The fascinating thing about Sari is that it is the most preferred clothing for all generations of Indian women. Even the most modern fashionista among Indian women will have at least one sari (or several) in her wardrobe. The grace and feminine elegance that the sari lends to a woman’s body makes it a favorite in spite of the inconvenience of wearing it and then the trouble of maintaining it.
Here are some no nonsense tips that most sari users will already know and can be used as a refresher for washing and caring for a saree.
1.Most sari connoisseurs do not wash/dry clean saris frequently, unless it is very soiled; especially silk sarees. If they find any stains or dirt, they just spot clean the dirt carefully. You can find a list of commonly found stain removers – you will find all the ingredients needed in your house.
You will have to check that the stain remover would not damage the fabric of your sari by doing a test on the inside portion of the sari first.
Take care not to get a silk sari stained – this is the best advice I can give. Stay away from liquids like curry, even spraying of perfumes can stain silk.
2. Use only mild detergent to wash the saris. Many people use mild Shampoos or baby shampoos for washing saris.
If possible hand wash all saris; Chiffon and Georgette sarees can be machine washed in a delicate cycle but hand wash is preferred. There are many delicate fabrics like voile saris with embroidery work, chanderi saris etc which will never survive the tumble inside a washing machine.
Even Silk saris can be hand washed unless specifically mentioned in the care label to be dry cleaned. Dry cleaning maintains the pristine pure shiny look of silk, though. Even if you mean to hand wash silk saris, do the first wash with the dry cleaners.
If hand washing silk, never ever use fabric cleaning brush or hard agitation or wringing. Wash in plain water when washing for the first time. For the subsequent washes you can use baby shampoo.
You can find more tips on silk care here.
Wash sarees one at a time rather than putting all of them in a bucket and attempting to wash them all at once.
You can also use soap nuts as a chemical free laundry detergent – just tie 3-4 in a muslin bag and soak in hot water and use this solution to wash the saris. It will condition your sari to perfection.
3.Do not use 100% dryer for drying the saris. Do not use any dryer drying for silk saris and cotton saris. Line dry, ensuring that the whole sari is stretched without any bunching any where – the crinkles and bunches that remain when wet leave wrinkles when dry.
If line drying, do not hang it directly under the sunlight. Get some where with shade so that sunlight do not fade colors.
4. Color bleeding, color fading are all problems with sarees. To ensure color fastness in cotton saris an old trick is to soak the cotton saris in a salt solution (preferably rock salt) for about 10 minutes before regular washing. This will prevent bleeding of excess dyes.
This is only good for saris which doesn’t have dark contrasts. They are to be treated with caution – better to dry clean the first one or two times to prevent colors latching on to the adjacent areas. Sarees with zari borders and thread work are better dry cleaned always.
5.After wearing saris, if you are not washing it immediately hang it out in shade to dry any perspiration, moisture etc and then only store inside the wardrobe.
6.Folds are always a boon and a problem for sarees. They look so good folded and stacked neatly inside a wardrobe. If the folds are left like that undisturbed the sari will start to disintegrate near the folds – slowly but surely. So if you have a lot of sarees and you do not wear many of them for a long long time, make sure that you change the way they are folded atleast twice a year.
When storing bead work saris or sequin work saris do not fold them right sides together; the beads will rub against each other and tangle and then come off – if one comes off the others will follow soon .
7.Do not store saris in plastic covers. Especially sarees made of natural fibers like cotton and silk. Other wise mildew spots may develop on saris.Use tissue paper to wrap the saris or store in fabric sari bags. Sari bags are made out of thin cotton cloth.
Each sari is preferably kept in a separate sari bag. Do not keep cotton and silk sarees together, at least.
Never use newspapers to wrap saris; the dyes on newsprint will latch on to the sari.
8. You may want to get rid of bugs inside your wardrobe with some naphthalene tablets – but ensure that these do not touch sari fabric – for one, the sari will reek of the horrible smell of these balls, like forever and worse the chemical in them can destroy sari fibers.
Check out this post on keeping the clothes inside your wardrobe fresh and smelling good here.
9. The hem of the sari which touches the ground is usually protected with an extra fabric added inside the hem. It is usually hand stitched carefully to the inside of the hem – this is a must for silk saris and delicate saris unless you want the hem to accidentally rip off at the hem with wear and tear.
10.Starch is somewhat of a prerequisite for good looking cotton saris. You can find some home made starch recipes here. The right amount of stiffness on a crisp sari can make the wearer look elegant- but too much is also unnecessary.
If you are using store bought liquid starch use as instructed in the leaflet/cover or add dilute 15 ml liquid starch into 2 mugs of water and can soak sari for sometime.
Dry thoroughly in sunlight after using starch – without any bunching up. To remove wrinkles, you can steam press or press with hot iron after sprinkling some water.