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Product Review: Retro Clean

Product Review: Retro Clean

By Janelle Cahoon, Quiltcentric

Retro Clean quilt soak is one of the items I bought at the Houston Quilt Festival specifically to review for you.  It promises it’s “the gentle solution for safely removing yellow and brown age stains from all washable vintage fabrics.”  The list of stains it says it will remove includes those caused by water damage, mildew, coffee, tea, blood, wood oil, tobacco and perspiration.

It sounds great, and I was really impressed by the examples in their booth.  They had cut several badly-stained examples in half and treated one half but not the other.  The difference was amazing.  So I thought I’d test it at home.

Like so many of you, I have both inherited and purchased vintage quilts, blocks and embroidered linens and most of them have some degree of yellowing/browning and staining.

I decided to try it on one of the orphan blocks sewn by my great-grandmother.  Only one for now, in case it doesn’t work out, because these blocks are precious heirlooms.  But these blocks are really badly-stained and musty and so they’re the toughest test I could make.

Following the instructions, I first washed the block.  (Remember, vintage fabrics/quilts require special care and can’t just be thrown in the washing machine; I hand-washed my block in the sink.)  Then I missed up the Retro Clean with warm water in the ratio recommended and put the block in to soak.  You’re supposed to make sure the water covers the fabric and I had a little trouble with that because my quilt block wanted to float; I ended up floating a light weight on top to hold it down.

The instructions say to let the items soak for up to 48 hours, depending on the degree of staining.  I let mine soak for the full 48 hours, since it was so badly stained. I then washed it again and laid it out to dry, as the instructions direct.

Here are the photos of the block before and after using the Retro Clean.  As you can see, the “before” image shows that this block’s fabric was very badly browned compared to the white fabric I used as a background and there are several nickel-sized darker stains.

The “after” photo shows that the browning of the white fabric is dramatically lighter.  The stained spots are still very faintly visible if I look for them, but too light to show up in the photo. There are still a few stains that look like black grease stains on a couple of the white pieces, but these are faint and were actually hidden under all the dark staining before the Retro Clean treatment.

I wanted to check to see if the Retro Clean had faded the color of the red fabric so I compared the red in the treated block against the same fabric in the other inherited blocks. I found that the red was actually much brighter in the Retro Clean soaked block, apparently due to getting rid of all that brown staining.

In addition, the Retro Clean has completely removed that musty smell that made me hate to even handle these blocks.

Result:  Recommended:  I’m certainly going to use it on the rest of my inherited blocks and linens.

If you want to check out the Retro Clean website  there are a lot of testimonials and other “before” and “after” photos to see.


Have you used a great (or terrible) quilt-related product you’d like to tell us about?  Write a review and send it to me through the Contact link.


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