If you’ve ever wondered why every Tallit looks worn out, it is because it is notoriously difficult to clean a Tallit because of the risk of the Tzitzit strings unraveling and the knots and fringes on the sides becoming tangled. And as the joke states, giving it to a regular dry cleaning service is likely to produce a Tallit that no longer looks like a Tallit, with the knots and, fringes and Tzitzit strings all untied. So, here is a guide to those who would like to keep their Tallit and Tallit Katan clean and looking new.
Tallit Washing and Care Instructions
When cleaning a regular Tallit, it is important to know what materials were used. In a regular Tallit used by Orthodox Jews, this is not an issue because it is always wool. Those Tallitot can be washed in a simple dry cleaning cycle, preferably inside a bag of some kind to prevent unraveling of strings and knots. However, with some of the modern Tallitot such as those made from silk, organza or Acrylan, there are non-traditional materials used that can be easily ruined if not cleaned by a special cycle.
Consequently, the best thing is to take the Tallit to a dry cleaner, specifically to a cleaner who knows how to clean Tallitot. It is not recommended that any Tallit contained decorations made by water based paint (such as silk Tallitot by Yair Emanuel or Rikmat Elimelech) be dry-cleaned since the paint will run. If your Tallit has Tekhelet strings on the corners, it is also not recommended that the Tallit go to the dry cleaner or be soaked as the color may run or dissipate altogether.
If cleaning by hand, follow the steps below:
1) Fill the sink up with warm water and a gentle detergent. Do not use bleach – this can ruin the striped pattern on the Tallit. A detergent such as Woolite is the best option.
2) Let the Tallit soak in soapy water for a few hours.
3) Wash the Tallit under running water and then rinse well.
4) Dry the Tallit on a flat surface so that it will not shrink or suffer damage.
Tallit Katan Washing Instructions
While it is possible to simply stick a Tallit Katan inside a sealable mesh bag and toss it in the washing machine on a gentle cycle, many people choose to wash their Tallit Katan by hand. Those instructions are exactly the same as those mentioned above for a regular sized Tallit.