The Vintage Tablecloth Lovers Club was established in the late summer of 2002 by enthusiasts of 1930's-1970's vintage printed tablecloths. The purpose of the club is to promote the education and appreciation of these pieces of "Kitchen Textile Art" from our past, as well as to have fun sharing our hobby and creating lasting friendships. The VTLC is a non-profit club. The $25.00 a year dues are collected to offset the maintenance of the club and special club activities.


Tablecloth Condition Rating Scale

The following Tablecloth Condition Rating Scale is intended as a base guideline for buyers and sellers, as well as a "finishing touch" for tablecloth auction descriptions. Many sellers restore or clean all of their tablecloths before sale, but many others do not. The success of restoration (or lack of it) should be included in the individual descriptions of any seller using this scale. The Tablecloth Condition Rating Scale was created as a joint project by members of the Linen Lover's Board, which includes both buyers and sellers of vintage tablecloths. An explanation of terms appears at the end. Click on the arrow to read more!

  • Mint with Paper Tag:

    This category of tablecloth describes a MINT unused cloth with the paper label still attached. Storage stains are acceptable, as are factory defects such as thick threads and inconspicuous dye drips (common for the period). Cloth should be crisp and brightly colored. It may or may not come with a box. This category also describes tablecloths which have had their paper tags removed for professional cleaning and then laminated/bagged and carefully reattached. Storage fading and any other kind of non-storage stains are not acceptable.

  • Mint with Sewn-in Tag:

    This category is exactly like the one above except that at some point, the tablecloth has become separated from its paper tag and only has a sewn-in one. The cloth should still be unused, in pristine condition. Storage stains, thick threads, and inconspicuous dye drips are acceptable. Cloth should be crisp and brightly colored. Cloth may or may not come with a box. Storage fading and any other kind of stain are not acceptable.

  • Excellent, Near Mint:

    This category of tablecloth describes those cloths which have been gently used. There may be no tag or box, but the cloth will be in excellent pristine condition with no fading, holes, tears, or stains. The material will still be crisp and the colors vivid. Factory defects may exist, but they will be inconspicuous. Storage stains are acceptable; fading is not.

  • Excellent:

    This category describes cloths which have been gently used but which have been stored for some time and may or may not have been restored with modern cleaners. The cloth may have very faint yellowing in places. It may have other mysterious stains, but all will be extremely faint. There should be no fading, holes, tears, or serious stains. The material will still be crisp, and colors will be bright. Factory defects may exist, but they will be still be fairly inconspicuous.

  • Very Good:

    This category describes cloths which have been gently used but which may or may not have been restored with modern cleaners. The cloth may have faint yellowing in places and other mysterious small stains (storage, dark streaks, rust pin dots). It may have pinpoint holes or frayed places, or the hem may be unraveling a tiny bit. These faults should be fairly inconspicuous; the stains/holes should not be near or in the center of the cloth where they are highly visible, but on the drop. The cloth should still be crisp. Factory defects may be more visible. There should be no fading.

  • Good:

    This category describes cloths which have been moderately used and which may or may not have been restored. The cloth may have some yellowing in places, along with other stains (storage, dark streaks, rust pin dots). It may have pinpoint holes or frayed places, or the hem may be unraveling a tiny bit. There may be other small holes (less than 1/2 of an inch) in various places. The cloth will not be as crisp and there may be some slight even fading overall. Factory defects, if any, may be visible. There may also be inconspicuous darns or iron-on patches.

  • Fair:

    This category describes cloths which have been moderately used and which have not seen restoration. The cloth will have visible stains, perhaps including food and grease, and may have other stains from storage or rust. The tablecloth will have holes or frayed places, or the hem will be unraveling. There may be other holes (larger than 1/2 of an inch) in various places. The fabric will not be crisp and will be thin. There may be uneven fading or overall fading, or darns/patches in obvious places

  • Cutter:

    This category describes cloths which have seen damage and can no longer be used for their original intention. One side of an otherwise pristine tablecloth, for instance, could have serious staining, tears, or holes, leaving the other side available for other uses. If a cloth has fading, this should be noted.

