How to Clean Antique Linen Tablecloths at Thanksgiving

After years of sitting at the kiddie table at Grandma’s, and then sitting at the adult table at your parent’s, it’s finally your turn to host Thanksgiving dinner. Way to go, Mom! This is big.

Not only did you inherit the family Thanksgiving tradition, but you inherited Grandma’s Thanksgiving antique linen tablecloth. Yes, the delicately woven, intricately designed, why-do-they-make-it-white tablecloth that’s been passed down for generations. This is an even bigger deal! That’s because you’re now the tablecloth caretaker. It’s up to you to keep it clean for use, year after to year, until it’s passed down again.

Don’t panic. You got this. And don’t scream when someone messes up the tablecloth with gravy, cranberries or pumpkin pie, as someone inevitably will. Just be ready with these cleaning tips for stubborn Thanksgiving stains.

How to Clean Antique Linen Tablecloths

The first order of business is to know what NOT to do with delicate fabrics like Grandma’s tablecloth.

  • Don’t put it in the washing machine.
  • Don’t put it in the dryer.
  • Don’t use harsh cleaners, chemicals or bleach.
  • Don’t wait too long (like weeks) before tending to Thanksgiving stains.

Treating Stains

One of the Thanksgiving stains cleaning tips is to tend to any stains as quickly as possible, like that evening after everyone goes home. But let them eat dessert, at least. The faster you can get to the stains, the less time they have to set in.

Spritz a stain remover for delicate fabrics, like Charlie’s Soap Laundry Prespray, directly onto the stain. Let it sit overnight to do its thing. Come back in the morning for the washing phase.

Washing the Tablecloth

Depending on how dirty grandma’s tablecloth got during dinner, you may want to soak it in plain water for about 15 minutes to loosen the dirt before washing.

Once it’s ready for washing, fill a sink or tub with water, adding a dash of detergent for delicate fabrics until you have a nice batch of suds. Transfer the tablecloth into the soapy water, delicately moving it around by hand to get it clean. Rinse with cool water when the washing is done.

Make sure the detergent for delicate fabrics you choose really is for delicate fabrics. That means it needs to be free of dyes, brighteners, perfumes, and phosphates. It also needs to rinse completely clean, leaving no unwanted residue behind. If you’re unsure of whether your regular, blue laundry soap fits the bill (hint: it doesn’t) try Charlie’s Soap on for size.

Drying the Tablecloth

Air drying is your best bet with antique linens, which means you can drape the tablecloth on an indoor drying rack or outside on a rack or clothesline if weather permits. Make sure it’s fully dry before you put it away for next Thanksgiving.

Now that you know how to clean antique linen tablecloths, you’ll make a great tablecloth caretaker indeed. The tablecloth will be fresh and clean year after year, ready to grace your table and make your grandmother proud. We told you got this. Enjoy!

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