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How to Whiten Vintage Baby Clothes

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By Susan Haught

My Laundry Question

Yellowed nylon lace on vintage baby clothes and set in formula stains.

Share a Little Background Info

My 37 year old daughter has just had her first baby! I stored several of her best baby outfits in my cedar chest for her. When I took them out, the nylon lace trimming the cotton dresses had yellowed considerably. Also, formula stains that were not visible on them at the time they were stored had returned. I soaked the items in Biz overnight and helped with the formula stains. I washed them and then soaked them overnight in Oxi clean. I bought Rit Whitener Brightener but am afraid to use it too. Most of the items are white cotton or cotton/polyester blend. One of the pink blend outfits still has a formula stain. One precious white cotton bonnet has nylon lace that is really yellowed. Is there any hope for whitening them? Is it possible the Rit would work without making it worse? Thank you.

Lessons Learned

  • As a young Mom I thought the clothing looked clean and stain free when I stored it. Obviously they were just hiding in the fabric! Years of storage and maybe the cedar chest helped the formula stains return and yellow the lace. I didn't know at the time to wrap them in white tissue.
  • Lesson learned - research storage suggestions for precious items.

Fabric Content of Item (if appropriate)

Cotton, cotton/poly blend One white cotton bonnet with nylon lace.

Mary Marlowe Leverette, About.com Laundry & Laundry Rooms, says:

Congratulations on the new baby! I've saved some outfits from my boys and my mother saved my little dresses so I'm ready for a grandbaby - boy or girl!

You've done all the right things to whiten and remove stains. I feel the Rit Whitener is safe to use on your white garments. Just follow the package directions. I would not use it for the pink outfit.

However, if you are hesitant to use it, I would mix a new solution of oxygen based bleach (OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Bleach, Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach ) and allow the garments to soak again overnight. I have been known to do it several times and each time the clothes come out whiter. You should also allow the pink outfit to soak in oxygen bleach again, and those stains should begin to lift.

I do have an article on how to store baby clothes. Perhaps they can go to your great-grandchild one day!

All the best!

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