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Vintage Handkerchiefs

Under ideal conditions, hankies should be treated like any other antique textiles and linens. If you are not going to use them, they should be wrapped in acid-free tissue paper. Not all hankies are found in pristine condition. If you find one at a flea market or an antique mall, chances are it might have stains or soiling at the fold lines. Often these handkerchiefs will clean up just fine with little effort.

Of course, everybody has their own favorite cleaning methods which may differ from mine. I always start with a hand soaking in mild laundry detergent and warm water. If this does not remove the dirt, you can try another soak in either Biz or Oxy-Clean mixed with hot water. Sometimes just an hour or two will do the trick; but it might require an overnight soak. Always rinse in cold water, rinse again, and again, and again -- until the water is crystal clear. Squeeze the excess water from the handkerchief(s), and either lay them flat on a towel or hang to dry. A good rule of thumb is to never use a washing machine and/or dryer, as this can cause damage. However, if you do choose this method, be sure to use the delicate or gentle cycle.

Finally, before ironing, you can use a little spray starch. Some people will advise against starch of any kind because storing starched linens can attract bugs or other critters. It's a matter of personal preference to use starch or not. You can always just spritz the handkerchief with water before ironing. Either way is fine, and up to you. Iron them on the reverse side -- for two reasons. First, the starch won't stick to the iron. Secondly, ironing on the reverse side will not flatten any embroidery, and will give you a crisp, clean finish.