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How to Clean a Stained Tie
Ties are wonderful, but they live in a dangerous place. Right there, in front of your chest, ready to take a bullet for your white shirt. In this culinary free-fire zone, only the most agile player will avoid eventually ending up with some combination of coffee, marmalade and marinara crisscrossing a beloved tie.
So what to do? Throw it away? As much as we would like you to buy more ties, here are some pointers for keeping your ties clean and dealing with stains.
Tie Stain First Aid
For ties of any material, there are some things you can do right away. The quicker you get at the stain the better.
Dip a cloth napkin in club soda (seltzer water). Dab the stain gently and get as much of it as you can. Don’t rub it, as that will drive the stain deeper into the cloth, and might make the color of the tie run.
If you got into something greasy, try to absorb it with talcum powder. Sprinkle some on the offending spot, wait a few hours, and dust it off with a clean cloth.
Care For Specific Tie Fabrics
If our first aid kit didn’t completely get rid of the stain, to take the next step you need to know what the tie is made of. Different fabrics require different treatment.
The three materials used to make most ties are polyester, polyester microfiber and silk. Polyester and polyester microfiber are pretty hardy fabrics, and so are easier to clean. Silk is delicate and needs to be handled with care.
Polyester And Polyester Microfiber Ties
Polyester and polyester microfiber ties are similar materials—polyester microfiber is a bit hardier of a fabric. Luckily, both materials can be washed in your home, no dry cleaning required. Here's the method we've tried ourselves, and it works great! (Please note, individual results may vary depending on the makeup of the stain.)
First, apply a spot treatment to the tie, if needed. Then, machine wash in cold water on a gentle or handwash cycle. A small amount of laundry detergent can be used. Do not add fabric softener or bleach, even on a white tie. (Bleach can turn a white tie yellowish!) If your washing machine does not have these settings, or if your tie seems extra delicate, hand wash the tie in cold water with a small amount of laundry detergent. Rinse gently and line dry. To avoid wrinkles, most polyester ties can be dried on low for up to 30 minutes, then dried flat. Repeat if necessary.
A couple more tips: Be sure not to iron the tie prior to getting any stains completely out. The heat of an iron will set the stain in forever. If washing with other clothing, be sure to keep lights with lights, darks with darks, etc. Also, don't wash ties with cotton or other materials that product a lot of lint. Lint will stick to a polyester microfiber tie, and it's a pain to remove.
We have also seen recommended this unusual and entertaining method for cleaning polyester: Seal the tie in a plastic container with a small amount of liquid detergent (even dish soap) and hot water. Shake it up and let it sit for a day. Then drain the soapy water, replace it with warm water and let the tie soak again. Press out the water, and repeat until the tie no longer gives off bubbles. Line dry.
Silk should only be cleaned if it is stained, otherwise just leave it be. Some recommend dry cleaning stained silk, others warn against it. Unless used very carefully, the dry cleaning chemicals can harm delicate fabrics like silk. In addition, dry cleaners press things after they clean them which can also harm silk and leave a sharp crease that is not the way a silk tie should look. It should have a slightly rolled edge.
If you do have your silk tie dry cleaned, be sure to point out the stain to the cleaner so they know to pay attention to it, give them instructions about pressing the tie (or not), and ask them to use their gentlest chemicals. But if you don’t want to dry clean your silk, here’s another method:
First, don’t soak silk in water. Water is not nice to silk. If seltzer dab first aid doesn’t get rid of the stain, try a combination of heat, a light water sprayer, soft tissues and time. Lay the tie on a towel over a radiator or similar heat source. Spray the stain lightly and evenly with water and dab it with the tissue. Leave it on the heat source overnight. Repeat as necessary.
Other things to try: Commercial stain remover or rubbing alcohol. Always test stain remover on part of the tie that is out of view. If it discolors the silk or makes the color run, don’t use it.
If these methods fail to remove the stain, then it is time for a new tie.
Other Tie Materials: Wool, Cotton, Etc.
These days, ties come in a lot of different fabrics. Wool, cotton, linen, even leather. The main thing for cleaning a dirty tie is to treat it like you would a shirt or pants of the same material. Wool and cotton shrink with heat. Just like a wool sweater, wool ties can get fuzzy and misshaped after getting wet. Linen ties will be very wrinkly after being washed. If you're just not sure how to clean your stained tie, it might be worth a trip to a professional dry cleaner.