Vintage apparel will always have its place and even relatively new clothes that are stored for a few seasons can get a musty smell and sometimes a brownish aging stain.
Staining on stored clothes is normally due to salts in sweat or soaps that continue reacting with the fabric over time. Smells can be due to mold and bacteria buildup and if you remove the mold then the odor will go away.
Before you can wear your old favorites you need to clean them well but what is the best method to clean your older clothes without destroying them?
The first thing you should do is inspect your items for any labels that give cleaning recommendations. Many delicate items will suggest that they only be dry cleaned and hand made clothing such as wedding dresses should have extra care.
You definitely want to stay away from any bleach products when working with older clothes especially cottons and natural fibers. Bleach will break down the fibers and cause them to tear.
Many people recommend that you use a bathtub and soak your items in white vinegar. This is not a bad idea but vinegar like bleach can cause your clothes to deteriorate. You should also clean your bathtub very well before you soak your clothes in it to make sure you don’t introduce any new bacteria or mold.
Soaking your clothes in a mild soap solution may be the best and most delicate method for stain removal. Most general purpose clothes washing soaps are formulated to not cause harm to natural fibers. The longer you soak your clothes the better and you may want to let them soak overnight or while at work.
Once you have washed the clothes you want to remove all of the soap then allow them to dry as recomended . Drip Dry is probably better for delicate fabrics.
If a general purpose clothes washing soap can not remove the stain or odor then bring your clothes to a good dry cleaner. I would ask a local bridal center for a recommendation on which local company is qualified to work on older delicate clothes. Just because a place gets your new shirts clean does not mean they can do a good job with an antique dress.