How to clean vintage wool coat

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion Q & A' started by Prydonian, Jun 20, 2013.

  1. Prydonian

    Prydonian Registered Guest

    Hello! I have a heavy wool morning coat from sometime around the turn of the last century. It's an amazing bespoke item, and if I didn't know how old it was I'd never guess - apart from a little loose stitching around the lining of one sleeve it looks like it could have come from the tailor's just yesterday.

    I only recently acquired it, and I'd like to have it cleaned before I wear it or put it in my closet. I'm extremely wary of hand washing, so I've been trying to find a cleaner than can take care of it. All the dry cleaners I've visited have said the same thing: they don't know what will happen and I'll need to sign a waiver.

    I'm hoping that someone here may have experience in this area... Would it be safe to have it dry cleaned? Am I being too cautious?

    I'd greatly appreciate any suggestions or advice. Thanks very much!
     
  2. foofoogal

    foofoogal Registered Guest

    Do a search for vinegar. There is a thread called Red Wool Suit with information on cleaning wool.
    As your suit is older you may want to wait till an expert in older items verifies the vinegar though.
    Sounds wonderful.
    Sandy
     
  3. Retro Ruth

    Retro Ruth Administrator Staff Member

    It might help if we see pictures. For instance is it lined, and with what? Does it have any embellishments? Is the fabric strong, and the lining? Those will also need to be taken into consideration with regard to cleaning - the wool may be fine but the lining difficult. You may need to remove buttons before cleaning.

    What is your reason for wanting to clean, is it just because you feel more comfortable knowing it's been cleaned, or are you trying to remove visible dirt, dust or a smell? Any evidence of moths?

    You might, for instance, be able to steam clean it just to freshen it, if that's all you need, but it depends on the lining, etc.
     
  4. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix Trade Member

    Yes, we need a photo of the garment and a close up of the wool to better help you. I agree about being hesitant to dry clean this before getting some opinions. The wool may survive, but as mentioned, the lining and trims may not, and the chemicals may also weaken the threads in the seams and inner construction. Its a chance I do not take with my antique garments unless they are really dirty 0r smelly, and even then I remove the buttons and trims before the dry cleaning.

    If you have cool nights and warm mornings where you live, you might try this method. Hang the garment outside over night in the cool air (preferably cool and moist air). Let the morning sun "dry" the coat well and later take it down and give a good surface brushing. Repeat this several days and nights. The cool night air adds moisture to the wool, and then the warmth of the sun brings the moisture to the surface. With moisture, comes up much of the dust and dirt hiding on the fibers. This is pretty much how the did it in the 19th century and it really can work on freshening things and keeping your woolies clean after wearing.

    There is also a method which involves hanging it up outside (in a covered porch, garage, etc) during a lightening storm. I heard that really works.

    If it is not dirty or soiled, a freshening may be all it needs.

    It sounds like a wonderful find.
     
    Leonardo Da Vintage likes this.
  5. Better Dresses Vintage

    Better Dresses Vintage Trade Member

    Barbara's method works quite well. Though I'd add the freeze/thaw x2 or x3 cycle, to be sure nothing carnivorous is hiding in the there. Place coat in sealed bag. Freeze in deep freeze 24 hours, thaw 24 hours, repeat at least once. Kills any eggs/larvae/etc. Shiver.
     
  6. Prydonian

    Prydonian Registered Guest

    Thanks for the replies! I appreciate the advice.

    I will post some photos of the coat ASAP. I should have thought of that!

    Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of the resources I'd need to use the outdoors to freshen it. It's unrelentingly humid here (central FL), and there's nowhere outside I could hang it without it becoming an instant home for insects and lizards.

    It isn't visibly soiled, it's just that I've just taken ownership of it and don't know where it's been or what it's been exposed to prior to my purchasing it. I'd like to have it cleaned this one time and likely never again.

    As wary as I am of having to wash it myself, the least panic-inducing method I've come across was to soak it gently in a tub containing Dawn detergent, then soaking to rinse, then laying flat on a rack to dry. I would infinitely rather let someone else handle it, though!
     
  7. Circa Vintage

    Circa Vintage Alumni +

    I do not recommend washing any tailored item, as the lining could shrink and throw the design out of wack - and it won't sit or fit the same way.

    Barbara's treatment is the one I support. I don't usually clean garments of this age, just do my best to ensure they are bug-free and get the dust out (gentle vacuuming can work here). Laundering or dry cleaning is likely to damage them.
     
  8. poppysvintageclothing

    poppysvintageclothing Administrator Staff Member

    I would love to be able to try that method out, but don't have the facility.

    I have however used Barbara's option from time to time and it does help a lot!
     
  9. foofoogal

    foofoogal Registered Guest

    The lightning info has to be the most unusual and interesting I have ever read about vintage anything.
     
    Leonardo Da Vintage likes this.
  10. Prydonian

    Prydonian Registered Guest

    So, in the end I think I've settled on sending it to a vintage clothing specialist, Rave Fabricare. I don't want to risk it being damaged in any way and I can't deal with it not being cleaned, so while it's more expensive than I'd like, I'm almost certainly never going to have it done again. So I think I can spring for it this once!
     

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