  • Poor:

    This category describes cloths which have been heavily used and which have not seen restoration. The cloth will have visible stains, including perhaps food, grease, or paint, and may have other stains from storage, rust, or other unknown causes. The tablecloth will have many holes, tears, and frayed places and the hem may be unraveling. The fabric will, in many cases, not be crisp and will be thin, yellowed, and dirty. There may be uneven fading or overall fading, or darns/patches in obvious places.

*Storage stains are the result of fabric coming into contact with wood acid or long-term storage with starch or detergent residue leaving brownish streaks or blotches, often (but not always) in the fold areas. Restoration refers to methods above and beyond simple washing, and should only be attempted by an educated seller or buyer as vintage tablecloths can easily be ruined. Restoration includes the use of modern products combined with prolonged soaking, but it may also include minor sewing repairs and household stain removal methods.


Beginning a collection

My best advice...

for a new vintage tablecloth collector is not to be deterred from purchasing tablecloths with stains or small pinholes. Most yellow stains can be almost completely removed or lightened significantly by following a few simple guidelines outlined in my book. I enjoy displaying tablecloths with a few small holes and even those with slight stains. I believe they add character and charm to a wonderfully loved piece with a rich history. These slight imperfections are the result of years of Sunday dinners, family celebrations, and intimate dinner parties. People loved, laughed and cried over these precious tablecloths, and I�m proud to own them.

How to use and display vintage linens

Most vintage printed tablecloths you can find today are in smaller sizes ranging from 32" square to 54" square. I recommend buying a several larger gingham and plain tablecloths in primary colors to show off your smaller tablecloths. These tablecloths are inexpensive and very easy to find at local Walmart or Targets stores. Layering colors will add texture and charm and help hide those little wearholes. Mix and match and have fun. Roll and stack vintage printed tablecloths in an open display cabniet, tuck a smaller tablecloth under your grandmothers teapot in the china cabniet. Bring one out on the garden patio for a lovely lunch spot. These wonderful vintage tablecloths are anywhere from 50 to 125+ years old and were used, cherished, and will, of course, show signs of use. My perfect linens are carefully stored and only brought out for �show,� but my used, treasured ones with slight holes and imperfections, are brought out daily and lovingly used with no fear of further damaging them. In fact we add to their charm with our own little stains and rips. These �imperfect� tablecloths warm our kitchen and brighten our lives. My family is happy to cherish and use each one, knowing that each stain and imperfection is a part of its long history.


General Guidelines

First check your tablecloth to determine its approximate age (see Dating Your Tablecloth section). Tablecloths made prior to 1935 will have dyes that may not be colorfast and may fade or clean unevenly. Watch for any signs of the colors running out of the cloth. The water will be tinged with red, green or orange. Remove the tablecloth immediately and rinse in cold water. Always check your tablecloth while you are soaking or cleaning it to check for fading colors or possible disintegration of the fabric.

Here's a tip from Martha Stewart

Line your wash basin with a sheet before filling it with soap. Place larger or more fragile pieces in the basin to soak. When you are through, simply lift the material by the corners to remove from the basin. This will help keep fragile fabrics and linens from stretching or further damage. Do not kneed, twist or push the tablecloth too hard when removing the excess water from the tablecloth. This will further damage and rip any areas where the fabric is thin. Make sure the tablecloth is free from significant wear holes that may be made larger by vigorous washing.

I have found that nature is the best bleacher.

Hanging tablecloths from a clothesline or laying it outside on a sheet in the grass after washing will do a beautiful job of lightening yellow stains. Make sure that if you hang your tablecloth on the clothesline, you are not stretching the ends. Use several clothespins to hang it straight across the line.

