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An Ode to Oxi

Or…Vintage Clothing Care #1

Afternoon everyone!

I hope this week is treating you all well, especially since it’s nearly over. Hurray!

The subject of this post is something I alluded to last week. It is an ode to my love of the white powder, the life-changing, confidence-boosting powder that is…

Vanish Oxi Action.

You may know it in the US as Oxi Clean, or elsewhere as any kind of fizzing white oxygen-producing powder you put in a bucket of hot water; but whatever you call it, it truly is magical stuff for those of us who love vintage cotton frocks.

Most of you who read this blog will already have it in your arsenal of vintage care products I’m sure, but I do get the odd question pertaining to cleaning clothes. So here you have it. I love Oxi. It has rescued so many stained, stinky things that seemed beyond all help, and made them as good as new.

Take exhibit one: a new/old Swirl dress I recently purchased from Jezebel on Etsy. I’m nicking her photo as it was lovely!

It was reasonably priced as, clearly stated in the description, there was fading or discolouration to the shoulders and tie. The seller told me that she’d gently soaked it in Woolite, but it hadn’t lifted so she assumed it was fading. Now, I’ve had another pale pastel Swirl arrive to me looking like this before, but the seller hadn’t actually told me before I bought it. But knowing the success I’d had removing it, I decided to take a gamble.

It duly arrived and the extent of the grime (for I was convinced it was grime) could be seen. Excuse the creasing – it arrived neatly folded, then I shoved it back in the packet all haphazardly.

Exhibit A: The dress, Before-Oxi. BO… a bad choice of acronym. But strangely relevant – I will come to this shortly.

The whole shebang looks kind of dingy and dull, definitely not something I would wear as-is. So I got to work.

I skipped the milder (wimpy) pink Oxi Action, which I keep in stock and use to soak things with a stronger colour (and bung into most washes) and went straight to the big guns. Oxi Action Crystal White. Yes, it’s for whites, but this dress is pale blue, I didn’t mind if it faded a tiny bit; and I REALLY wanted it to work.

I put two big scoops in a bucket of water straight from the hot tap, and I dunked the dress in. I left it for 12 hours, weighted down with a heavy glass vase so it didn’t pop out the top, as these things are apt to do.

I then took it out and I washed it in the machine. I washed it hot. 60º to be precise.

Now this is not me endorsing or encouraging you to do the same, as I can’t take responsibility for you shrinking or ruining your frocks. BUT, I cannot be bothered to treat vintage cotton house dresses, which are to all intents and purposes, ladies’ workwear, with a kid glove. I’ve had too many instances of decades-old armpit funk come out of a gently washed cotton frock. Many sensible ladies I know will only wash their cottons at 30º (or even handwash) to try and keep it as gentle as possible and while I definitely have plenty of frocks in darker colours, with weaker seams or fabric that I would definitely not wash so hot, this Swirl is in great, strong condition. And I have been doing this for the greater part of a decade now. So I went for it, and crossed my fingers.

And look what’s happened!

Bright, glowing even; and not a hint of dinginess or discolouration!

Admittedly the light is different and therefore so is the colour. If you recall a few posts back, I showed pictures of me at a bowling alley – in the yellow alley light it doesn’t look quite so vibrant… but in person it does really look like a whole new (badly ironed) dress.

So there we have it, my love of Oxi remains as strong as ever!

My tips for using these oxygen powders to soak your vintage:

  • Only use on cottons and nylon/polyester type synthetics – never rayon, silk or wool.
  • Don’t soak anything with a metal zip – the rust stains will negate any good the Oxi does!
  • Use the gentler formulas on stronger coloured/patterned clothes.
  • Always go and check on it after half an hour to see if any extreme bleeding is taking place.
  • Don’t be afraid to do your soak more than once!

