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Cleaning old silk

(13 Posts)
Savvy Tue 06-Jul-21 21:10:43

I picked up a vintage, possibly antique sewing box at a local auction that's in need of a bit of a refurb/ clean. I got it as a project.

I can easily sand and revarnish the wooden outer. It needs doing as someone decided to cover it in wallpaper using flour paste to stick it on, then removed the paper leaving lumps of hard paste.

The problem is the silk lining. I'm reluctant to remove it as it's original and not in bad shape, but desperately needs a clean.

Does anyone have any tips for cleaning vintage silk which won't ruin it? I think it will have to be sponge cleaned, but I'm not sure what to use.

Thanks in advance.

JillEH Tue 06-Jul-21 21:20:45

I would read Kim and Aggie. Or ask Good Housekeeping via website.

Nannarose Tue 06-Jul-21 21:49:10

The silk may well be fragile after this amount of time, and I think it depends on whether you want to seek professional advice or not.
You could begin with a fine powder - fullers' earth, cornflour or talc. Sprinkle on and use a brush (small paintbrush, cosmetic brush, baby's hairbrush) to work it in a little bit, and leave for an hour or two. Then upend the box and shake the powder out, use a brush to help. You can also use a small handheld vacuum on lowest setting. That may 'lift' it enough.

I have a similar box, but it was actually a lady's cosmetic box originally. It is leather & velvet lined.

Namsnanny Tue 06-Jul-21 22:25:56

And pay attention to the padding beneath the silk (maybe you dont have any?).
It holds the dirt, and when wet bleeds through the silk lining.
Good luck

Savvy Tue 06-Jul-21 22:31:00

Thank you Namsnanny, I never thought of using a powder. I've got plenty of conflour so I'll give that a try first. The only padding is a little on the inside of the lid where the needles are stuck so I'll go careful if I have to use anything wet.

I might start a thread on it with before, during and after photos in the craft section. It's certainly on need of some tlc, but it was once a beautiful box.

fevertree Wed 07-Jul-21 08:02:44

Fuller's Earth, there's a blast from the past. It was the only thing that helped heal my daughter's nappy rash back in the day.

What a good idea to use it for this from Namsnanny.

Do the people from The Repair Shop perhaps have a Q&A service?

MerylStreep Wed 07-Jul-21 08:07:11


I would read Kim and Aggie. Or ask Good Housekeeping via website.

Kim and Aggie might be good cleaners but I wouldn’t let them near vintage silk. 😟

NotSpaghetti Wed 07-Jul-21 10:01:20

The NT used to have info on cleaning older items. Haven't looked for it recently but did find something I was looking for a couple of years ago.

JaneJudge Wed 07-Jul-21 10:09:27

are you able to remove the silk to soak it? You could ask an upholsterer to look at it?

The repair shop is just a program. The people on it are experts/skilled people who own and run their own businesses.

JaneJudge Wed 07-Jul-21 10:11:50

I found this

Upholsterers just use washing up liquid to clean upholstery. It works better than anything but just be careful with silk

Nannagarra Wed 07-Jul-21 11:26:13

I’d avoid water with silk. (Hermes gives strict instructions about this.) I’ll fess up that I’m a silk fiend - can’t resist it!
In ‘How to restore and repair practically anything’ the issue of dealing with antique silk is not addressed though under General Stain Removers for absorbent fabrics the following items are mentioned:
Powdered chalk
Talcum powder
Fuller’s Earth - I’ve just bought some from A****n for £3 to remove grease stains from DH’s shoes
French chalk

The National Trust employs specialists in fabrics. Could they advise?

JaneJudge Wed 07-Jul-21 11:28:14

Nannagarra, that is all really useful to know smile

spabbygirl Wed 07-Jul-21 14:42:48

google textile renovation or look at this page, its a really specialist topic and you really need to ask someone in the specialist field or look at