Ultrasonic cleaning of historical, heirloom, fragile and delicate garments and textiles

Ultrasonic Cleaning
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Some textiles can't be wet cleaned or dry cleaned

Many historical, heirloom, fragile and delicate garments and fabrics cannot be cleaned because any type of mechanical action – such as tumbling the garment or textile in a washer or even rinsing the garment or textile in a tub by hand –  can degrade or otherwise damage the garment or textile.

In the past, the cleaning of  historical, heirloom, fragile and delicate garments and textiles has largely been dependent on surface cleaning, using light vacuuming and other dry techniques.

Occasionally, these textiles have been surface cleaned using liquid solvents but with no ability to completely extract or evaporate the solvent residue after cleaning.

Over the past 35 years, we have cleaned and restored countless antique and museum and vintage garments and textiles, using both wet cleaning, dry cleaning and/or other soaking techniques.

Despite successfully cleaning and restoring these garments and textiles, we have, on occasion, declined to clean a garment or textile because we assessed that the garment or textile was to fragile to be cleaned using conventional wet cleaning, dry cleaning and/or other soaking techniques.

Naturally, our client might have been disappointed, particularly if the garment or textile was too
fragile to be cleaned using conventional wet cleaning, dry cleaning and/or other soaking techniques but, nonetheless, required cleaning to enhance the true beauty of the item and/or to prevent further deterioration of the fabric.

We have a possible solution.

We clean with sound waves

To assist with this task, we have installed a large capacity, stainless steel, ultrasonic bath to effectively remove soils and stains from historical, heirloom, fragile and delicate garments and textiles with relative safety.

Large capacity ultrasonic cleaning baths are widely used in a variety of industrial applications as well as in the medical field to clean and disinfect laboratory, surgical and dental instruments.

Please note that these large capacity ultrasonic baths are NOT the same as those sub-$200, countertop baths, probes and wands that are promoted online and on shopping channels to clean small items such as jewelry, watches, eye glasses and coins.

Our ultrasonic cleaning process

We follow these restoration protocols:

  • We identify the type of fabric involved (cotton, linen, silk, wool, etc) and assess how that fabric might react in a water-based cleaning process.
  • We determine the nature of the soil and stains on the each garment or textile and test the color fastness of any dyes.

    There is no need to test the dyes if the historical, heirloom, fragile and delicate garment or textile was originally white, cream or tan or a shade thereof. It's quite common for white, cream or tan garments or textiles to have yellowed or browned over time due to improper storage and/or contact with acidic materials.

    In most cases, we can remove that yellowing or browning even if the fabric is weak and fragile.
  • We “cushion” the garment or textile between two layers of archival fiberglass mesh and bast the mesh in various place to ensure the stability of the garment or textile within the mesh protector.

    Basting is the use of long, loose stitches to temporarily hold the mesh together during the cleaning process and is removed after cleaning to release the textile.
  • We gently insert the garment or textile into the ultrasonic bath and add a gentle detergent.

    Please note that our detergent is synthetic anionic detergent with a neutral pH, typically used 
by the textile conservation departments within a museum environment. These detergents cannot be found in the detergent isle of your local supermarket or member-only warehouse club.
  • We turn on the ultrasonic bath. When the ultrasonic bath is turned on, high frequency sound waves are transmitted through the water. These sound waves, typically 40 kHz, agitates the water causing minute bubbling. The technical term for this bubbling is cavitation.

    The resulting "molecular explosions" created by the bubbles produce just enough force to dislodge soil and most stains from the surface of the garment or textile.
  • We insert the garment or textile into a large tub filled with soft water to remove the residue of the detergent and repeat that process multiple times to ensure that all residue is removed.
  • We flat dry the garment or textile and apply gentle steaming to relax the fibers.
  • We can, if you so wish, package your garment or textile one of our acid-free, lignin-free, sulphur-free, chlorine-free storage chests. We have over 10 different sizes of chests to choose from. This means that we can match the size of the chest to the size of the garment or textile without causing undue creasing or folds.

    Please note that our storage chests are custom manufactured to our size specifications by a company recognized by museum textile conservators as the premier U.S. manufacturer of archival chests for the storage of museum-quality garments and textiles.

    You’ll find our museum-quality storage chests in use at major museums and institutions throughout the USA, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.

Pricing and turnaround

Please recognize that this is highly specialized work offered by very few, if any, dry cleaners in the USA.

Even under “normal” circumstances, our prices are higher and our turnaround time longer than ordinary cleaners.

Accordingly, our pricing and turnaround time for this specialized work -- ultrasonic cleaning -- will be higher and will take longer than our “normal” work.

At RAVE FabriCARE, we don't compromise on the quality of the work we do or the time we take to do that work.

We're quite happy to concede the race for compromise and speed to ordinary cleaners.


That's a brief synopsis of our ultrasonic cleaning service for historical, heirloom, fragile and delicate garments and fabrics cannot be cleaned using conventional restoration techniques such as wet cleaning and dry cleaning.

We'll work closely with you to help you understand the available restoration options and assess the likely results you can expect from each option.

For more information, please contact us.

Internationally Recognized Dry Cleaner
RAVE FabriCARE is a nationally recognized leader in true quality care for fine garments, household textiles and accessories. And the only dry cleaner in Arizona recognized as one of the nation’s premier dry cleaners by non-compensated, independent, authoritative third parties.