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Cleaning Vintage Rayon Fabric
Pennsylvania USA
Member since 7/12/12
Posts: 38
Skill: Intermediate
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Date: 1/23/13 9:09 PM

I bought some beautiful vintage fabric on Etsy a couple of months ago. The seller said it was rayon silk. I am not sure about the exact content, but it was dirty from years of sitting so I put it in the tub with some Woolite. The water was filthy! I didn't wring it or anything, I just shook it gently, let the water out and rinsed the fabric with the hose attachment until the water ran clear.

Everything seemed wonderful until I started to smell a petroleum-type smell. That's the best way I know how to describe it. I thought maybe once the fabric dried it would be better, but after I hung it on the line in my basement the whole basement started to smell.

I really love the look of this fabric, but I obviously can't make clothes out of it if the smell can't be remedied. I tried tying it in a plastic bag with and open box of baking soda for a month or so, but the smell is still there. The smell isn't as strong as when the fabric is wet, but it smells sort of musty.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Would dry cleaning help? Soaking it in something? I want to give it one last shot before I toss it. At this point I have nothing to lose.


Member since 2/17/03
Posts: 125
Skill: Advanced Beginner
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Date: 1/24/13 2:20 AM

You're not the only one! Here are some threads: fabric smell

silk smell

stinky fabric

vintage dress

good luck on rescuing your beautiful fabric!

-- Edited on 1/24/13 9:46 PM --
California USA
Member since 5/2/09
Posts: 5551
Skill: Advanced
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In reply to LBH2010

Date: 1/24/13 3:39 PM

I think I would try washing it a few more times. If you did not smell anything until you got it wet and stuck it in the sink, the fumes you smelled then, even could have been just old dry cleaning fluid coming up to the top of the water. I actually do smell stuff like that, and even see it as in dark water, when I even buy clean looking light colored clothes (especially light colored linen pants) at the Goodwill store, and then hand wash before I wear them, if the last person had been dry cleaning them before me.

In order to get all the dirty water out of it though, and rinse it with clean water a bunch of times, I think you would need to more at least wring it out with your hands a few times, between water rinses. Since you are going to toss it anyways if can't get all the "stinky" out of it, I don't think you got too much to loose, by doing that,unless it's really some kind of priceless "antique" fabric or such.

I have never heard of a old fabric mixture of Rayon and Silk combined actually, but might be some out there some place. A long time ago, when Rayon was a lot newer though, sometimes it was refered to as more Synthetic silk though. Not really the same thing at all though, as one comes from silkworms and the other from trees.
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