Talking of BO, the most recent green-capped Oxi, with the ‘Extra Hygiene‘ Action is brilliant for getting rid of funky smells, even when you just chuck it in a wash. I use it on my sports kit AND my cotton dresses with old pongs that emanate after an hour of wear (ie when it’s too late to go home and change). I have been known to use a rollerball applicator of strong biological washing liquid and actually ground it into armpits before washing offending items before. It works!

Do you have any vintage rescuing super success stories?

Fleur xx

PS. This post is not sponsored by Vanish, alas.



Another tip for stains on vintage clothes where you might be afraid to use something as strong as Oxi, is Nappisan. We were told this by some vintage dealers and I've had good success. Thanks for your tips.


I had a blue and white striped 50s dress that was the dingyiest(not a word lol) thing ever, it was tan! I soaked it in OxiClean and now it's bright white & blue! Let's not even mention the fact that I had to sew half of the thing back together by hand and reset the one side of the zipper! ugh! I think I must like pain or something!
And another dress with a brownish spill on the front of the skirt was totally fixed by Oxiclean too, now it's perfect!

for stains on a boucle knit wool dress I used Folex which is a gentle no-rinse carpet spot remover, use at your own risk, but it worked out just fine and my coral knit is very happy and stain free! I hand washed it afterward with baby shampoo.

I'm so happy that I have yet to have an odiferously armpitty dress show up! …that I know of anyway… haha I have had just about every other problem imaginable though! arg!

Bette on Toast

I wonder if you've any genius tips on cleaning vintage fur? I've got a beautiful white fur capelet that I stupidly smeared with that old menace, red lipstick. I don't know what to use on it, and I'm hesitant just to experiment and whack various products on in case I make it worse. Do you reckon Oxi would be my friend in this case?! x


OH HEYYLL no, don't use it on Fur! Erm, I'm not sure though I do have a pongy fur coat that needs a spruce. You could always try mild shampoo? It's only hair after all!

Jess at Hat's That!

I read an article about keeping and cleaning fur and it said not to a) store the fur in a warm place or in sunlight as it causes the fur to shed and b) not to immerse it in water. If it needs cleaning a professional is always best but for a quick job, Fleur's idea of using mild shampoo is a good one. The only thing to mention would be don't soak the fur in a bath or anything like that. Pop the shampoo on a cloth and use it that way.


I had a distressing experience with a satay stick (not mine!) and my white rabbit cape (mine) and I gently sponged the area with Soft Soap (a hand wash in a bottle product) that I had already diluted with water on an old nappy (the BEST cleaning cloths ever but I digress). I know there is a slight shadow there visible in the sunlight, however since I only wear the cape at night in lovely flattering low lighting, it's OK. But I feel your pain, lipstick is a bugger.

Miss Magpie

Johnson's baby shampoo or any other baby shampoo works with removing most make-up though I've never had to use it on lipstick. I've used one of those make-up removing facial cloths to get foundation off a jacket but wouldn't like to say if it would work on fur.


I have saved many vintage frocks by an overnight soak in Oxi. It does miracles for yellowing caused by age or storage. It also works well on rust stains from pins!


Vanish oxi action & cotton fabric, the perfect match!
But please don´t try an overnight soak with rayon…shrinked so bad 🙁


I think we only get one kind of Oxi in Canada, but I like it and often soak a vintage quilt if it is all cotton. My tip for cleaning furs is to rub a handful of oatmeal in the garment then brush it out…it acts like a dry shampoo,….not sure if it will remove lipstick though.


Trust pink, forget stains. I agree with you, definitely the best stuff! The dress looks great on you, blue is really your colour,
Love Lil x


A product I have found brilliant is Lux Flakes, I'm sure that is what they are called everywhere. Mix a handful up with warm to hot water, soak the item, then wash as normal. It is good for items that require something slightly gentler than the Oxi, which is a most excellent product.


Oxiclean rules!! I could totally replace Billy Mays as their spokesperson, I just get so excited about my beloved Oxyclean 😉

Around Halloween I found a beautiful antique 1910s blouse at a thrift store, but it was completely stained all over; overnight soak in the oxi and now it's all snowy and beautiful. It's also saved many of my vintage frocks from grass stains, spilled coffee, and skinned-knee blood.


