Reply To: Laundry detergent for collection materials

Virginia Whelan

Wet cleaning all-white textiles in Orvus is safe. Often a hot water wash (no detergent at all) can remove most of the water-soluble soil on objects like cotton gloves. Sarah’s emphatic answer underscores the importance of dye testing any multi-colored textile being considered for wet cleaning. Testing all additives (Orvus, liquid detergent, etc) must be performed on each dye in the textile. It is also important to test each color with WATER; it too is a solvent! Apply one or two drops of every potential solution on each dyed thread, place a small piece of blotting paper above and below that spot, and weight with a glass block. After a few minutes look at the blotting paper. Any color transferred onto the blotting paper is an indication that the dye will bleed when immersed and therefore that solvent is not safe to use for wet cleaning that textile. If this happens, take the textile to a textile conservator who may be able to adjust the materials or use a different technique to wet-clean the textile.