Manufacturers

Caring for Buttons & Beads

Help! the garment is washable but the button isn't.

If a button isn't washable, but you want to use it on an item that is,
there are several ways to do so.

Buttons come with all kinds of care instructions, from "machine
washable" to "dry clean only" to "don't even think about cleaning it".
I can't advise you much on the last one, other than to say that usually
a little bit of rubbing with a dry tissue is probably good enough to
remove most grime.


The question is how to use an untreated wooden, horn, or very delicate glass button on a garment you want to be able to toss in the machine or have dry cleaned.

So, here's a few suggestions:


Wash by hand. Most buttons can withstand a bit of water. It's the rough
action of the washing machine (or worse, the dryer) that causes the
problem. Glass buttons that get thrown against the agitator or the
metal dryer walls will get nicked or broken. So, washing the garment by
hand in the sink, then line drying it will solve the problem. Face it,
most of us don't get our clothes filthy enough to require scrubbing,
and if we did, we wouldn't want to put beautiful, handmade buttons on
them anyway.

Cover them. A little bit of aluminum foil to cover the buttons may help
protect them from water damage, and dry cleaning fluids. A layer of
paper toweling, bubble wrap, foam, quilt batting or similiar under the
foil may also help by serving as padding in case of none-too-gentle
treatment. Afterward, just remove the materials and polish the button a
bit with a tissue.

Glass buttons can usually be dry cleaned with no ill effects, however
if they're painted the paint might come off with some solvents. Talk to
your dry cleaner beforehand, and consider covering them with aluminum
foil for protection.

Don't sew them on. A tiny safety pin instead of stitching will hold on
most buttons. It's invisible with most shanked buttons, but won't be
too noticible on drilled ones. After wearing, simply remove the buttons
and have the garment cleaned. For a more permanent fix, sew the button
onto the back of the safety pin, making a thread shank. Then, attach to
the garment before wearing. The extra few minutes spent getting dressed
will be well worth it when you start getting compliments on your
gorgeous outfit.

--As a side note, this method has an advantage, especially for home
sewists. One set of nice buttons can be used on several garments. If
you reuse the same tried-n-true patterns, you can make up two or three
of the same garment, then buy one set of gorgeous buttons that will
work for all of them.--

In the case of unfinished / untreated wooden buttons that can't be
soaked, dampen a cloth in a bit of water with a drop or two of wood
soap like Murphy's, then just wipe them clean. Cover (completely seal)
them with aluminum foil and hand-wash the garment

Most horn buttons can be washed, but shouldn't be immersed for very
long. Use a short, gentle washing cycle, and they should be fine.

Buttons come with all kinds of care instructions, from "machine
washable" to "dry clean only" to "don't even think about cleaning it".
I can't advise you much on the last one, other than to say that usually
a little bit of rubbing with a dry tissue is probably good enough to
remove most grime.

If I think of or hear of any other good methods, I'll post them. And if
you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them -just drop me a
message. In the meantime, don't let finiky care instructions stop you
from using and enjoying beautiful buttons, even on washable items. :)

~DragonLady

PS: Please note that these instructions are intended for buttons that
will be used and enjoyed, NOT for antiques, one-of-a-kind heirlooms or
collectible buttons. If you have or suspect you have an irreplaceable
item, please contact a restoration service or someone who can identify
what your button is made of and can give you professional advice. The
National Button Society is a good place to find someone knowledgeable
about your particular specimen.
http://www.nationalbuttonsociety.org/Home.html
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