My dear Brianna,
I have called upon my dear friend, Bryce Reveley, who lives in New Orleans. Mrs. Reveley runs a business called Gentle Arts, which cleans, restores, conserves and appraises old lace. Her clients are individuals as well as auction houses and museums.
According to Mrs. Reveley the basic prohibitions are:
"Lace does not go in the washing machine. Do not use lemon juice, dishwashing detergent or salt on it. And do not put lace in the sunlight in the morning when the interaction of the morning dew and sunlight causes a bleaching process. All of these things do work to some extent, mind you, but they are not recommended for long-term conservation."
Her recommended home-care program is to use Orvus WA Paste, a non-detergent cleaner often used for old textiles. Actually, it was designed to be used on horses, cows, pigs, and sheep because it leaves no irritating residue.
Lace washing process:
Use one teaspoon to a gallon of warm water (115 degrees F). Line your sink with an old towel that can be used as a sling for picking up the wet tablecloth. Immerse the tablecloth and let it sit for 45 minutes to an hour, without agitation. Rinse, letting the water run and drain at the same time. Rinsing may take up to an hour. Stop when the water is clear enough to drink.
Lace drying process:
Cradle the wet cloth in a towel. The towel should absorb the weight of the tablecloth as lace articles are in their most vulnerable state when they are wet. (Mrs. Reveley recalls working to restore a lace christening dress that had been heavily starched and hung on a clothesline to dry. The wind and weight of the skirt caused the christening dress to split in several places.) Wrap other soft towels or absorbent material around the tablecloth until it is damp and safe to handle. Spread it on an old sheet on a flat surface and gently shape and block the lace with your hands. Use drinking glasses or glass jars to hold the edges down.
Storage of lace:
Old lace should be kept wrapped in unbleached muslin, cotton sheets or acid-free tissue paper. Cardboard boxes should be used for storage. Do not put the box in the attic or in a cedar chest, and do not wrap it with plastic. Lace, like any other stored textile, should be aired once or twice a year and refolded along different lines so that threads do not disintegrate.
If you follow the preceding admonitions on care and conservation, your grandchildren will be using this tablecloth.