Using Oxygen products:

First rinse the cloth thoroughly and launder with a an Oxygen product like "Oxyboost". Since this can damage some cloths is should not be used with any cloths containing metallic threads or dyes. Check your cloth carefully before soaking. Take 1/4 c of Oxyboost and dissolve it first in 2-4 cups of the hottest water possible, then take that mixture and add it to very warm water THEN soak your cloths, watching them careful. Sometimes it will take a few trys. It's always better to soak the cloth the shortest time - the small yellow stains will most likely be bleached out when you hang it to dry. If not, then try again!


  • Detergent: All-purpose synthetic detergent (liquid or powder). Use liquid detergent full strength. Mix powder with water to form a paste when working into stain.
  • Non-chlorine powdered bleach: Powdered, bleach product such as Bays may be used to remove stains by soaking in tepid water for length of time. Dry-cleaning solvents: Stain and spot removers available at grocery and hardware stores. A nonflammable type is safest to use.
  • Stain Stick: An enzyme-based cleaner available at grocery and discount stores. Most effective on food, grease, oil, protein, and dirt-based stains and can be used on any fabric and color. It can remain on fabric for up to one week. I found the Carbona� products to be the best at removing specific stains, especially rust.

OUT DARN SPOT! - Stain Guidelines

If you know what type of stain is on the cloth, the following suggestions are very helpful in removing new and sometimes older stains.

Alcoholic Drinks/Wine

Launder with detergent in the hottest water safe for the fabric. If it is a new stain, do not use soap (bar, flake, or detergents containing natural soap), since soap could make the stain permanent or at least much more difficult to remove. If it is an old stain, soak in a solution of water with one half of a scoop of powered non-chlorine bleach. Watch carefully. Soak for at least 2 hours, (more if necessary). Line dry in sun. Soak tough stains for 30 minutes in 1 quart of warm water and 1 teaspoon of enzyme presoak product. The removal of old or set-in stains may require washing with non-chlorine powdered bleach that is safe for the fabric. Always check for colorfastness first. If all the sugars from the wine or alcohol are not removed, a brown stain will appear when the fabric is heated in the dryer or is ironed, as the sugar becomes caramelized in the heat.


Treat new blood stains immediately! Flush cold water through the stain and scrape off crusted material. Soak for 15 minutes in a mixture of 1 quart lukewarm water, 1/2 teaspoon liquid hand dish washing detergent, and 1 tablespoon ammonia. Use cool/lukewarm water. Rub gently from the back to loosen stain. Soak another 15 minutes in above mixture. Rinse. Soak in an enzyme product for at least 30 minutes. Soak aged stains for several hours. Launder normally. If the blood stain is not completely removed by this process, wet the stain with hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of ammonia. Caution: Do not leave this mixture on the cloth longer than 15 minutes. Rinse with cool water. If the blood stain has dried, PRE-treat the area with PRE-wash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, or a paste of granular laundry product and water. Launder using bleach that is safe for the type of fabric.

Candle Wax

Harden the wax by rubbing with ice. Remove the surface wax by carefully scraping with the dull edge of a butter knife, if that doesn't work, you can try the next suggestion. Sandwich the wax stain between folded paper towels and press down lightly on top of the towel with a warm (not hot) iron. Replace the paper towels frequently to absorb more wax and to prevent transferring the stain to new areas. Continue as long as wax is being removed.


Saturate the stain with a pretreatment stain remover. Rub the stain with a heavy-duty liquid detergent and launder in the hottest water safe for the fabric. If it is a new stain, do not use soap (bar, flake, or detergents containing natural soap), since soap could make the stain permanent or at least more difficult to remove. If it is an old stain, soak the tablecloth in a solution of water with one half scoop powered non-chlorine bleach. Watch carefully. Soak for at least 2 hours, (more if necessary). Line dry in sun.


