that drape off the shelf that your kitchen collectibles sit on.
  • A liner to your wire wheeled "antique show" shopping cart . . . Share your ideas for repurposing a 1950s tablecloth.

As for ironing . . . Rowenta Professional set to "max steam" and plenty of Stay Flo Starch mixed 50 / 50 with tap water.

That's it.  Good luck.  Let us know how our 3 Step approach to having a stack of the most vibrant, pristine 1950s tablecloths works out for you!

Do any of our followers have tips and tricks to share about how to remove stains in a beloved 1950s tablecloth?  Share!

Oh, and just FYI . . . at antique shows, we love to have our 2 foot high stack of 1950s tablecloths displaced, ruffled through and generally messed up!  Don't be shy, dig in to our stack of tablecloths and you will find one to make your kitchen table sing! 


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