By Jenniwren from South Coast, NSW, Aust.
I tend to use lemon juice or white vinegar, but never use bleach, it will eat the fabric and create more yellowing. I lay out the linen on a white sheet on the grass in the sun, then put the juice or vinegar on the stain and leave it sit in the sun for at least the day. For really bad stains I soak in hot water with an enzyme cleaner (like oxyclean) first then lay out in the sun. The most important thing is to rinse, rinse, rinse to get all the soap and residues out. Hope this helps.
When I had my antique business I bought many stained linens. I always washed them as usual, adding a splash or two of ammonia to the washer. After rinsing I hung them in the sun to dry. This usually removed the majority of any stains found on the linens, especially tablecloths. Good luck.
Whink's "No More Yellow" is pretty good (I think I got this at hometrends.com). Also, for best results if you have space & clothes line to do so (this from my British gram), thoroughly rinse the linen to remove any detergents that get held in fabric, then hang in the sunshine for a day or two. Sunshine is very effective at natural bleaching (as our curtains and carpets can show).
For antique linens, I suggest you consult an antiques dealer. I have purchased a locally produced soak product for heirloom clothes, LilyWhite, from an antiques dealer. I don't know if it's still available. I am still hoarding my supply! It removes a substantial amount of rust and age stains.
However, for just everyday stuff, not heirlooms, try an Oxydol or Oxyclean type of product, follow directions, and soak, soak soak the stained areas. I love linen for the beauty of the patterns and the feel of the cloth, so if something is too badly stained or damaged, see if you can cut it down and/or repurpose it - a smaller tablecloth, table napkins, or a dresser-piece. Finally, linen makes wonderful costuming material and some costumer or theatre group should appreciate a cast-off piece that can make period clothing pieces such as shirts, wimples, hoods, aprons, etc.
Have you tried borax? Found in most grocery stores by the laundry aisle. Works on well water to remove yellowing from rust. 1 scoop per load.
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