Care & Cleaning

A museum conservator works on a textile
Textiles are such a part of our daily lives that it seems natural to clean them in order to maintain their condition. While this is appropriate for household linens, in general you should not attempt to clean an antique textile without first consulting a textile conservator. Proper cleaning techniques for antique textiles require a great deal of skill and experience; sometimes cleaning would be more harmful than allowing the textile to remain soiled. A conservator can evaluate the condition of the textile and assist you in determining the best course of action.
One important kind of cleaning you can do to maintain your textile collection is vacuuming. A low-power, hand-held vacuum is the best tool for the job. Lightweight or fragile textiles should be vacuumed through a fiberglass screen (available at hardware stores). Vacuum slowly and carefully, working in the direction of the nap with velvets or other pile fabrics. Avoid scrubbing back and forth. If you have a rug in constant use on the floor, make sure to vacuum the back as well as the front on a regular basis.
When working with your collection, be sure to wash your hands to remove oils, acids, salts, and soils that can stain your textile. Remove jewelry such as rings that might catch on loose threads. Work on a clean surface and do not eat, drink, or smoke around your textile collection.
A textile can be easily torn if handled improperly. When moving a textile within your home, gently pleat, fold, or roll the piece and support its weight on a tray or sturdy piece of cardboard.