Cleaning Your Tallit
Unfortunately, many people are afraid to clean their tallit or tallis, as it can be known.
With such a highly respected garment, it seems strange that one wouldn’t clean it,
However some people believe the tallit ought to show its age and usage through the many stains and marks that it acquires over the years.
For others, the fear that something will happen to their tallit – that it might get ruined or fall apart – overrides their desire to keep it clean.
And such concerns are justified. Indeed, many non-Jewish cleaners will not take enough care with the tzitzit to ensure it remains intact, nor that the colors do not run. As almost all tallitot do not have labels attached or cleaning instructions, it is a bit of a guessing game for the cleaners, many of whom do not realise the tallit’s importance to their customer.
In fact, many consider giving a tallit to a non-Jew for cleaning not to be kosher.
It is suggested that a tallit be cleaned twice a year, although, if you are living in a hot country and sweating a lot, this is neither practical nor hygienic.
Luckily, cleaners do exist – usually Jewish – that are specialized in cleaning tallitot and they maintain that all tallitot can be dry cleaned and that most stains will come out. Very familiar with the variety of tallit that is available, and that many have embroidered motifs that sometimes come away during cleaning, the cleaners are usually happy to re sew small items back onto the tallit.
However, such cleaners do sometimes also request their customers to sign a release form in the case of multi-colored designs, which may be oil-based and run, despite the cleaners’ best attempts at preventing this.
Possibly the most problematic concern is that of the tzitzit as they can easily tangle and get stretched. Contrary to popular belief, if the tzitzit have started unravelling, subsequently bearing the incorrect quantity of knots, they are not invalidated. The problem should be corrected, however the tallit is still a useful and acceptable one.
A tallit should always be cleaned on a delicate cycle – whether at home in the washing machine or in the care of a cleaner.
Despite best efforts, one of the trickiest problems is to remove age spots, which appear over time when a tallit remains inside a bag, particularly one that’s made of plastic. If the bag is kept within a smoking environment the problem is compounded again. They appear as small yellow spots and the easiest way to ensure they don’t appear is to use the tallit occasionally.