Cleaning Up Around the Holidays

Cleaning Your Tallit

Aaron Howard may have the best answer to cleaning a tallit. Here then, is my slightly modified version.

Yes, tallitot need to be cleaned – perhaps, not as much as in Houston, Howard advises, where we know davening during most of the year brings on schvitzing – but it’s a nice and dignified thing to do in Marin – dry cleaning not schvitzing.

A joke: Mr. Goldberg needs his tallit cleaned. So he sends it to the neighborhood dry cleaner, which happens to be owned by a non-Jewish Chinese family. They tell him to come back in three days. When he returns, they give him the bill, which comes to $50.00.
“Fifty dollars to clean my tallit?” says Mr. Goldberg, astonished.
“No, no,” replies the dry cleaner.
“Five dollars to clean the tallit, forty-five dollars to take out all the knots!”
End of joke.

Some people don’t know a tallit can be cleaned says Michael Kaufman, owner of Drive Thru Cleaners in Houston. You can dry clean all types of tallitot says Kaufman and most stains will come out unless they are age stains. As to fabric, Kaufman says it’s not always easy to tell. Wools are straight forward but silks should be tested because some are blends of silk and rayon and, also, acrylic tallitot need delicate care. And those knotty fringes can tangle or stretch so speak to your dry cleaner about special treatment. The most difficult cleaning problem is age spots which come from the tallit not being used and kept inside a bag, especially a plastic bag. These age spots are compounded when they come from homes where people smoke.

End of slight rewrite of Aaron Howard’s article.

Don’t untie those knots! Photo credit: Israel_photo_gallery via Visual Hunt / CC BY-ND

Of course, the whole problem can be avoided if the tallit is used once in a while or you don’t smoke. But you knew that and I’m guessing “age spots” are right up there with liver spots and anyone who’s tried to remove those – well, good-bye stained tallit. So, nu, a great patina on your tallit – not valuable.

Still afraid to clean your tallit which sits in a plastic bag, mournful and forlorn in the back of the closet? Want to look dignified, wrapped in holiness and spiffy in shul? The Gift Shop carries most sizes from narrow through large enough you can wrap your entire soul in it. And, if we don’t have the color you want, we most likely could get it for you within a week or three.

If its advice you want, go to our rabbis or very much less reliable – Google. If it’s a new tallit, go to The Gift Shop and stay away from on-line shopping, gosh. You’ve got one-stop shopping right here at home. We’ve already done the heavy lifting for you and paid for shipping.

And, Rabbi Lezak suggests Spotless cleaners in San Anselmo – they get the knots!

How to Clean a Shofar

Congratulations on receiving your new shofar! But what’s this? As you exuberantly lift it to your mouth preparatory to your first blast, you notice, well, a faint (or not so faint) odor emanating from your newest acquisition. When you buy a shofar, please remember that since the shofar comes from an actual real, live animal, there may be some particles of sinew, muscle or bone left inside the shofar which may cause this odor. No fear! Here are some tried and true methods for eliminating shofar odor!

Photo credit: Len Radin via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

How to Eliminate Shofar Odor

The best way is to start with the lightest cleaning methods and work your way to the strongest if necessary. First, gently scrub the interior of the shofar with a toothbrush and water. Let dry naturally.

  1. Vinegar method: Pour synthetic vinegar into the shofar and let dry naturally. Then soak the shofar in warm soapy water for twenty minutes and remove to dry. This method can be repeated once or twice.
  2. Hydrogen peroxide method: Plug the shofar mouthpiece with an earplug and fill it halfway with hydrogen peroxide which will bubble as it cleans out the shofar from particles and residue. Swirl it around the horn and then pour it out. You can repeat this method once or twice, too.
  3. Gravel method: Plug the ram’s horn shofar or the yemenite shofar mouthpiece with an earplug and pour in some aquarium gravel, not large or sharp pieces. Plug the large end with a foam nerfball and shake it for about fifteen minutes. Remove nerfball and gravel, then replace nerfball, fill halfway with alcohol and shake for a minute. Remove nerfball and earplug, pour out alcohol and let dry naturally.
  4. Oxi clean method: Plug mouthpiece with an earplug, fill the shofar or the yemenite shofar halfway with hot water and put a scoop of “oxi clean” inside. Plug the large end with a nerfball and let sit for an hour. Remove ball, pour out oxi clean, rinse and let dry.
  5. Shofar odor neutralizer spray: non-toxic biodegradable Shofar Odor neutralizer spray will eliminate unpleasant scents from your shofar leaving it odor free. Check online for ‘Shofar Odor Free’.
  6. Baking soda method: Dissolve a few tablespoons of baking soda in water and pour into shofar. Block mouthpiece and large end as above and shake for about a minute. Pour out liquid, rinse and allow to dry naturally.

~Wishing you a sweet new year!
Ronna, Gift Shop Buyer

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