How to Wash Vintage Cotton and Leather Gloves

Gloves can be the perfect accessory to any vintage outfit and a fabulous way to add a touch of colour, class or assist those who can be a bit germaphobic (myself included). Finding a pair of vintage gloves can be a wonderful experience but keeping them in good condition can be a bit of a challenge. Like anything vintage, the care and storage or gloves, really help aid in keeping the gloves in their best condition possible. There are many ways of cleaning your vintage gloves, many of which I will list below, but the first thing you should do is find out what material your gloves are made out of to ensure the best possible cleaning outcome. It should also be noted that some gloves may not be salvageable depending on the extent of their staining, perspiration and general damage and great care should be taken during any of the following cleaning processes. Storage and maintenance of vintage gloves can be just as important as cleaning and a separate post on this topic is scheduled soon.

Probably the most common glove material, cotton and fabric gloves are easy to find and generally easy to clean. Before you start washing your gloves, separate them by colour as you don’t want to risk dye leaking in the water and tinting your other gloves.
Start by putting your gloves on your hands as normal, then using a mild soap (I use Ivory soap) wash your hands in luke warm water. If necessary, add soap to heavily soiled areas and gently rub the area or use a soft brush to remove stains. Rinse the gloves in cool clean water. To dry, remove the gloves from your hand and lay the gloves on a clean towel and pat them dry. Either hang or lay them to dry prefably not in direct sunlight.

Tip: Keep an eye on your gloves as they dry, right before they are fully dried, put them back on your hands to help them keep their shape. The warmth of your hands should also help them to finish drying.

Cotton gloves can also be soaked in a mild detergent or a delicate laundry powder (I use Napisan, but something like Retro Clean would also work). I find batch soaking similar colours a great way to clean lots of gloves all at once. I often soak them for about two hours and then spot clean with a soft brush and soap as I need to.

When it comes to leather gloves, there can be some variation depending on the type of leather used. There are four main types of leather used in gloves; kidskin (young goat or ‘kid’), chamois or doeskin, washable kidskin and buckskin. When it comes to washing any type of leather gloves, it really depends on the age, visible damage and general wear and tear when deciding on the washing method. Fresh leather gloves can really withstand vigorous handling but as the gloves age, they become increasingly fragile. With any leather gloves, they should be washed and handled with as much care as possible.

Kidskin gloves (made from thin young goat leather) can be immersed in a bath of gentle cleanser. They can be left to soak for about an our to losen and release dirt before being given a gentle scrub to remove any spots or stains. Kidskin gloves need to be fully rinsed and patted dry using a clean towel.

Tip: Glove stretchers are a huge help when drying kidskin gloves and a pair is definitely recommended if you own many pairs of kidskin gloves. Put your glove stretchers into your gloves to help them keep their shape and leave then in a warm and dry area to fully dry. Give the gloves ample time to dry as drying too quickly can cause the kidskin to stiffen and harden. Once dry, put the clean gloves on your hand to allow them to return to the shape of your hands.

Tip: There is a slight variation with kidskin which is ‘washable Kidskin’. Such gloves can be cleaned using the same process as chamois or doeskin gloves. The main difference in the process on such gloves comes in he drying prcess. To help restore the softness of the leather, rub some clean and dry talcum powder into the leather once it is fully dry.

Chamois or Doeskin generally comes from the skin of a doe (female deer), antelope or gazelle. It can also be a light-color, suede leaher produced from lamb, sheep, or goat skins. Whilst washing doeskin/chamois gloves, it’s best to wear them during the cleaning porcess to assist the leather in keeping it’s shape. Fill a sink or tub with lukewarm water and a pure, mild soap or soap flakes. Dip your hands in the water and give them a bit of a shake to loosen and dirty. Rinse them in luke warm water. Return them to the soapy water and give them another shake before rinsing them again under clean lukewarm water.
To dry, use a soft clean towel and gently grip the towel with your hands still in the gloves. Gently remove your hands from the gloves and dry them on another clean, dry towel. Do not leave them close to a heat source as drying too quickly will cause them to stiffen.

Buckskin leather is a family of leather types known for their soft, pliable, and porous qualities. With various synthetic varieties available, it’s generally made from sheepskin prepared from cromate tanning chemicals which are later dyed to imitate real buckskin. They are generally a tougher type of glove and can be cleaned using the the same method as chamois or doeskin gloves. They can withstand a good brushing to fully remove stains which is always a plus. Same drying rules apply.

When drying your gloves, glove stretchers can really be a huge help. Many come with a hook at the top so your gloves can be hung on a drying line with ease. I tend to not drying my gloves using a clothes line as pegs can leave imprints in the gloves and the line can cause the gloves to have a bend which distorts the shape of the glove. I would recommend laying your gloves flat in a warm area onto of a fluffy dry towel.

It’s sad to note that some gloves with particular stains may never look as good as new. Part of the joy of vintage are the mystery stains that come with them; without knowing what the stain is, how long its been there or much else, you may be stuck with permanently damaged gloves. Dyeing stained gloves is always an option but it’s definitely a last resort.

Like any vintage item, cleaning vntage gloves of any material takes great care and patience. No matter how good the condition of the gloves may appear, there is always a chance that they become damaged during the cleaning. Althoough the methods outlined in this post come from true vintage methods, it should always be left up to your discression how to proceed in the cleaning of your itage items. With any cleaning porcess, there are always many risk factors and some items may be completely irriplaceable.


Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way. There are no affiliate links and I do not benefit from any link clicks or purchases made.

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