Dry Cleaning Vintage Clothing: A Museum Curator’s Perspective

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Just be glad you don't have to dry clean this dress...

As a follow up on my Taking Care of Your Vintage Clothing post, I’m re-posting an article written in 2000 by Kathleen Keifer of the U.S. Department of the Interior entitled “Dry Cleaning Museum Textiles.” (The link is a PDF, it may ask you to download.) While the focus here is museums, many of the same issues arise in museum textiles as in vintage clothing.

The important thing to cull from this article is the process of analysis. Most of us may have picked up a vintage garment and don’t know much about it. This article gives you a comprehensive process about assessing the garment’s viability for cleaning, information about dry cleaning processes, how to select a dry cleaner, and what to discuss with your dry cleaner. While you may not need the process outlined in this brochure for every garment, when you do encounter a garment that leaves you baffled as to how to clean it, you will know what the professionals would do by consulting this handy guide.


3 thoughts on “Dry Cleaning Vintage Clothing: A Museum Curator’s Perspective

  1. I have a vintage piece, from my Mom actually, which she remembers it being dry clean only (the tags have faded). It is very sturdy and not at all fragile (from the 80’s so not that old either). However, my local dry cleaners (I went to 3) will not take it at all because it is too ‘high risk’. It is very frustrating. One of the dry cleaners staff recommended I hang it in a steamy bathroom to ‘clean’ it, and that is what I do.

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