Everybody loves wet cleaning!
Wet cleaning is called cuci, pronounced chuchee in Indonesian—and it means washing. Washing is a major part of our conservation project. After many years of exposure and city pollution, the Iwan Tirta batiks are dry and crispy, acidic and soiled. They desperately need cleaning to brighten the colors and neutralize the pH in the cotton. After testing the dyes for fastness, each batik is carefully washed, flat, with supportive screen, in an outdoor tank, with a mild surfactant; it can take 4 to 7 hours per piece, depending on size and soiling. The amount of dirt and brown acidity that floods out is astonishing and rewarding!
While we use an imported detergent, we are experimenting with making a local and pure plant-based cleaner called ‘lerak’. We cook up the fresh fleshy soap nut, and mash and squeeze into a frothy surfactant, nearly identical to the imported one. Here, fine batiks are exclusively hand washed in (often homemade) ‘lerak’. And it has insecticidal and anti microbial properties.