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White Linen Storage Stains

By Dr. Laundry August 2, 2013

I have some white linen tablecloths which haven’t been used for years and were stored in a wooden armoire that show storage stains at the folding sides. I used Clorox® Regular-Bleach a few times in the wash but the marks remain and remain. What can I do?

I have a couple of thoughts on your tablecloths. If bleach failed to remove the stains, then I suspect the stains could actually be incomplete oily soil removal that has oxidized over time. You only see the stains on the creases of the folded sides because that’s where air gets to them. You could try treating the stains directly with liquid laundry detergent or Clorox2® Stain Fighter & Color Booster—just don’t let these products dry on the fabric. Apply a little directly to the stained area, wait 5 minutes, and then wash in hot water with detergent + more Clorox2®.

Another possibility is that because tablecloths in general are difficult to wash given their large size, the stained area isn’t agitating enough in the clothes washer (if it’s a standard washer) or isn’t submerged in the bleach solution enough (if it’s an HE washer). In that case, I would try pre-treating the stains directly with Clorox® Bleach Pen® Gel. Apply the gel directly to the stained areas, and then wash immediately in hot water with Detergent and 1/2 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach. Air dry to check your progress, and repeat the treatment (if it looks like you are making progress).

Finally, if the tablecloths have been through a hot dryer cycle, the stains could be “set” and very difficult to remove. You could try a bleach soak in a solution of ¼ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach per gallon of water. Fully submerge the table cloth for 5 minutes—weigh it down with a dinner plate or two if you need to. Then finish with a bleach wash as described above.