What is “Batik” and how would you clean it?

11 Jun

I was reading a publication entitled Awake the other day and stumbled upon an article entitled, “Batik, Indonesia’s Fabulous Fabric”.   As a certified Journeyman Textile Cleaner, I’m always amazed by the construction and skill that goes into specialty and hand made fabrics, carpets and rugs.   I’m equally as curious on how to clean them.

Batik is a piece of cloth, usually cotton or silk, on which a craftsman draws intricate designs and patterns using liquid wax.   After the wax has dried, the fabric is dyed and the waxed areas keep their natural color.   At first, small copper tools were used to apply the wax but by the mid 19th century a copper stamp was being used.   Dyes are made from locally grown leaves, wood, bark and spices, although synthetic dyes are also used.   A brief video showing the stamping of fabric can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/12434053.

Nobody knows for sure when Batik was made for the first time but some fragments of Batik date back to 6th century C.E. in China.   In the 17th century there is evidence of Batik trade to and from Indonesia.  The fabrics are used in traditional garments and can be used for paintings, wall hangings, tablecloths, bedspreads, handbags, lampshades, sandals and more.

Before attempting to clean a piece of Batik I stress the importance of remembering the basics.   If possible, consult and follow the producers recommended cleaning instructions, gently vacuum away any dust or dry soils and pretest any cleaning solutions on an inconspicuous spot.   Since Batik can be made from cotton, silk, rayon or other material, it would be helpful to identify the type of fiber used in the construction of the fabric.

If the fabric is in a frame or a rack you should take a few reference photos prior to removing the piece from its mounting.   The pictures will come in handy when trying to remount.   Do not machine wash or tumble dry.   Hand wash and rinse items individually and avoid soaking for extended periods.   Use cool or lukewarm water with a mild detergent.   Never use bleach, chlorine or any type of brightener.   Specialty quilt and bedspread stores usually carry a less aggressive cleaning solution designed specifically for such applications.    When cleaning cotton and rayon you can add a tablespoon of vinegar to some lukewarm water in a basin and rinse first to help avoid color running.   Hang dry in the shade and avoid direct sunlight.   Note, some Batiks require them to be flat dried.

Be sure to consult my video on basic spotting tips and tools at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyZR8fhipK8&feature=plcp.   If you need assistance or have questions you can contact us through our website at http://www.procleaner.biz.

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