If it is an old stain, soak the tablecloth in a solution of water with one half of a scoop of powered non-chlorine bleach. Watch carefully. Look for signs that the dye is colorfast. Soak for at least 4 hours, (more if necessary). Line dry in the sun. Repeat the process if still yellow.

Dye Stains/Dye Transfer

Soak the entire tablecloth in a diluted solution of powered non-chlorine bleach. If the stain remains and the tablecloth is colorfast, soak the entire tablecloth in a dilute solution of liquid chlorine bleach and water. Again, test for colorfastness first and watch carefully. Not recommended for tablecloths that were made prior to 1935. Check the "Dating Your Tablecloth" section for clues as to the approximate age. Caution: Chlorine bleach may change the color of the tablecloth or cause irreversible damage especially in PRE-1940s tablecloths. Therefore, it is important to check for color fastness before using. If the stain does not come out within 15 minutes of bleaching, it cannot be removed by this method and any further exposure to bleach will weaken the fabric and remove the color. I do not recommend this for general stain removal. Note: To check for color fastness to liquid chlorine bleach, mix 1 tablespoon of bleach with 1/4 cup of water. Use an eyedropper to put a drop of this solution on a hidden seam in the tablecloth. Let it stand two minutes, then blot dry. If there is no color change, it is probably safe to use the product. Powdered non-chorine bleaches have directions for colorfastness tests on their boxes. There are also a number of dye removers/strippers, which are available in drug and grocery stores. However, color removers will also take out fabric colors as well as the stain so be careful.


Mildew is a growing organism that must have warmth, darkness, and moisture to survive. Mildew actually eats cotton and linen fibers and can also attack manufactured fibers, causing permanent damage and a weakening of fibers and fabrics. To treat mildew, first carefully brush or shake off mildewed area. It is very difficult to remove and will damage the value of a vintage tablecloth. PRE-treat the stains by rubbing the areas with a heavy-duty liquid detergent. Then launder in the hottest water safe for the fabric, using bleach safe for fabric. Always check for colorfastness and for the age of the tablecloth before using any type of bleach. Let the item dry in the sun. Badly mildewed fabric may be damaged beyond repair. Old stains may respond to flushing with dry cleaning fluids. Carefully read and follow the instructions on the product label.


Removing rust stains can be difficult. These stains cannot be removed with normal laundering. Do not use chlorine bleach, as chlorine bleach will make the stains permanent. Small stains may be removed with a few drops of a commercial rust remover, or by repeated applications of lemon juice and salt on the stain. Do not let the fabric dry between applications.

You can also use liquid laundry detergent and oxygen color safe bleach or non-chlorine powdered bleach. If safe for the specific fabric try this old home remedy, boil fabric in a solution of 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar per pint of water. Rinse thoroughly. Rust removers that contain hydrofluoric acid are extremely toxic, can burn the skin, and will damage the porcelain finish on appliances and sinks. Use as a last resort. I do recommend using the Carbona Rust remover products, but again, watch your cloths carefully.

Scorch/Burn Marks

Scorching permanently damages the fabric. The heat burns and weakens the fibers, and can also melt manufactured fibers, such as polyester. If the damage is slight you might be able to improve the look. Brush the area to remove any charring. If the tablecloth is washable, rub liquid detergent into the scorched area. Launder. If the stain remains, bleach with an all-fabric non-chlorine bleach.


Some of the older tablecloths that have been stored for many years have that "old smell" and yellowing in the creases. You will also find tablecloths that have been in a smoker's home with that "tell tale" smell. I have not had any problems removing either of these problems from my tablecloths. If the tablecloth is not seriously frayed or damaged in any other way, soak the tablecloth is a solution of tepid water and one scoop of non-chlorine powdered bleach or Oxy. Watch carefully for any signs of dyes fading. Remove immediately if you see a green or red "tinged" water. Soak overnight and place outside out all day in the sun. Repeat if necessary, but it should work in one treatment.

