Care Instructions, How to Dispose of Vestments, Insuring Vestments & Funerary Requirements
Wool garments (zostikon, exorason, kontorason)
Dry clean only. Wool is naturally anti-microbial, so it will not hold odors and only needs to be cleaned 1-3 times per year, depending on use. For dirt stains (such as mud on the bottom of the garment at a cemetery), let the mud dry and use a brass bristle lint brush to brush as much of the dirt off as possible, then have it dry-cleaned.
Performance garments (zostikon, exorason, kontorason)
Machine wash cold, gentle cycle only, hang dry. Performance fabric is 100% wicking polyester, so heat will ruin the fibers which is why you cannot put it in the dryer. However, due to its wicking properties, it will dry within a couple of hours. Please note: performance fabric can leave a purplish "shadow" on a white shirt collar due to the saturated dye. To prevent this, wash the garment in the machine with one cup white vinegar (no soap) for 1-3 loads until the water runs clear. The vinegar helps set the dye and prevent the dye shadowing.
Vestments and Altar Cloths
Dry clean only. Tell your drycleaner to use as low of heat as possible and not to water immerse (this is very important since many new "environmental" cleaning methods rely on immersion in water). Show your drycleaner the metallic fringe and crosses and remind him to treat them gently. Regular drycleaning will extend the life of your vestments considerably, sometimes as much as doubling their life. Sets worn frequently (20 or more weeks/year) should be cleaned once a year, sets worn less frequently (less than 20 weeks/year) should be cleaned every 2-4 years as needed. Altar cloths only need cleaning every 5 years or so. A word about reverence: one of the very best ways to extend the life of your vestments is to treat them with reverence and learn to move slowly and carefully while wearing them.
First and foremost, handle these items with care and reverence. Many hours went into the making of these beautiful icons and crosses and your care in handling them will insure they have a long life of service. For items that needed to be stored periodically, use an acid-free storage box lined with acid-free paper (available at www.talasonline.com). For vestments with hand-embroidered crosses: choose your drycleaner with care and mention the crosses EVERY time you have them cleaned. Drycleaners who handle a lot of bridal gowns are often better skilled at cleaning hand-embroidered items. For vestments that have a hand-embroidered icon sewn to the back of the phelonion: this icon has been sewn with Velcro so you can remove it prior to each drycleaning (the icon should not be cleaned).
For difficult stains, such as charcoal soot, you can try the following method:
Purchase a stain remover called "Z'out"--it's available at most grocery stores and is an enzymatic cleaner that I've had a lot of success with. To work out the stain, lay a dry towel on a table as a work surface and have another small towel or rag slightly damp. Place a nickel-sized amount of Z'out on the damp rag and work it in just slightly with your fingers. Now take this Z'out-saturated portion of the rag and slowly and gently work it over the stain, rubbing gently at the stain. Move the rag around and apply more Z'out or dampen the rag as needed. You want to work with gentle strokes, "lifting" the stain. Since the Z'out "eats" the stain, you need to move to fresh portions of your Z'out-saturated rag frequently. Once you've gotten as much of the stain as possible, use a portion of your damp rag that does not have Z'out and carefully clear away as much of the Z'out residue as possible. Let the piece air-dry until the dampness is gone.
To remove wax stains:
Set an iron to low and have plenty of paper towels at hand. Place the garment or cloth with the wax stain on an ironing board and place one paper towel on the stain. Lightly iron over the paper towel, absorbing the wax. As soon as the paper towel has absorbed some wax, immediately move to a clean section of paper toweling. Repeat this process until the paper towel will no long absorb wax. At this point, the item may not need further cleaning (until routine drycleaning); however, if a small oil stain remains, have the item drycleaned and point out the stain to the drycleaner.
Homemade Laundry Soap Recipe
This is my favorite laundry soap. It works well for regular, as well as delicate, clothing.
One (1) 76 oz Borax
Four (4) lbs baking soda
Four (4) lbs washing soda
Two (2) 56-oz boxes Biz laundry "booster" (Oxyclean will also work)
3 bars soap (either Dr Bronners or similar natural soap)
Place all ingredients, except bar soap, in a five-gallon bucket. Grate bar soap into bucket. Mix all ingredients. Use 1/8 to ¼ cup per load.
How to Dispose of Worn or Damaged Vestments
Any vestment piece that has been used liturgically must be disposed of properly when it becomes either worn-out or damaged. Rubrics specify that blessed items are to be burned or buried, but disposing of a large mass of synthetic fabric can pose a bit of a challenge, so here is my solution:
Purchase a large zinc tub from your local garden store or hardware shop (they are inexpensive-about $15). Place on a concrete patio or pad, out of doors in a well-ventilated area. NEVER BURN LITURGICAL FABRICS INDOORS-THEY CAN OFFGAS TOXIC CHEMICALS. Even when burning outside, keep well away from the fumes and wear a respirator if you are burning for more than a few minutes. Fill the zinc tub halfway full of dirt to help insulate. Place the worn/damaged vestments on top and light them with a match. Burn only one piece at a time as these fabrics can flare easily and you want the fire very small in order to contain it.
Once you are done, you will have only ashes and small metal pieces like buttons and cuff rings left, which can then be buried (do not bury them near a vegetable garden as these will have petrochemical residue).
Insuring Vestments and the Fabric Contents of your Church
If you have not already done so, I would highly recommend that you check your
church's insurance policy and make sure that your vestments are covered in case of
disaster. Also check your homeowner's insurance (and have your subdeacons and deacons
do the same if they take their vestments home) to make sure your vestments are covered
when you store them at home. Below I have put together a Master List of Vestments that
might help you take inventory in your church to ensure that all of the items in your
church/home are covered:
- Kalimafkia (clerical hats)
- Priest's vestments
- Deacon's vestments
- Subdeacon's vestments
- Chalice veil sets (if separate from vestment sets)
- Processional banners and/or icons
- Altar cloths, proskomedia table covers, analogian covers, etc.
- Altar boy robes (this is what most churches usually forget) and oraria if used
- Baptismal font covers (if you have one)
- Baptismal gowns (if you keep one for parish use)
- Communion cloths and ileton
Burial Vestments for Priests
My husband, Fr. Alban West, has come up with a series of guidelines for priests in preparing for their
own funeral. Since some of the preparations involved vestments, I thought it might be
helpful to include this information on my website.
It is a common practice among Orthodox clergy to be buried in their ordination
vestments. However, many of my clients wear out their ordination vestments and this is
not possible. So my recommendation is that after 5-10 years of priestly service, you
purchase a set to replace your ordination set. Then, wear your ordination set each Holy
Pascha (Pascha service only, not the full 40 days of Pascha). This way, your ordination
set (or whatever set you choose to set aside for burial) will be in good condition for
your burial and will also have the marvelous symbology of having served every Pascha.
After 5-10 years of weekly service, your ordination vestments will be starting to be
worn, but with once a year wear, will remain in good condition for burial.
In addition to the burial vestments, each priest should also keep prepared for his
- A small Gospel book
- A blessing cross
- An aer made of a white fabric (to cover his face)
I would highly recommend purchasing an acid-free storage box (like those used for
storing wedding gowns-available from a drycleaners or tailor's supply) and keeping the
burial vestments and all of these items in the box and then let an appropriate family
member know of its location (either at church or home).