Inside the wardrobe of even the most ‘modern’ Indian woman, you will inevitably find one of the most desired and precious possessions of all – the treasured silk sari. A story in soft silk; a reminder of the celebrations that matter most in her life. Many times, a prized heirloom passed down from mother to daughter. Silk saris can last a very long time if taken care of correctly. What’s more, silk does not shrink and its elegance and beauty can make a woman the talk of the party!
Be it the good old-fashioned silk sari with contrasting borders, or the more recent designs with zari dots and modern patterns, the versatile silk sari is the outfit of choice for formal and casual occasions. Among the multitudes of saris in India, the silk sari continues to hold pride of place as the most coveted of saris.
Every woman loves them, but when it comes to taking care, this garment can present a few unique challenges. Women do not get to wear these too often – some of these saris could be simply too heavy to handle. So how does one maintain them? How do you ensure that the sari retains its beauty over the years? After all, these saris are special and usually cost a small fortune. The good news is that if maintained with the correct care, these saris can stay lustrous and fresh for decades.
Here are some tips to take care of your silk sari:
HOW TO WASH SILK SAREES
The first and the most preferred option is to dry clean your sari. Crepe silks and hand brocades, in particular, are best cleaned through dry cleaning.
You could also choose to hand wash your sari. However, hand washing might cause damage to the finish and consistency of the fabric. Here are some tips to keep in mind when hand washing your precious silks.
First, hand washing does not include machine wash. Never use the washing machine to wash your sari.
Do not wash your sari along with other clothes. They need your special, individual attention!
Use cold water to wash your sari; do not use hot water. Do not soak the sari for too long in the water.
Wash the sari, the pallu and the border of your sari separately.
Never use a brush to remove stains or dirt from the sari. Using a brush will damage the fabric and the zari and may leave marks.
The chlorine bleach in normal detergents will damage your silk and make it turn yellow. So use only mild detergents to wash your sari.
You may use mild shampoo instead of a detergent. A few drops of lemon juice added to this gives better results.
A drop of conditioner added during the wash can work your silks into the buttery softness that they are known for.
The best cleaning agent to wash silks in is the one handed to us from nature. Soapberries or soap nuts offer a great alternative to using detergents for washing and cleaning and can be used for washing silks too. Soak soapberries (Sapindus emarginate) in water and remove their seeds. Rub the shells together and you will find the water bubbling up. Wash the sari in this water and then dry it to have a fresh, soft and naturally cleaned silk sari.
A stained silk sari should be dry cleaned as quickly as possible to remove the stain. The more the delay, the tougher it gets to remove the stain. Before using water to remove a stain, check if the colour runs from the silk. Else, washing with water could cause the colour to run and discolour the fabric. Scrubbing the stain will do more damage than good, so do not scrub the stain. The key is to identify what caused the stain and then choosing the best method to remove the stain.
For example, protein stains are caused by blood, meat juices, deodorants or perspiration. Start with applying a little detergent to the stain. Next, soak for a short time in the cool water and wash the stained area. Tough protein stains can be removed by using a mixture of NH2 and Hydrogen Peroxide.
Ice-cream, chocolate and gravy cause combination stains. The first step to remove these is to apply a dry cleaning solvent. The protein component of the stain can be removed using detergent and cool water. You can apply a prewash stain remover to remove any leftover marks. Washing only the stained area in lukewarm water can help remove any residual marks.
Nail polish stains can be easily removed by using acetone. Lipstick stains require treatment with dry cleaning solvents, followed up by washing with soap and water.
Grease stains caused by oil-based cosmetics, butter, crayons require a different approach. Dab some talcum powder on the stain immediately – this will help lift the stain.Gently brush off and leftover talc and then use a prewash stain remover to remove remaining marks.Washing the stained area in lukewarm water can help remove any residual marks.
DRYING THE SARI
Never wring dry a silk sari or any silk fabric. Instead, gently squeeze the excess water by hand and roll it up in a soft towel to soak up any leftover water. Then fold your sari in half and hang it on a clothesline in the shade. It helps to remove any kinks or wrinkles as you hang it to dry. Silk saris can be stretched while on the line to minimise wrinkles. Gently tug the ends of the sari, first horizontally and then vertically. Do this along with the entire folded length of the sari, on both sides. This helps reduce the time you need to iron your sari.
If you have company, have a good time holding up the ends of the sari with your friend as the wind does its work of carrying the moisture away from the silk. This is probably the most fun way to dry your sari!
And again, do not dry the sari in direct sunlight; always dry it in the shade.
IRONING YOUR SILK SARI
And finally, iron your silk sari with a lot of care. Crepes can lose their softness if the iron is too hot. If the silk is not pure, you may need a lower temperature to prevent burning your sari. China silks, on the other hand, may need slightly more heat. The best thing to do is to first test the adequacy of the heat on a small section of the fabric before you iron the entire sari.
FOLDING AND STORING SILK SARIS
Silk saris are usually taken out of storage on special occasions, and that too for just a few hours. So there is no need to wash them every single time. Simply air the sari inside your house for a while before putting them away.
Store silk saris in a cool, dry place covered in muslin.
Carefully fold your saris to avoid damaging the zari. When it comes to silk saris, it may be a good idea to fold the sari with the zari inwards in order to protect its sheen.
In textile shops, the special and expensive saris are stored in a plain white cloth bundle. This is a good way to store it at home too.
Silk saris that are repeatedly folded at the same place may get damaged or even tear near the folds. To prevent this, it is good to change the folds at least once in 3 months. Storing the sari in the same folds will eventually lead to damage near the folds. So do not store them in the same position for a long time.
Never use naphthalene balls as mouth protector.
Saris should be aired in the shade, or even within your own room. Doing this once in 2-3 months ensures that your sari is well maintained for a long time.
These tips can help you maintain the beauty and lustre of your silk sari for decades to come.