How to Care for Vintage Chenille Robes & Bedspreads

Emily loves working with old textiles, but her favorite is (of course!) chenille. To see Emily’s recent additional updates and tips on chenille care, click here

Caring for vintage chenille is easy! It’s quite durable (it would have to be to last this long) and with proper care, should last for years to come.

  General Chenille Laundering Instructions

I suggest washing on your machine’s “gentle” or “delicate” cycle using a high quality detergent such as Puracy or a baby detergent. You can hang to dry if you wish, but I dry my chenille in the dryer on a medium-heat setting (and again, a “delicates”-type cycle if your dryer has one).

Tip: Never wash red or deep pink tones on a very hot cycle – I learned this the hard way in my early days of collecting. Some (not all) reds will shed color – and if there is white, ivory, or pale yellow tufting – you’ll take that spread out of the machine to find newly pink tufting…save yourself the trouble and do a cool wash instead. In fact, we recommend a COLD wash regardless.

Moreover, early chenille was manufactured in the pre-“colorfast” days, so you’ll want to pay careful attention that your fabric doesn’t bleed – this is more likely to happen on very dark or bright fabrics. If the article was improperly hand-dyed, the risk of unwanted bleed increases. Consider a product such as Shout’s Color Catchers in these situations.

Dryer Balls for Extra Fluffiness

I personally use wool dryer balls, which are an affordable, eco-friendly alternative to conventional dryer sheets. These are also a terrific choice when drying flannel or garments that have been lined with flannel (as many of my robes are). You’ll never feel softer, more fluffy-thick flannel than when you use dryer balls.

You can easily find and purchase wool dryer balls on Amazon.com or a similar online retailer. There are also some lovely Etsy sellers who sell these as well. Replace as needed to keep your laundry snuggly soft.

My Chenille Robe is Shedding!

If you notice lots of lint after drying your robe, it’s perfectly ok and to be expected, especially with very plush or heavily tufted chenille. You may want to remind yourself to empty out your dryer’s lint-catcher after laundering your vintage chenille robe or bedspread.

Also note that 50/50 cotton blend chenille robes are almost always going to be prone to some level of pilling over time, particularly if you wear the bathrobe frequently. I’m not aware of any effective way to prevent this, but you can purchase a lint shaver tool inexpensively at retailers like Amazon or Walmart. I’ve never found these to be 100% effective, but hey, it’s worth a try, right?

If you want to better understand the differences between true vintage chenille robes and more “modern” bathrobes that typically feature a cotton blend, you can check out this post which will provide you with a deeper insight.

Can I Iron My Chenille Robe?

If you’re a perfectionist (like me!) and you’re wondering if you can iron your chenille…the answer is, in general, yes. Use caution and test a small area first. Be sure to use a low heat setting and iron from the wrong side (NEVER the tufted side).

Take great care to avoid burning a hole in very old or very thin chenille. In fact, if the chenille is very thin, I really stay away from using an iron because I want to preserve the integrity of the fabric for as long as possible. At the other end of the spectrum, ironing heavily tufted and/or thick chenille is like an art – you don’t want to press so hard that you flatten the tufting.

And if you’re sewing a handmade chenille robe or other garment, ironing can be a great way to flatten tufting at seams, allowing you to easily trim off the excess.

Do you have questions for us? Any tips to share? Let us know!

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