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.
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.
Add enough room-temperature distilled water and soap to cover the doilies.
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.
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.
Roll the wet doilies in a clean white towel and pat out the water.
Lay the lace on a clean surface, such as a clean counter top rinsed with white vinegar.
Press each doily gently with your fingers to reshape it, being careful of the stitches. Keep the doilies flat until they dry.