How to Care for Vintage Chenille Robes & Bedspreads: Updated Tips

Emily is our resident product tester when it comes to trying out new and/or different products to bring old textiles back to life, to restore bounce and texture to chenille tufts, and to preserve the integrity of fabrics over time. We’re often asked how to care for vintage chenille – if you want to read her general guidelines, click here for the original post.

A note from Emily:

Over the last year I’ve had the opportunity to experiment more – particularly with additional detergents – so consider this my new update to those original guidelines. For a positive, promising new addition to the lineup of products we use here, read on.

Eco-friendly ≠ Vintage Friendly

Today there are many laundry products being marketed as “eco friendly”, “natural”, “sensitive” ‘and the like. I’ve found many of these types of products to be more than suitable for everyday washing – in fact, the following three are all ones I’ve found to be far better than common store brands like Gain, Tide or Arm & Hammer (in order of my personal preference):

  • Charlie’s Soap (Eco Friendly Laundry Powder)
  • Nellie’s All Natural Laundry Soda
  • Seventh Generation

However, I DO NOT recommend using these with vintage chenille. Why? Because after many trials and testing, I’ve found that these types of products – especially powdered detergents – give chenille a “washed out” look or even visibly “strip” darker or rich colors. The risk is always increased when washing in hot water.

My Own Laundry Detergent Tests Revealed…

I like to “test” all my chenille in the washing machine to make sure it will hold up for whatever future purpose I intend. It’s through this “testing” that I discovered something peculiar. When using Charlie’s Soap and Nellie’s powdered detergents, I noticed that the very tips of the chenille fibers appeared stripped down in terms of color pigmentation.

This same issue happened on some vintage Ralph Lauren fabric I was working with – the end color result appeared too “washed out.” The best way that I can describe this is the fabric took on a well-loved, worn appearance – like that favorite old shirt you’ve washed hundreds of times. Only, I didn’t wash the article hundreds of times – just once or twice…

In another trial, I found that the washed chenille felt a bit dense, heavy, or even slightly “oily.” I noticed this most when washing British chenille, which as you may know can have a very distinct texture when contrasted with its USA-made counterparts.

While working with some mid-60s British chenille that had looser, longer tufts, I actually ended up re-laundering it twice more following the initial washing with Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Lavender because that first wash created such an unpleasant residue-like texture.

My Final Recommendations to Launder Chenille…

In the end, my final recommendations remain the same, with one new and impressive addition:

  1. Puracy. Pure and simple, we love this product. No cheap/fake/overpowering odor…just good old fashioned clean that would make grandma proud. We’re now using Puracy as our main detergent for both our vintage linens and our regular laundry.
  2. Mrs. Meyer’s Baby Blossom. This baby detergent has a lovely, light soft scent and is gentle yet highly effective. Whereas the regular Mrs. Meyer’s (i.e. the non-baby varieties) seems to create excessive density in the fabric and leaves a residue, Baby Blossom is light, fresh and fantastic.

We still can’t say enough good things about the quality of Puracy’s products. If you’re looking for an affordable, high quality all-purpose laundry detergent, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. We were hesitant to try Baby Blossom given the unpleasant residue left by the regular Mrs. Meyer’s but it definitely didn’t disappoint.

Many in the chenille world recommend using a baby detergent to launder this wonderful textile; our favorite is definitely Baby Blossom. Another great product is Dreft. Some people don’t care much for Woolite, but we do continue to use it where appropriate. I’ll continue to update this page as I experiment with other laundry products to let you know how well they perform while washing vintage textiles.