October 1, 2012

Go Green with Vinegar & Sunshine

No, this isn't my ghost costume for Halloween. It's the fabric liner from my shower. That suspect looking orange haze is soap scum colored by the iron deposits in our water. In addition to its high iron content, our water is extremely hard, hence ridiculous amounts of soap scum. 
If I haven't managed to disgust you yet, the picture below shows mildew growing on the fabric. No window in the bathroom means no air circulation means warm, humid mildew loving conditions.
Cleaning this without bleach and harsh chemicals is easy. As long as the sun cooperates. Saturate the stained and mildewed areas with white vinegar (I use a spray bottle) and leave the fabric to bleach naturally in the sun. When dry, spray the still stained parts with more vinegar. Allow to dry. Continue this cycle until the stains visibly fade. Then wash as usual. Incidentally, I have heard that cleaning with vinegar discourages mildew from returning.
This is how it looks post-laundering after spraying the whole thing twice and the mildew one more time for good measure. 
Vinegar and sunshine is a good way to fade stains on delicate, vintage fabrics as well. Always test an inconspicuous spot for color fastness and to ensure the fabric won't deteriorate. I was able to almost completely remove dark brown (my guess is coffee) stains from a vintage, natural linen tablecloth without affecting the integrity of the fabric, the tan color of the linen, or the printed design. 
Keep in mind that this is a gentle way to fade stains. You won't see instant results as with bleach. I didn't keep track, but I believe I sprayed the coffee (?) stains circled above at least 50 times. They started out as dark as the fiddle player's jacket and now they are barely noticeable.

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