How to Antique Fabric

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Antiquing fabric is one way to give it a new look. Coffee and tea are inexpensive and relatively easy ways to stain lighter-colored fabrics for a primitive look. You can also give print or colored fabrics an antique look with bleaching. Whether you’re working on a craft project or a piece of clothing, antiquing will give your fabric an aged look using items you may already have in your home.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 cups water
  • Container large enough for fabric
  • Fabric
  • 1½ cups instant coffee or tea
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (optional)
  • 3 plastic containers large enough for fabric
  • Bleach
  • Neutralizer

Antiquing with Coffee or Tea

Bring water to a boil; remove from heat and add coffee or tea. Place fabric in mixture for 20 to 60 minutes. Check fabric occasionally for desired color. The longer you leave the fabric in the mixture, the darker it will become. Remember, colors will be lighter when the fabric is dry.

When desired color is achieved, remove the fabric from the water and wring it dry. If desired, crumple the fabric to achieve a mottled look.

Hang or lay the fabric flat to dry.

Antiquing with Bleach

Mix one part bleach with 10 parts hot water in a container.

Fill a second container with enough cold water to cover fabric.

Mix chlorine neutralizer with water in third container.

Rinse fabric under hot water in the sink and submerge it in the first container. Watch the fabric for any change. The bleach will generally fade the fabric in 15 seconds. If you see no change in the fabric in 15 minutes, add more bleach to the water, but don’t use more than 1 part bleach to 5 parts water. Remove the fabric after the desired effect is achieved.

Soak the fabric in the second container and rinse thoroughly. Wring the fabric dry.

Mix neutralizer in the third container. Place the fabric in the container and leave it there according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Remove the fabric, washing and drying as normal.

Tips & Warnings

  • Coffee- and tea-staining only work on natural fabrics.
  • Coffee will produce a darker stain on fabric than tea. Different teas also stain in distinct colors. Different fabrics also take stain differently. Test a small piece of fabric to ensure a good result.
  • If you intend to use your fabric for something that will need to be washed, set the color by placing it in a mixture of one gallon of water and vinegar. Wash and dry the fabric as you normally would.

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