Until I went to Saudi I had no idea that black abayaat (and black/dark colored overgarments in general) require special care when washing, drying and ironing them. (which is probably why all my old abayaat look pretty shabby! LOL)
In Saudi I came upon whole sections in the laundry aisles where abaya/tarha/niqab “shampoos” reigned. The majority were made for all “delicate” care items-abayaat included and were similar to Woolite, then there were 1-2 brands which were specifically for black abayaat/tarha/niqabs which washed black dye back into the material, the best known is Persil abaya shampoo.
I did find that, Persil abaya shampoo did indeed help to keep the everyday plain abayaat looking a bit nicer as its easy for crepe to get a bit raggedy-a bit faded under the intense, scorching sun, the harsh de-salinated tap water does not help…nor does the sand and grit which gets sandblasted into your closet anytime a sandstorm hits. So, obviously in those situations, it makes common sense taking special care of the overgarment(s) which you wear daily.
But,even if you dont live in the Gulf, its still a good idea to take extra care of your black/dark colored overgarments. For most westerners they are indeed costly investments and even really inexpensive ones should be washed/handled carefully to ensure it lasts as long as possible, and as we all know…poor laundry practices is the cause of ruining many a shirt/pant/skirt/etc…
So, in a nutshell…here is the best way to care for a black crepe abaya (or…black/dark overgarment)…the tips Im sharing were gleaned from Saudi friends.
First…ONLY handwash your abaya! If you must machine wash…then do so on the delicate or handwash cycle…but try to only hand-wash if possible.
Handwash in a suitable detergent. I am a fan of Woolite dark care. Its pretty similar to Persil abaya shampoo. If thats not available…use regular woolite…OR if in a pinch, the gentlest shampoo you can find…like something for babies. Also…olive oil soap from Lebanon or Syria will work too, although it can leave a residue behind which will cause the fabric to look a bit dull after awhile.
Fill the sink with COLD or just warm water, add the detergent, add the abayaah/abayaat/tarha/niqabs gently swish around and leave to sit for 10minutes. This assists in gently getting dirt/stinky smells out. After 10 minuites or so, gently squish it around, gently rub the fabrics together to get any stubborn dirt out. No harsh washing.
Rinse….I like to rinse first in running water then squeeze out in a sink full of cold water.
Then hang to air dry. NEVER machine dry an abaya! The fabric will inevitably get wonky and if the abaya has silk/cotton cording…the cording will shrink and will need to be removed for the abaya to hang straight again. Machine drying will also ruin embroidery/decorations.
In warm weather I hang mine outside on a drying rack, in winter I hang on hangers near a radiator or in the kitchen.
Once totally dry I either hang-up in my closest and or if the crepe requires some ironing. I will gently iron it on polyester setting (inside out!), testing an inside seam first, Its VERY easy to scorch an abaya…depending on the crepe…so be VERY careful. Most crepes dont require ironing but some do…Internet and some grades of saloona comes to mind. Just do so carefully and on a low setting.
In Saudi, abaya shops usually steam the abayaat with a special steaming machine…so when going into to pick up an abaya which was made or tailored for you, they pre-steam it and then fold it up.
With these tips, your abayaat should last a lot longer, en’shallah.
NOTE, if your abaya is very fancy with a lot of embroidery, handwork, beadwork or other designs, its best to ONLY Dry-Clean them. The handwash method is for plain abayaat or those with minimal or durable designs.