Cleaning Tips & Tricks

Here you will find a collection of cleaning tips that we have compiled from various resources.

Please use the links below to access cleaning tips for specific stains/problems and specific products. We hope you will find a solution or trick that will help! If you have a tip or trick that has worked for you in the past, please take the time to submit it. We appreciate all of your input and look forward to hearing from you!

Liquids · Blood · Rust · Pen · Pencil · Old Linens (Yellowing) · Other · Dyed Thread Tricks

Tea, Coffee, Wine, Etc.

Tip: To remove TEA stains from stitching, never let it dry. Put the entire article in a sink or large bowl with cool water. Add a little Clorox2 and let soak. Change water frequently and add more Clorox2. Do not remove or let dry until all the TEA stain is gone. May take several weeks. I soaked my article for 13 months. Then rinse, rinse, rinse. Damp dry, blocked on a towel like a wool sweater, then press from wrong side.

Tip: For COFFEE, TEA, GREASE, and WINE spills, pour on club soda and blot with a clean cloth.

Tip: A tip we received from Cindy George (7/26/00):
I use Ivory brand bar soap & a soft toothbrush. Lay spot on flat counter. Run toothbrush under cold tap. Brush wet toothbrush over spot to soak area. Scrub ivory bar of soap toothbrush to pick up a light coating of soap. Gently scrub spot. I’ve used this method to clean up even red punch splashed on needlework.


Tip: Another tip we received was from Kathy Mangold:
She informed us that Neutrogena? bar soap (it is a brown translucent soap for cleansing the face) is a method that she has used to remove blood, spilled cherry cough syrup and highlighter marker from fabric without causing running of colors from floss. Instructions: Wet the stained area of the piece and the bar of soap and rub together lightly. Rinse well. Repeat if necessary.

Tip: If you prick your finger and get BLOOD on your work, moisten the spot immediately with your own saliva and blot with a clean cloth. * For a BLOOD stain that isn’t treated immediately, soak in milk before washing.


Tip: To remove RUST from fabric, sponge the spot with lemon juice. Hold the spot over a boiling tea kettle, infiltrating the spot with steam. Be careful not to get burned.


Tip: BALL-POINT pen marks can be removed by spraying a little hairspray on the stain. Blot with a clean cloth.


Tip: To remove PENCIL lines from fabric, apply the following mixture with a soft toothbrush:
* 3 ounces of water, 1 ounce of rubbing alcohol, 2-3 drops dishwashing detergent. * Another solution to remove PENCIL marks is to use diluted Windex applied with a soft toothbrush.

Old Linens (Yellowing)

Tip: SODIUM PERBORATE, available at pharmacies, can be used to treat spots and to whiten yellowed linens. Follow label directions for chemical and water proportions. Soak for 24 hours. Repeat as often as necessary using a new solution each 24 hours. Can soak up to a week. Wash thoroughly in Ivory soap. Rinse, rinse, rinse!!

Tip: This formula is used by antique dealers to bleach old white linens:
1/2 cup Cascade and 1/2 cup bleach Dissolve in 1 gallon hot water. Add 2 gallons cool water. Soak linens a few hours to overnight.

One of our readers had this to add regarding this tip: “You might want to let your readers (stitchers) know that I believe this tip referred to the ‘old’ formula of Cascade, the one that was a detergent only without the rinsing aides in it. The new formula is not as multi-purpose as the old one was; I used it to wash many things around the house. Alas, I can no longer find the detergent only formula on our local store shelves.”

Another method we’ve received from one of our readers is using lemon juice, salt, and sunshine to whiten yellowed fabrics. Depending on the sun clarity, it may only take a few minutes to see noticeable lightening of the fabric. Please be wary of how long you allow the piece to be exposed and make sure if you use this method that you thoroughly rinse your fabric afterward.

Other Tips

I washed a finished piece and unfortunately the darker threads ended up running onto the fabric. I had a couple of ideas how to fix it; a museum friend of mine suggested the best: using a weak bleach or hydrogen peroxide solution on the cloth around the threads that were running. But…I made another little design to play with of that one color; when I washed it the running didn’t seem as bad, so I washed it more (in hot water w/ stronger soap) and it came totally clean!

Tip: If you get FRAY CHECK where you wish you hadn’t, try removing it with rubbing alcohol before it sets.