Oxi Clean is a vintage lovers best friend! But, I have managed to ruin a few things with it. It is particularly rough on anything beaded. I destroyed a gorgeous 40s beaded blouse after I soaked it in Oxy. It ate away the thread or something and all the little beads fell off. Sad. Aside from that though, it is the best way to clean vintage garments.


I know the feeling. I bought a gorgeous blouse…..from about the WW1 era….a few years ago and it was really grubby. I just steeped it for hours and then gave it a good wash and it came up really well. I was rather anxious about it as there is a lot of rather fancy lace on it but it's fine.


"BUT, I cannot be bothered to treat vintage cotton house dresses, which are to all intents and purposes, ladies' workwear, with a kid glove." YES!!! So much of it is very robust and designed to get dirty and be washed.

I sometimes see plaintive "never wash vintage in a machine" comments on social networks and marvel. It's just common sense- fabric, condition and finish decide how you wash something. Especially anything post-mid-50s for daywear, in good condition… by then manufacturers expected people to use the launderette (i.e. rough industrial washing machines).

It seems to extend to anything vaguely vintage, even 60s-80s. I once bought a 70s, JC Penney day dress from a seller in the USA. It was polyester wash-n-wear heaven but was filthy. It came with a letter explaining to hand wash only… no way. Straight in with some (Asda own brand) Oxy colour! Good as new.

Miss Magpie

I chuck about 80% of my 'hand wash only' 'dry clean only' things in the machine! I check what the fabric is first of course but a lot of the time the manufacturers are being over cautious, also washing machine technology is very very different now!

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Hi, this post looks informative. Many people never take too much of care for their clothes and to maintain their originality. I got to gain more info from it. Thanks

Alyssa William

Great idea and tips, not many women are creative and able to do something like this on their own, really appreciate for sharing this information with us, very helpful.


I love Oxiclean! I use it for all my own vintage and much of the vintage in my shop. I can't say I ever have the water that hot though (through fear), but thanks to your post I feel assured and will be using some warmer water and soaking for longer on a beautiful sheer mushroom pleated blouse armpit stain later (the blouse being beautiful, not the stain).


Hi, this is really useful information but….I have a 1950's tapestry satin evening dress which could be rayon or acetate. I need to get the yellow sweat stains out underarm..Can I risk soaking this in Oxyclean? or should I try some sort of paste and a brush first? Can anyone advise on this sort of fabric?


Definitely not! Oxy can only really be used on cotton and polyester! Have you tried dry cleaning?


The dress is amazing!! And how wonderful that the Oxi Action worked. I just bought the sweetest cream coloured 50's dress, but it has clearly yellowed with age and the sleeves are extra yellow (brown almost!) I have 3 different kinds of Vanish and I desperately want to attack the dress with one of them. But the dress has a metal zipper and also I am not quite sure about the fabric. It's lined with acetate and the outer fabric may be cotton knit or a cotton/wool or cotton/synthetic blend knit. I hope you have the time to tell me how to approach this? I would apprecuate it so much! Oh and the dress has gray all over embroidery, that is probably cotton. I think the embroidery could take the vanish crystal white, but I just don't know about the rest of the dress. I love your blog by the way, every time I have a question, problem or a musing about vintage clothing, I seem to end up here 🙂


Worked like a charm on my 1950s curtains – the yellowy brown gunk from the soaking made me think of nicotine staining! Then Vanish in the wash the fabric came out bright and sparkly! Thank you ladies, the advice was much appreciated. xxx

Katharine Elliott

I have an antique Belgian tapestry (not ancient) that has a nicotine “varnish.” My whole family smoked and this tapestry hung on the wall. I’m not positive about the fabric, but I think it’s cotton. The colors are no longer vibrant as I’m sure they once were, and I’d like to bring it back to life. Can someone recommend a cleaning product, please, please, please?


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