It’s as if neckties are positioned to catch every dropped morsel of food or spilled drink… so best you know how to keep them looking their best.
Even if you’re not a klutz, your necktie is every chance of copping a splash of coffee or catching an overly enthusiastic squirt of sriracha sauce or intercepting a wayward dancer’s glass of shiraz on the dance floor of a wedding reception. And even though some ties come with a stain-blocking finish, they can’t block everything.
Most ties are made of silk, and dry cleaning preserves their smooth, glossy finish. Ask them to use their gentlest chemicals and press the garment by hand to protect the inside ‘gum’ of silk ties as well as the rolled edges that give ties their texture.
If you’re cleaning silk at home, be very careful with regular stain removers — instead, keep handy some of those silk-specific cleaning agents that come in KFC towelette form. Linen, cotton, wool and synthetic ties are easier to clean — they’re a little more robust in the face of regular stain removers and detergents.
The next question is the type of stain. The first thing you want to do, no matter what you’ve spilled, is remove as much of the substance as possible. If it’s something thick like a sauce, scrape away the blob with a spoon. It it’s more liquid, wick it out of the fabric with a tissue or napkin. If it’s something greasier, absorb the oil with talcum powder or baking soda.
The next step is to tab the stain with a damp rag or paper towel — take care not to rub or scrub, which only drives the stain deeper into the fabric. Also don’t wet the rag too much, which can flood the stain and spread it even more. If the stain is gone by now, happy days. If not, use a friendly stain remover. And if that doesn’t work, head to the shops for a new one.
Oil can be a stubborn foe — lay the tie out flat, apply a layer of talc or baking soda, leave it for 24 hours, remove the powder, and repeat. Adopt the same plan of attack with red wine, using salt to absorb the stain instead.
Ink is another tricky one — it’s actually best to not act quick, because rubbing a fresh ink spill will only spread the stain. Instead, let it try and then dab it away gently with a rag damp doused in rubbing alcohol — although proceed with caution, because this can easily discolour the fabric of the tie.
And one final word: never chuck a tie in the washing machine, even if it’s a synthetic one that says it’s machine washable, because the materials inside the tie react unevenly and cause shrinkage. The best way to give your ties a general spruce up is with a hand steamer at home, a process that also works out any creases.