I have taken on Sacristan duties at an Anglican place of worship. What are the best techniques for cleaning, ironing and folding purificators - the clothes used to wipe the chalices/cups when wine is served at Holy Communion/the Lord's Supper/the Mass?

  • 1
    Would you accept a tradition Catholic way of doing this?
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 22:38
  • 2
    International Anglicanism, to the extent that it exists, will not have a position on the details of practice like this. You should ask your minister, and maybe your diocese.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 23:19
  • @ken yes, that would be kind! Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 8:26
  • I don't agree that 'answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise' - I was looking for answers from someone with 'specific expertise' in dealing with sacristy linen. Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 13:06

1 Answer 1


Here is a traditional Catholic way of looking after altar linens.


The size of purificators are generally 12″ x 12″ with an embroidered center cross. Purificators are folded in thirds and placed over the chalice and under the paten. These small linens are the most frequently laundered of all the linens in liturgical use. Purificators are used to clean out the chalice and paten after communion. Purificators are washed preferably by hand in the Sacristry following the service.

Here are some instruction for washing altar linens by Sr. Mary of the Visitation. I am putting down those pertaining to purificators only.


Your own washer and dryer.

An ironing board and iron. It’s easier to work with a full sized ironing board, but a smaller, table top ironing board is sufficient. You don’t need any special features with your iron. The iron only needs to heat to a linen setting, usually the hottest setting.

A container large enough to hold all of the purificators and corporals to presoak these items. I use two small, square dish washing tubs, placing one in each side of my kitchen sink.

A drying rack for air drying the linens after they’ve been ironed. The drying rack should be able to hold up to thirty folded purificators, each about four inches wide.


My preference is to first, separate the hand towels, dish cloths and dish towels from the purificators and corporals. The hand towels, dish cloth and towels can be set aside until you’ve finished the next two steps.

The linens need to be presoaked to allow all crumbs and remnants of the Precious Body and Blood of Christ to dissolve into the water. During the presoak and removal of the linens from the presoak water, you need to be very careful not to spill or splash this water around, because it contains the Precious Body and Blood of Christ. Because this is the True Presence of Christ this water must be handled carefully and disposed of properly. DO NOT allow this water to spill, splash around or run down any household drain!

Place the purificators and corporals together in your container to presoak. Fill the container with water, hot, warm or cold, whichever you prefer. Allow the linens to soak for at least ten minutes. The purple stains will disappear if the linens are allowed to soak for 90 minutes or more. If you aren’t able to allow them to soak for this long, you can remove the purple stains at a later step. After the presoak, remove and wring as much water as possible out of each linen, being very careful to let the water fall back into the container, not run down a drain. Place the linens into another container. At this point, I place them into one side of my kitchen sink.

After all of the linens have been removed from the water, this water must be taken and poured out onto the ground outside. Regardless of rain, snow, ice or other weather, this water must be poured out onto the ground outside.


Once you have completed the presoak and put soap onto any stains, the purificators and corporals can be combined with the hand towels, dish cloths and dish towels. All of the laundry can then be washed in your washing machine, just as you would do your own laundry, using hot, warm or cold water.

At the end of the wash cycle, the hand towels, dish cloths and towels may all be placed into the dryer. The purificators and corporals are taken directly from the washer to be ironed while still wet. After drying, the hand towels, dish cloths and towels are folded in any way that you like to fold such items. They can be placed back into the same bag sor container you used to bring them home.

Ironing Purificators

Place the purificator flat onto the ironing board, face down. Iron out all of the wrinkles and creases. The moisture from washing will provide steam and make this step easier than if the purificator were dry. If your washer spins out most of the water, you may want to add water to the purificators before ironing. More moisture makes ironing more effective. The purificators may also lose moisture as they wait to be ironed. They will iron more easily if you rewet them. Once the purificator is ironed flat, fold opposite edges inward lengthwise, folding the linen into equal thirds. Try to fold so that each edge lines up with the fold that you are making, as shown in the pictures on the next page. Iron these folds into crisp creases. Then fold the corporal in half, neatly aligning the ends. Iron this crease firmly into place. Set the purificator aside, stacking them as you go, or place the purificator directly onto your drying rack to dry overnight, or for at least an hour or so to be sure they are completely dry.

Folding purificators

First, folding lengthwise into even thirds. Then folding in half. When done, all of the hems should be hidden inside the folds.

For more detailed information on a very traditional Catholic way of washing linens for the liturgical service, you can find some help here: INSTRUCTIONS FOR LAUNDERING ALTAR LINENS.

  • 1
    Just a clarification (in case the reader gets scrupulous about it): the water actually no longer contains the Body and Blood of Jesus. (See my answer regarding the cessation of the Real Presence.) Out of respect, we pour out the water into the ground (or, if accessible, the sacrarium, which drains into the ground). But if you get a drop or two of the water outside the container, or accidentally spill something, it is not really a big deal. Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 17:26

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