Can textiles carry disease? How can you remove stains?
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Author:  sentzie [ Fri Apr 20, 2012 3:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Can textiles carry disease? How can you remove stains?

I just recently purchased several Hmong pieces online that I love, but was wondering if it's possible for diseases to be transmitted from vintage or worn textiles. I have a two month old baby, so I am kind of paranoid about germs right now. One of the textiles is an indigo batik with orange embroidery that has some staining I'd like to try to remove, the others look pretty clean, but I would still like to wash or dryclean them. I'm new to collecting and would greatly appreciate any advice!

il_570xN-1.jpg [ 99.56 KiB | Viewed 7955 times ]
il_570xN-4-1.jpg [ 144.22 KiB | Viewed 7955 times ]
il_570xN-6-1.jpg [ 40.59 KiB | Viewed 7955 times ]

Author:  Pamela [ Fri Apr 20, 2012 8:07 pm ]
Post subject: 

I have moved this question to a different section of the forum "Photographing, caring for and documenting a textiles collection" as this is the section where there is already some information about cleaning textiles. You might find it helpful to browse some of the other threads here.

I am not sure about textiles transmitting disease. I guess there must always be the possibility depending on the length of time that a germ stays active. I am not, I am afraid, an appropriately trained chemist or biologist. To be completely sure I suppose one would have to boil a textile - and, in most cases, ruin it as a collectible.

Freezing textiles for a period of time is a technique used by museums to kill off bugs and stop them eating their way through textiles.

In the photos you have posted the one that I would be most wary of washing is il_570xN-4-1 as it has so much red and red is such a fugitive dye and can run horribly. The indigo wax resist should wash well and not run.

Author:  sentzie [ Mon Apr 23, 2012 5:56 pm ]
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Pamela, thank you so much for the reply to my post! I'll try washing the indigo, and just leave the others alone. I bet the microwave will kill any germs!

Author:  larry [ Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:49 pm ]
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I am no expert, but I think microwave only heats things that have moisture, and that might scorch the fabric. See what happens with some dispensable fabric, and watch, in case it begins to smoke.

Googling for dry heat sterilization turns up some possibilities:
2% hydrogen peroxide (would that bleach?),
dry heat (oven, but maybe at temperatures that would be detrimental),
UV light.

The last suggests that just a good airing in sunlight (both sides) would kill most germs.

I posted this mostly to warn about microwave.

Good luck,


Author:  Chris Buckley [ Tue May 01, 2012 9:28 am ]
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I remember reading an article by a professional rug restorer, who said that he had contracted skin infections from old rugs, which I find quite believable, since rugs are underfoot for a generation and can pick up all kinds of things. Ethnic textiles less likely to be a problem, I think.

Soap kills most things, I don't think anything stronger is needed for cleaning. I used to work for a detergent company at one time, did some microbiological testing on laundry detergents, and found soap to be surprisingly good in this respect.

Peroxide will definitely kill everything ... including some of the colors!


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