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Cleaning Embroidered Pillowcases That Have Yellowed

If you have a linen closet that contains beautiful vintage embroidered pillowcases that have yellowed with age, bleach is not recommended as it will affect colored embroidery. Try gentler remedies such as borax, baking soda, lemon juice and sunlight to help restore them to white.
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By 0 found this helpful
January 21, 2009

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?

Maggie from Ohio

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January 21, 20091 found this helpful
Best Answer

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.

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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.

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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.

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January 21, 20090 found this helpful
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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.

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January 21, 20090 found this helpful
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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.

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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.

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By Polly (Guest Post)
January 21, 20090 found this helpful
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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!

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By nhbankgirl (Guest Post)
January 21, 20090 found this helpful
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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.

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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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By Mary (Guest Post)
January 22, 20090 found this helpful
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You can find something at Wal-Mart called WHISH not wisk. You can also use 20 Mule Borateam to soak them in and wash them in. Good luck. Mary

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By 0 found this helpful
July 15, 2017

How do I clean/whiten old pillowcases that are stained yellow and have a few rust spots without bleaching out the embroidery on the case?

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July 16, 20170 found this helpful
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As a general rule sunshine and water will remove most storage yellow stains but may not remove any other type stain completely. I would start with just wetting the case and lay it in the sunshine and keep wetting it for a day. See how this does before attempting any other solution as your case may also be weakened and any other solutions may damage the material. Be sure to use a lingerie bag when washing to keep them from a lot of motion/twisting.

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Mild cleaners also help - such as baking soda is good to use in your washing machine for getting clothes clean. Many people still use bluing also - just for getting things bright white but I have never used this - baking soda (with a little laundry detergent) and sunshine never damage your clothes but do a good job of cleaning.
I'm sure other posters will also give you some good suggestions.

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July 16, 20170 found this helpful
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Try washing in borax and drying in the sun.

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July 16, 20170 found this helpful
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We use baking soda with our detergent and air dry in the sun. Good luck!

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July 18, 20170 found this helpful
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Wash, soak in lemon juice, and put put in the sun to dry

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