I’ve found Oxi-Clean get’s out almost any stain. If I happen to get a piece of hardanger dirty whilst stitching, I use it in place of soapy water for washing and shrinking threads. It also removes dyes (when my hubbys undershorts get in the wrong washload) though does not affect colors.

This piece of advice comes from Susan
Wiggins, who credits the information to a needlework store in Washington. It’s called LET’S GOOP IT!!!:

Materials Needed:

  • Finished piece of counted cross stitch
  • GOOP? (and only GOOP)-this is a mechanic’s hand soap available at auto supply shops, grocery stores or even some drug stores. (Contains lanolin which will not harm fabric/floss fibers or dyes, nor your hands).
  • Step 1: Place dry cross stitched piece flat on counter top. Cover the ENTIRE piece with a generous layer of GOOP. IF the stitching is solid (lots and lots of crosses close together), turn the piece over and apply additional GOOP… IF there are any heavily soiled areas, work in some extra GOOP.
  • Step 2: Leave “Gooped” piece as is for 30 minutes. (If necessary to leave longer it will not hurt to do so).
  • Step 3: Fill sink or large pan with cold water and Liquid Ivory, with lots of suds. Put the “gooped” piece in the water and swish it up and down. DO NOT RUB, TWIST, or WRING the piece. (The suds will disappear almost immediately, and the water will become milky–that’s the GOOP and the soil coming out)
  • Step 4: Rinse and re-rinse in clean, cold water as many times as necessary for the water to remain clear.
  • Step 5: Place washed piece between layers of terry towel- FLAT (DO NOT ROLL) and pat out the excess water.
  • Step 6: Take the damp piece immediately to the ironing board, which you’ve covered with a dry terry towel. Place piece face down (right or front side down) on towel. Cover the wrong (back) side of piece with a press cloth. Set iron between wool and cotton and iron the piece, which is still under the press cloth, until absolutely dry.

***Caution!!! If the piece does not look perfectly clean for any reason, DO NOT IRON. Allow to air dry on a towel, then repeat the whole process.

Tip: You may not be aware that Orvus is sold by Nordic Needle under the brand name of FabriCare. It comes in an 8 oz jar. Click here to learn more about this item.

Another helpful Orvus tip came from Kathleen Thorne (8/25/99):
If you use Orvus? for cleaning, be sure to rinse multiple times – a British needlework professional restorer said that they rinse at least 7 times in order to be sure that all the
Orvus paste comes out. Certainly when I use it for washing wool (before spinning), I use Orvus very sparingly (one doesn’t need much at all and besides, it’s expensive) and then rinse at least 5 times; once the wool is spun, it gets washed a bit to get the spinning oils out, and then again multiple rinses.

Grace Wells from the Valentine Museum in Richmond, VA recommends this formula:

1 part Snowy Bleach and 2 parts Ivory Snow Put the mixture in a clean plastic or glass container big enough for the piece. Mix with enough water to immerse the fabric. Push fabric down into the solution and let soak for up to 3 week (yes, 3 weeks!). The solution will set up and become very thick. When through soaking; rinse, rinse, rinse until you could drink the water. This one is a Nordic Needle favorite!!!

Distilled water and an acid-free soap are preferred by professional conservation and restoration experts. ORVUS is a detergent that is pH neutral and has no coloring
additives or perfumes.

The best way to keep your needlework clean is to avoid getting it dirty. The Textile Museau, Washington, DC, suggests that framed needlework without glass should be cleaned periodically by placing a fine screen over the piece and vacuuming it. It’s best if you have a brush attachment or can set vacuum on lowest speed; otherwise hold vacuum as far away from surface of work as possible.

Dyed Thread Tricks

Specialty threads must be treated gently! The threads must first be unskeined, put into a bathroom basin 1/2 filled with cold water with 2 tbls. table salt and 2 tbls. vinegar. Soak for 2-3 minutes, remove, blot with towel and let dry. This is recommended for any piece that will require washing. Please Note: HOT WATER and using a STEAM IRON and/or a damp cloth when pressing completed project will reactivate dyes and cause bleeding.

If your work has been completed and the dyes have bled in washing then you must soak the piece in ICE WATER until the color starts to bleed out. Remove from the water and run an ice cube over the problem area and then place back in fresh ice water to soak again. Repeat this process until the problem area is clear of dye. This may take continued effort, possibly over a few days, but it does work!

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