At our church ‘Saint Paul the Apostle’, we have a beautiful chasuble which has not been cleaned for a very long time. How do I go about cleaning it? Someone has tried dry-cleaning, and the chasuble looked like it had not been touched. I dare not put it in the washing machine or use ordinary powder / liquid to clean it. Would you please advise me? I have been reading your very interesting info re: church silver and wine stains: all very helpful.
Thank you very much.
Yours faithfully,
Adelaide Pettett

Dear Adelaide,  Thanks for your email.  Yes, most altar guild members can share a similar story.  Dry cleaning is frequently NOT the answer.  Before answering, there are a few things I need to know: 1. What  is the fabric (synthetic, nylon, rayon, damask, cotton, blend, silk damask, etc.) 2. Can you estimate how old the vestment is, that often gives a clue.  3.  Are there spots like rust or grimey stains around the neck? 4. Is the chasuble trimmed with any ornate or metallic threads worked in the gallooning or vesica? 5. Is there lace or any applied or appliqued trim? 6.  How is the vestment usually stored? (flat in a drawer, on a hanger, in a closet, etc.). 7.  What is the primary liturgical color?  Is it possible you can send us a photo?

A careful vacuuming of a textile is the FIRST STEP in removing dirt.  This is done with gentle suction.  You can stretch the toe from panty-hose over the nozzle of any vacuum to make it slide smoothly and break strong suction. This takes patience and always vacuum in one direction so as not to catch and break any threads.  Usually this does wonders to restore a textile.  Dust and grime are by far the most common enemies.  I always cover a vestment layout on a counter with a clean white cotton dust cover.  Dry cleaners use chemicals- and chemicals must be used with great care and knowledge.  Wet-cleaning (washing with water and detergent) can ruin your vestment and is seldom recommended unless you know the fiber content without a doubt. Cottons and linens can stand up to wet-cleaning. Silk can be tricky.  You must also know if dyed fabrics are colorfast.  Dyed trims can “run” into the ground fabric. I saw the MOST exquisite cope at Wallsingham Shrine in England which had been worn in procession on a rainy day.  The ground fabric was creamy white and it was heavily embroidered.  The cope was ruined when the embroidery work got soaked and the bright dyes “bled” into the fabric.  The nuns were desolate!  

Tell us more about your chasuble so I can steer you in the right direction.  It is so important to air and rotate vestments regularly, change the folds if they must be folded, and never to store long term in those plastic hanging bags.