How to Clean Vintage Lace Doilies

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

Things You'll Need

  • White vinegar

  • Distilled water

  • Soap with no additives

  • Natural sponge

  • White towel

  • Unbleached muslin or white sheet or acid free tissue paper


Use distilled water, which doesn’t contain the minerals and chemicals found in regular tap water.

Use tea to dye permanently stained lace.

You can also find a gentle washing concentrate for fabrics and quilts in fabric stores that is safe to use on vintage lace pieces.

If your doilies have sentimental value and you would hate to see them ruined, take them to a professional lace curator to be cleaned.


Never clean lace in the washing machine or dry it in the dryer.

Avoid ironing lace doilies, if possible.

Read labels to avoid soaps containing lanolin, perfumes, phosphates, colorants, and brighteners. Products marketed as “green” and “chemical free” are found in most grocery stores and don’t contain additives.

Never use bleach. It can turn lace yellow or even disintegrate it.

Vintage lace doilies should be handled with care. A few generations ago, home economists recommended lemon juice and salt for washing lace, and sunshine was the accepted rule of thumb for drying and whitening. But the acid in lemon juice damages delicate material and salt can bore holes in the fabric. Too much sunshine can rot lace, potentially leaving you with a handful of string.


Step 1

Clean a sink, stationary tub or white porcelain basin thoroughly and rinse it with white vinegar to remove any chemicals left behind from detergents and cleaning products.

Step 2

Add enough room-temperature distilled water and soap to cover the doilies.


Step 3

Float the doily for fifteen minutes. Blot out visible stains using a natural sea sponge to avoid the colorants and chemicals present in commercial sponges.

Step 4

Pour out or drain the dirty water. Refill the container with clean water, running it down the side of the container so it doesn't land on top of the doily. Let the doily sit in each rinse for 15 minutes before pouring out or draining the dirty water and adding clean. Repeat until the rinse water runs clean.


Step 5

Roll the wet doilies in a clean white towel and pat out the water.

Step 6

Lay the lace on a clean surface, such as a clean counter top rinsed with white vinegar.


Step 7

Press each doily gently with your fingers to reshape it, being careful of the stitches. Keep the doilies flat until they dry.


references & resources

Jan Czech

Jan Czech has been writing professionally since 1993. Czech has published seven children's books, including “The Coffee Can Kid," which received a starred review from School Library Journal. She is a certified English/language arts teacher and holds a Bachelor of Arts in education from Niagara University.