Tomato-Based Stains

Saturate the area with pretreatment laundry stain remover. Wait a couple of minutes for the product to penetrate the stain. For stubborn stains, rub with heavy-duty liquid detergent. Launder immediately. If the stain remains, soak the entire tablecloth in a diluted solution of all-fabric powered bleach. Be aware that all the colors may lighten. If the stain persists and the tablecloth is white or colorfast, soak in a diluted solution of liquid chlorine bleach and water. However, be sure to read the tablecloth label regarding the use of bleach. Bleach can damage some dyes and prints, and bleaching damage is irreversible. Also, if the stain is not removed in 15 minutes, it cannot be removed by bleaching and further bleaching will only weaken the fabric.


Glossary of Textile Terms

A cloth ornamentation that is laid upon and applied, usually via small stitches, to another textile medium

Bark Cloth

A medium weight fabric with a rough surface which resembles the bark of a tree. Used extensively for draperies in the 1940's and 1950's

Aniline Dyes

Chemical dyes (as opposed to vegetable ones) derived from coal tar. These were developed for use in the late 1850s.


A linen cotton or cotton mix suitable for kitchen towels. Better grades with softer feel and higher thread counts are used for tablecloths.


A fabric of silk, rayon, and cotton or other combinations of fibers woven in jacquard weave with reversible flat designs.


Dyes used for printing color on textiles.


Ornamental needlework done on the fabric itself.


An unstable dye that tends to run, fade, or change colors.

Ghost Fabric

A textile that contained a fugitive dye, leaving no color or only a little color. This condition is most often seen in some red and green dyes as well as pinks and blues from the 1850 to the 1930s


A very coarse, rough linen, wool, or cotton or man made fiber or blend in varied colors, generally in a plain weave.


This is the strongest of the vegetable fibers and has 2 to 3 times the strength of cotton. It is made from flax, a bast fiber taken from the stalk of the plant. The luster is from the natural wax content. Creamy white to light tan, this fiber can be easily dyed and the color does not fade when washed. Linen does wrinkle easily.


A shrubby herb grown for the dyeing properties of its root. Madder is the basic colorant for Turkey red and the coppery brows of the late 1800s.


Originally developed by John Mercer about 1850, the process was forgotten until 1890 when the idea was patented. It is a process that gives an increase in flexibility, strength, and luster to cotton tablecloths. Advertised on tablecloths produced between 1920- 1940.


A chemical agent that fixes a dyestuff to a fiber.

Over dyed/Over printed

A tablecloth that was vat dyed in two different baths, or stamped first with one color then stamped or overprinted with another to create a third color.


A heavy-pile fabric with a deeper pile than velvet or velour.


Made from cellulose, has many of the qualities of cotton, a n natural cellulose fiber. Rayon is strong, extremely absorbent, comes in a variety of qualities and weights, and can be made to resemble natural fabrics. Rayon does not melt but burns at high temperatures. The word "Rayon" is a man-made word. Kenneth Lord, Sr., coined the phrase in 1924 during and industry sponsored contest to find a name for what was known as artificial silk.


A generic name for fabrics used for sails. It is usually made of cotton, linen, jute, or nylon and is a heavy, almost canvas-feeling fabric. Favorite fabric of both Wilendur and Startex.


Trade name of a process for shrinkage control. Residual shrinkage of not over 1 percent guaranteed. Developed in the 1950s and advertised on some tablecloth tags during that time.


A jacquard woven fabric in cotton, wool, or man-made fibers. The design is woven in by means of colored filling yarns. On the back, shaded stripes identify this fabric.

Turkey Red

A specific shade of red produced from the madder plant. The technique involved placing fabric in an oil bath. A colorfast dye, it was first developed in Turkey. Turkey red can fade to pink with use.


A smooth, closely woven pile fabric usually of cotton, wool, or man-made fibers, it is heavier than velvet


Silk, rayon, nylon or acrylic cut pile fabric.


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