Vintage Mud Cloth, or any vintage cotton fabric for that matter, often comes with dirt and grime that seems impossible to remove. Since I launder all the vintage textiles I bring into the studio, I've encountered some pretty nasty stuff among the hundreds of fabrics I've washed.
Cleaning vintage indigo presents its own share of issues. Especially the mud cloth with very long fringe. If I start with a piece that's relatively clean and undamaged, I simply launder with Tide with the washing machine set on Gentle Cycle. With fringe that's longer than a couple of inches, I gather small sections of the fringe and hold them together with a rubber band. This prevents tangling that can destroy or knot the fringe.
Stubborn stains require a bit more work to remove. I always spot clean surface dirt with Shout or Tide stain remover. That is sufficient. But what about stains that have been in place for a long time? I soak the area with a paste I make out of water and powder detergent. Apply to the stain, let sit for an hour. After that, rub the paste with a little more water from both sides of the stain, then launder as usual.
Very stubborn stains require a good long soak. As shown in the photos, I use a shallow plastic container for this method. Set the indigo item(s) in the plastic tub. Sprinkle powder detergent, I like Tide, directly onto the fabric, covering the heavily stained area completely. Next, I pour hot water into the tub. Avoiding pouring directly onto the stained area. This leaves a concentration of soap where you need it most.
then submerge all the mud cloth under water. Let sit for at least an hour.
Check on on your fabric every hour or so for several hours. Agitate the indigo cloth to help lift dirt and grease that is set into the cloth. After about three hours, check the stain. If it hasn't lightened at all, rub more powdered soap into both sides of the fabric. Leave in the tub a few more hours. Sometimes soaking over night is necessary. I
Warning: I don't use bleach because it will over-lighten an area, and could remove all the indigo color and leave the stain!
Finally, rinse the fabric thoroughly to remove all the soap from your vintage textile. Run through a gentle wash cycle one more time, then hang or line dry.
Not iall stains will come out of mud cloth or vintage shibori indigo. But this soaking method gives you a fighting chance at saving a vintage textile that might otherwise go into a land fill.
at the very least, the stain should be much lighter. And, you can take comfort knowing your cloth is as clean as it can get.
join me tomorrow to see the end results!