Safely Cleaning an Old Sampler

Dear Donia,

What is the best way to safely clean an old sampler? 


Q. Dear Donia,

I just unearthed a sampler from a kit I made in 1975. It was mounted with glue (likely Elmer’s) and put in a wooden frame with no glass. After spending a decade or so on a wall in a corporate office it’s been face up in the attic. I have carefully peeled the sampler from the backing and would now like to clean up the piece. The embroidery thread is cotton, and the piece would have had a bath before mounting. Would a gentle soak in room temperature water remove the dirt and glue? Thanks, Wendy

A. Dear Wendy,

I am glad you were able to get the sampler off the backing and are working to take better care of it.

Wash the sampler in a bath in warm water with a little Woolite that is free of scents and color. Woolite is a nonionic detergent and will rinse out of the fabric more easily than regular detergent. Rinse at least twice in a lot of water. It will help with the dirt but will not help with the glue. Elmer's is not water or solvent soluble once it dries so it is there to stay. Hopefully, it is not impacting the face of the sampler.

You will want to support the sampler on a piece of nylon window screen cut larger than the piece so that you are not stressing the sampler itself when lifting it out of the water baths. It can dry on the screen on a clean cooling rack from your kitchen or a window screen taken out of the window.

Good luck, and be very gentle.