Sari makes dry cleaners in US shudder

They say saris are not meant to be dry cleaned despite having 'dry clean only' label. Some choose alternatives

Written by New York Times | New York | Published:May 17, 2013 1:48 am

After Hurricane Sandy made Tanya Aeya evacuate her apartment in the West Village,she returned to discover that her clothes had been sitting in water for three weeks.

“The embroidery and all the metallic work on it,everything faded and had water marks and water damage,” said Aeya. She frantically searched for a dry cleaner who would try to salvage her garments.

But almost no one would touch them because they included saris.

With temperatures rising and weddings looming,many women will be slipping on ornate saris,putting the delicate garments in the cross hairs of wayward pieces of food. That possibility makes many a dry cleaner shudder. Forget trying to make red wine stains disappear. Perhaps nothing is more challenging than removing,say,a curry stain from a sari.

“I don’t enjoy doing it,” said Anil Dua,55,owner of Edison Organic Cleaners in Edison,New Jersey. “The color comes out,” he said. “Thread comes out. Beads melt. They are not meant to be dry cleaned even though they have the label ‘dry clean only.’”

Still,not all dry cleaners are as leery. Samir Patel came up with his own method after buying an IPURA,a $45,000 Italian dry cleaning machine he discovered at a dry cleaning expo.

“They said,” recalled Patel,the owner of Dry Clean World in Blackwood,“as long as you pretreat it right and know what cycle to put it in,you would be able to do anything you want.”

After trimming loose threads,treating stains and removing loose dirt,he sprays the fabric with a hydrocarbon solution to see if the colors run. Then,he puts the sari on the IPURA’S delicate cycle. After the machine finishes,he steams the sari and presses it. The process takes about an hour and he charges $10 to $50 per piece.

Joon Kyu Park,who owns a dry cleaning store in Queens,has mostly Indian customers. He decided to invest in a top-of-the-line machine after too many complaints about damaged saris. Park came across a German machine that cost $65,000. Now,he said,“the customers are happy.”

However,not every piece can be saved. “One woman brought a garment that had an Indian pickle smell. I cleaned it so many times and it still smelled,” Dua recalled. He put it outside to try to air it out. It was stolen.

Some women distrust dry cleaners and prefer to clean their own saris. Some women wait until they travel to India to take care of their soiled saris. Assuming that saris are made there,they reason,Indian dry cleaners should know what they are doing.

VIJAI SINGH

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