I have many old hand embroidered pillow cases that have turned yellowish brown. They are about 60 years old and very beautiful but I have never found anything to take out the yellow. I'm afraid bleach would take the color out of the embroidery. Are there any other solutions?
Walmarts sells borax for about 2.60 something a box.
Wash with hot water, detergent and one cup borax.
Let dry in air. See how much that helped. Then, assuming it didn't quite solve the problem see if you can find a bar of PLAIN homemade soap, preferably a simple lye-soap. That's what they call just basic homemade soap, from scratch. Sounds awful, but it's not. My SIL restores many linens she gets from garage and estate sales by washing repeatedly with hot water and grated plain soap. You put hot water in your washer, put in about 1/4 cup (not much needed)
grated soap, let it dissolve, and wash on hot cycle.
Keep doing that (maybe several times, can air dry in between if you get busy with other things). One beautiful bedspread took 9 times, but it came out white and sparkling eventually. No bleach, as you said.
Drying in sun is a natural bleaching process in right weather. The bedspread she had had yellow and rust/blood stains on it, but they finally came out.
I am assuming your pillow cases are all cotton.
If there is polyester in the fabric, the only thing I've heard of that works great is from the dollar store and it's called greased lightning. You could read the label and see what it says. My grandson got a very bad stain on a new shirt and his mother used that.
I add borax to anything that has stain or odor problems. I don't think it hurts.
I've been interested in textiles for a long time and the simpler the better for the most part. Sometimes putting a towel under whatever you are trying to remove and using white vinegar on a washcloth to dab helps so maybe a wash with plain white vinegar might help. A cup to a load or so, probably doesn't matter what temp if cloth is cotton.
I've seen my SIL work miracles just by being patient so as many times as it takes would be my suggestion.
Maybe use only the gentle agitation, or even mostly soaking since the fabric is old.
I've had very good results with OxyClean. I boil some water (just so that it's very hot), put a scoop of OxyClean in a bucket, pour the hot water over it, then add some more hot tap water, stir to dissilve, then add my yellowed garment. sometimes I have to soak it for a day or two but this usually gets it all clean without fading the brights.
I usually purchase the generic brand OxyClean from the dollar stores and I can attest that it really cleans.
Our two bed pillows really needed a thorough cleaning, especially my husbands because he sweats so much. I stuffed two pillows in the front loader washer in our apartment complex and added 2 scoops of my generic brand OxyClean along with one capful of liquid detergent. I normally use only one capful of the OxyClean, but the pillows looked horrible. After the pillows were done, I dried them in the dryer.
Both of the pillows looked brand new. So it will definitely clean your embroidered pillow cases.
If the fabric is antique, the really hot water may damage it a bit. Try good warm water, instead, filling a dish pan or bucket. Add several denture cleaning tables (they're good for removing toilet stains, too) and then immerse the pillowcases. You shouldn't have to scrub them, just let them soak.
Then put them into a mesh bag which you can pick up in most Dollar Stores, and add them to the laundry. The bags are used for washing "delicates" in the washer. I sure hope this helps!
I would definitely try the borax soak or use fels naptha/borax soak for your vintage linens. I would not use oxiclean base products as they are a newer product. Definitely the old fashion products to clean vintage linens. I've also heard of a lemon juice soak along with sun bleaching. Good luck!
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