Thursday, March 12, 2009

How-to: Clean Figure Skating Dresses with Vodka

You can skip sending the sequined and beaded figure skating dress to the dry cleaners or hand washing it: spritz it with – get this – vodka instead.

Yep. Vodka has other uses besides martinis. Who knew?

Guy Rehorst, founder of the Great Lakes Distellery, the makers of the award-winning Rehorst vodka, confirmed that vodka has the makings of not only a good drink, but a good cleaning agent, too.

“[Vodka’s] basically 40% ethanol and 60% water, so it will have some solvent qualities to it,” Rehorst wrote in an e-mail. “If you're going to try it on an outfit, I'd test it first to make sure it doesn't do any damage; alcohol could weaken some man-made materials. Of course there are probably other, better products for this and I'd rather drink vodka than pour it on my clothes.”

I learned about this little trick on Tuesday at the rink from a gal who volunteered one Nutcracker season with the Madison Ballet (thanks, K.R.). She told me that the ballet company put vodka in spray bottles and asked volunteers to spritz costumes, especially around the necklines, armpits, and nether regions.

Gretchen Bourg, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Madison Ballet, confirmed this practice.

“We most certainly do use vodka to keep our costumes fresh between cleanings!” Bourg wrote in an e-mail. “Many of our costumes are very fragile—our company’s Cinderella costumes are probably 25 years old—and we try to minimize the exposure to harsh chemicals for such precious works of art. In fact, the practice of using vodka to freshen both costumes and wigs has been around for hundreds of years.”

I can’t confirm how long people have been cleaning with vodka, but I can tell you that the alcohol in the vodka would kill off odor-causing bacteria very well. The alcohol evaporates as it dries and the garment is fresh and not boozy at all.

Bottom line: Am I going to use this trick? You bet! I have $50 or more in crystals on some of those dresses and I’m not eager to weaken stitching or fabric with excess cleaning. I think I'll buy a cheap bottle of vodka for the cleaning and use Rehorst vodka for mixing. However, I will not mix the vodka with orange juice until I’m finished spritzing. You have to spritz responsibly and all that.

Thank you very much to Guy Rehorst of Great Lakes Distillery, Gretchen Bourg of the Madison Ballet, and K.R. for their help with this post.


Anonymous said...

I thought this sounded familiar and, yes! There were actually 2 episodes of Mythbusters that used Vodka to "clean" things.
I've never tried it, but I might be tempted to now.
We loaned a dress to a friend of my daughter's and she perspires heavily. She wanted to be nice so she threw the dress in the washing machine to clean it before she returned it. Big mistake. The detergent ruined the custom dye-job I had done to match the fabrics. Oh well, live and learn. Not her fault.

Renee said...

I actually use the "dip-wash" method with a bucket and Woolite. I fill the bucket with cold water and a capful of Woolite, and, while the dress is hanging upside down (by the panty) on a plastic pants hanger, dip it into the bucket gently. I repeat the dips for several minutes, or, if the dress is really nasty, leave it in there for several minutes. Once the "wash cycle" is done, I dump the wash water, rinse out the bucket, and refill with clean water. Dunk repeatedly into the clean water, changing the water at least 2 or 3 times. Use a bath towel to gently help get rid of the excess water on the dress, then air dry while on the hanger. BTW, the reason for hanging the dress by the panty is twofold: typically, the most perspiration, dirt, etc., will be on the upper two-thirds of the dress. But, perhaps most interestingly, the shoulder/neck area of the dress usually take the most "stress" and weight of the dress, be it while the dress is being changed into or out of, or while on the hanger. The additional weight of the water, while the dress is being washed, rinsed and while drying, could cause the shoulder/neck area to get distorted or the fabric in that area to weaken. Just my theory, but I think it somewhat relevant! Whatever you do, though, don't ever store your dresses in a plastic or vinyl garment bag - they are great for travel to and from events, but storing them in these bags causes any body odors/sweat to stay trapped near the dress - if anything, I've found a clean old pillowcase, with a hole cut in the center of sewn up end, is a great way for the dresses to resist dust while allowing them to "breathe".

poor clare said...

I worked in theater, ice shows and ballet as a wardrobe assistant. We always used this old trick of a spray bottle half full of water and the other half of cheap vodka. The alcohol kills the germs and the smell. We did this after every show because we only dry-cleaned once a week. It is an industry standard. I also used Renee's method to hand-wash all things that can not be dry cleaned and needed to be a bit more clean on a daily basis. The bath towel method is very efficient for removing the excess water!

amp_stp said...

Would this cleaning method work inside a skating boot also?

Ice Mom said...

Hi, amp_stp. I think a light spritz of vodka wouldn't hurt the inside of a boot. I wouldn't drench it, though.

From what I understand, it's much easier to prevent the nasty boot smell when the boot is new than to get rid of the stink once the boot has, um, aged.

In the beginning, you can get one of those Stink-eez stuffed animals or you can make one yourself. Pick up desiccant at a craft shop - folks use it for drying flowers. Fill an old, unmated, non-holey sock with the desiccant, sprinkle a few drops of peppermint oil in the sock(optional), and hand tie the top. Stuff the sock in your boot after each ice session.

Good luck!

Ice Mom