Can You Wash Vintage Clothes Washing Machine?



Can You Wash Vintage Clothes Washing Machine

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Generally speaking, vintage clothes should not be washed in a washing machine. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If a vintage clothing item’s label includes machine washing instructions, you can consider using a washing machine to clean it.

Dos and don’ts of Wash Vintage Clothes


  • Check the Label: If the vintage clothing item has a care label that specifically states it can be machine washed, you can proceed with machine washing.
  • Use a Gentle Cycle: If machine washing is approved, always use the gentle or delicate cycle to minimize the stress on the fabric.
  • Turn Clothes Inside Out: Turning the garments inside out before washing can help protect the fabric’s outer surface and any delicate embellishments.
  • Place in a Mesh Bag: Placing vintage clothes in a mesh laundry bag can prevent them from getting tangled with other items or stretched during the washing process.
  • Use Cold Water: Opt for cold water to prevent color fading and minimize the risk of shrinking or damaging delicate fibers.
  • Mild Detergent: Use a mild, pH-neutral detergent that is suitable for delicate fabrics. Avoid harsh chemicals that could harm the vintage fibers.
  • Skip Fabric Softeners: Fabric softeners might break down vintage fabrics over time, so it’s best to avoid using them.
  • Air Dry: After washing, air dry the vintage clothes by laying them flat on a clean towel. Avoid hanging them, as this can cause stretching.
  • Test Before Washing: If there’s uncertainty about the fabric’s reaction to machine washing, perform a spot test on a small, inconspicuous area before washing the entire garment.


  • Ignore Labels: If the care label clearly states “dry clean only” or provides other special care instructions, avoid machine washing.
  • Overcrowd the Machine: Overloading the washing machine can lead to improper cleaning and potential damage to the vintage garments.
  • Use Hot Water: Hot water can cause vintage fabrics to shrink, lose color, and weaken over time.
  • Aggressive Washing: Avoid using heavy agitation settings, as they can lead to fabric wear and tear.
  • Ignore Stains: Pretreat stains before washing to avoid setting them in the fabric during the washing process.
  • Use Bleach: Bleach can be extremely damaging to vintage fabrics and should be avoided at all costs.
  • Dry in Direct Sunlight: Direct sunlight can cause vintage fabrics to fade, lose vibrancy, and become brittle.

Vintage Clothes: Which You Can Wash in the Machine:

While it’s generally recommended to avoid machine washing vintage clothes, some items might be suitable for this method if their labels permit it. These items could include:

  • Cotton Clothing: Sturdy cotton fabrics are more likely to withstand machine washing if labeled appropriately.
  • Simple Garments: Vintage t-shirts, casual dresses, and basic tops with minimal embellishments or delicate trims might be suitable for machine washing.
  • Certain Synthetics: Some synthetic fabrics, like polyester, can often handle gentle machine washing.
  • Everyday Wear: Vintage items that were originally intended for everyday use and have been well-preserved might be good candidates for machine washing.

Steps to Wash Vintage Clothes in the Washing Machine

Step 1 Check the Label:

Ensure that the care label of the vintage garment allows machine washing.

Step 2 Prep the Garments:

Turn the clothes inside out and place them in a mesh laundry bag.

Step 3 Select Gentle Cycle:

Choose the gentle or delicate cycle on your washing machine.

Step 4 Use Cold Water:

Opt for cold water to protect the fabric’s color and integrity.

Step 5 Add Mild Detergent:

Use a gentle, pH-neutral detergent specifically formulated for delicate fabrics.

Step 6 Start the Cycle:

Allow the washing machine to complete the cycle without interruption.

Step 7 Air Dry:

After washing, lay the vintage clothes flat on a clean towel to air dry. Avoid wringing or hanging them.

Alternative Washing Methods for Vintage Clothes:

  1. Hand Washing: Gently hand wash vintage garments in a basin with cold water and mild detergent. Avoid excessive rubbing or wringing.
  2. Dry Cleaning: If the label recommends dry cleaning, take the item to a professional cleaner experienced in handling delicate fabrics.
  3. Spot Cleaning: For minor stains, consider spot cleaning with a damp cloth and mild soap. Always test on an inconspicuous area first.


Can I wash vintage silk in a washing machine?

Answer: Washing silk in a washing machine is generally not recommended, as silk is a delicate fabric prone to damage. It’s better to opt for hand washing or professional cleaning for silk vintage pieces.

Are vintage wool sweaters safe for machine washing?

Answer: Wool is a delicate material that can easily shrink and lose its shape in a washing machine. It’s safer to hand wash or dry clean vintage wool sweaters to maintain their quality.

What’s the safest way to clean vintage leather items?

Answer: Vintage leather should not be machine washed. Instead, wipe the surface with a damp cloth and use a leather conditioner to keep it supple and moisturized.

Can I use a fabric softener on vintage denim in the washing machine?

Answer: Fabric softeners can affect the dye and texture of vintage denim. It’s advisable to skip fabric softeners and opt for a mild detergent specifically for denim.

Should I wash beaded vintage clothing in a washing machine?

Answer: Beaded or embellished vintage items are better suited for hand washing or professional cleaning. The delicate beads and trims can get damaged in a washing machine.

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