Lace items and clothing, such as curtains, dresser scarves, doilies, handkerchiefs and blouses, look delicate and beautiful. However, many people are afraid of using and wearing lace--especially if they are antique--because of concerns over how to clean them. Don't allow this to keep you from enjoying your lacey things. Cleaning lace items isn't difficult and proper laundering will help prolong the life of antique laces.
Determine the fabric content of the lace, as this will determine how it is cleaned. Check for a fabric care label on the item. If it doesn't have one, err on the side of caution and launder it as if it were handmade.
Clean machine-made lace in a washing machine. Use the gentle cycle, mild laundry detergent and lukewarm water for cotton and linen lace to avoid shrinkage. Synthetic laces, in addition to mild washing, need a gentle spin and a cool down. You can help to avoid snagging, tangling or tearing by placing the lace items in a mesh laundry bag. Don't overload the size of the wash load and keep the wash cycle as short as possible. You can use a liquid fabric softener in the rinse cycle if you like.
Treat machine made lace carefully when drying. If you didn't use liquid fabric softener in the wash, you can use a dryer sheet. Cotton and linen lace might shrink in a dryer, whereas polyester lace shouldn't have this problem. Again, it never hurts to err on the side of caution and air dry lace. Depending upon the weight and shape of the lace item, it can be dried flat on a drying rack or towel. Polyester lace curtains can be partially dried in a dryer and then placed back on the curtain rod to finish drying, although you might have to touch them up with an iron later.
Launder delicate laces by hand. Fill a sink or basin with lukewarm water and a mild detergent. Swish the water to disperse the detergent throughout the water. Place the lace item in the water and allow it to soak for a few minutes. Gently pat the lace until clean; patting will press the soapy water through the fibers. Rinse thoroughly in lukewarm water. If you like, fill the basin or sink with lukewarm water and add a small amount of liquid fabric softener. Mix thoroughly and place the lace item in the water; allow the lace to soak for a few minutes. Lay the lace on a towel and place another on top; press to remove excess water. If the towel gets soaked, place the lace item in between two more towels and press. Continue until you have removed all excess water.
Dry all delicate laces by air. Lay them flat on a dry towel or flat mesh drying rack. Gently arrange the lace into its proper shape. Keep an eye on the towel and replace it if it gets wet, as you don't want the lace or towel to mildew. If you are drying a lace doily and have non-rusting pins, you can pin the lace in its proper shape to air dry. Place the doily on a padded surface, like an ironing board, and arrange the lace into the shape that you want. Then gently insert a non-rusting pin through the lace and into the padded surface to hold the lace in place. You can also use balls made from wadded up waxed paper and insert under folds and curves of the doily to help hold the shape while drying. This will help prevent the edges of the lace from rolling.