Altar Linen On Wood Table

Much care and consideration should be exercised when cleaning altar linens. Altar linens are made up of altar cloths, corporals, lavabo towels, palls, and purificators. Great respect should extend to alter linens due to their sacred function and character. The fabric linen itself requires particular attention when treating, washing, and ironing to keep the material intact and beautiful. Here’s a helpful guide on how to clean your altar linens.

Presoaking Purificators and Corporals

Presoaking the linens is often required to allow the crumbs and remnants of the Body

and Blood of Jesus Christ to dissolve into the water. Place both the purificators and corporals in your washing container that’s filled with warm water. Let the linens sit for a minimum of ten minutes, but keep in mind that purple stains may need as much as 90 minutes of soaking. 

  • After Presoaking Purificators and Corporals

When you are done presoaking the purificators and corporals, remove the items and squeeze as much water as possible from each piece of linen, and allow the water to fall into the container. Do not let the water pass down a drain. Take the water and pour it on the ground outside no matter the weather condition. Place the presoaked linens into another wash container. 

Altar Cloths

There are typically several altar cloths, such as drapings or frontals to be cleaned and it’s important that their shape, size, and decoration are maintained according to the design of the altar. If the altar cloths have been stained, they should be cleansed in the sacrarium using the proper cleaning methods to preserve the beauty and life of the linens. It’s good practice to accompany cleaning the linens with prayer.


Corporals should first be rinsed in a sacrarium and only after, washed with gentle laundry detergent customarily. In the absence of sacrarium, rinse or hand-wash the linens in a basin before washing in the laundry. Pour the wash water reverently on the ground. Iron corporals should be ironed in such a way that their unique manner of folding helps to hold small particles of the consecrated host remaining at the end of the Eucharistic celebration.


Purificators usually become stained with the Precious Blood and should first be cleansed in a sacrarium. Only after it has been cleansed should it be washed with mild laundry detergent customarily. Iron the purificators in a manner that allows their easy usage for wiping the lip of the chalice. Clean purificators in the same manner as Corporals. You may need to spot clean the purificators. Lipstick stain, for example, should be treated with glycerin to loosen the grease on the affected area. Liquid shampoo can be applied and rubbed in gently. After 15 minutes, rinse. Apply hot water to the affected area if the stain remains.

After spot cleaning, launder customarily way separately from other laundry. Iron and fold purificators in thirds, bottom up (good side down), then half, and crosses up. Press the folds without the use of starch.

Lavabo Towels

Lavabo towels, also called finger towels, are washed in warm water using a mild detergent and dried and folded.


Palls may require spot treatment before washing in hot water and can be scrubbed lightly. If possible, place palls in a mesh lingerie bag and hang dry or sun dry on a window ledge. To deal with the frays, palls must be finished by hand using whip stitch.

Important tips:

  • Rinse linen thoroughly to prevent the remainder of soap residue, which is the primary cause of scorches when ironing later. 
  • Keep bleach away from linen since it will damage the fiber, but rather opt for an oxi-gen type cleaner. 
  • Do not put linen in the dryer and dry naturally over a clothesline or a drying rack.

Catholic Purchasing Services offers the best in altar linens around and can help make your parish shine. From purificators to palls, you can find the appropriate linen for notable religious celebrations. Visit us today.

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