This is something I do a lot of, mainly because I tote my projects everywhere and they tend to get really dirty. Although it's not really recommended, I dry-clean all of my finished work. I am very lucky in that I have an excellent dry cleaner, who also happens to be a stitcher. There have been many times when I take a project in and she just shakes her head at me. There are also other times when she's called me because someone has seen one of my pieces and wanted to buy it. Sorry, if it's a bear pattern, the person would have to take on my Mom...and we all know what Moms are like. (I can say that because I'm a Mom too.) **Note----these cleaning directions are suggestions only, I will not take any responsibility for results that may occur.**
If you are going to wash a piece of fabric, especially those antique linens or pieces that have taken you a year to complete, test a small section first. It is always better to play it safe, especially if you aren't sure of the fabric's content. Probably the best product on the market is Orvus Equine Wash. Some needlepoint stores sell it, but the easiest place to find it is anywhere that sells horse care products.
Take the Orvus, put about one teaspoon in a rubber tub, the one shaped like a sink. Fill this with lukewarm water, add your fabric, and give it a good swishing. Don't worry if any of your dyes bleed during the soak, the bleeding will come out in the rinse. If the water is instantly chocolate brown, remove your project and make a new bath for it. Leave it to soak overnight. Remove the fabric from the Orvus bath, and check it carefully to see how clean it is. If it passes muster, rinse extremely well, being sure to get out any soapy residue. DO NOT WRING out your fabric. Roll it in a clean white towel to squeeze out excess water, then lay it flat to air dry. This applies to both unstitched and stitched fabrics-you don't want your perfect tablecloth piece coming out of the dryer looking like a napkin. If this is a finished project you are washing, go to Finishing for the next steps.
Accidents Do Happen
If something gets spilled on to your project, don't give it a chance to dry and set. Take care of it right away. Sometimes a simple rinse is all it takes. For those that take more, try Orvus first as it's the safest. Mix up the Orvus following the directions given above. Put your piece in the solution and agitate the water a bit, then leave it to soak overnight. After 24 hours, check to see if the stain is gone. If any of your floss has bled, don't worry it'll come out in the rinsing process. If the stain hasn't come out, soak your project some more. It could take several days to remove the stain. If this is the case, add more water to compensate for evaporation, or even make a fresh solution if the soak goes beyond two days. Should you not be able to buy any Orvus in your area, you can use a pure soap such as Ivory. Even though your project is a 'gentle wash' item, do not use Wool-Lite as it contains bleach. Laundry detergents contain brightening agents, and will eat away at the fibres. The only way to keep finished projects clean in my house (caution boy present) is to frame them behind glass. For anything that can't be framed, there's always Orvus.
As good as many soaps are, the single best product for removing a bloodstain is saliva-as long as it belongs to same person who owns the blood. Thoroughly saturate the bloodstain with saliva (ick, I know, but it works), and keep at it until the bloodstain is gone, then rinse thoroughly. If you can't abide the thought of encouraging your children to spit on their blood which is now setting in your latest family treasure, get some Hydrogen Peroxide. Put the peroxide on a cotton ball and lightly apply it to the bloodstain. Once the blood is removed, rinse well.
As I mark my charts with pencil, graphite is always present on my fabric. Mix together ½ teaspoon of Orvus, 1½ cups of rubbing alcohol, and ½ cup of water in your soaking tub. Agitate the fabric and let soak for a few minutes. Did the pencil marks come out? If so, rinse your fabric. If not, more swishing is in order.
You've found a perfect piece of antique linen at a garage sale only to see a rust spot on it. On your way home from the garage sale, stop at the drug store and purchase Oxalic Acid. Once you get home, mix one teaspoon of the acid with one cup of hot water. With a dishcloth, dab at the rust stain until it begins to lift. Rinse your fabric well once the stain is gone. Another product that is very efficient at removing rust is Wink. However, if you are the least bit sensitive chemicals, don't use it. You must wear rubber gloves while using Wink, and do not breathe in the fumes. Wink works very quickly, and a soon as it appears to be removing the rust, start rinsing. Remember----test a piece of the fabric first, and don't get any on your floss.