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Altar Cleaning Hints
for Subdeacons

Note: This section is in response to several questions raised about how to clean up after cutting blessed prosphora to be passed out as antidoron. Obviously, such work should be done with reverence since we are working with blessed objects. If your parish does it differently, please let me know and I will add your methods to these.


  1. We keep a large clay pot (14" diameter) next to the back door of the altar. In it goes ashes from the censor, coals, prosphora crumbs and whatever blessed things that need to be disposed of.
  2. Paper towels, swabs, knapkins and anything used to either clean the altar or absorb blessed oils are also placed in the pot, then burned. Don't leave them in overnight, since the morning dew will soak them and make them impossible to set alight.
  3. We have a small manual carpet sweeper for the altar, and its contents are emptied into the pot as well.
  4. When the pot fills, its contents can be emptied into a deep hole in the flowerbed on the church grounds.
  5. Ugly or inappropriate icons are hard to get rid of. One clergyman says he tucks them in the coffin with someone when conducting a funeral, though I cannot suggest this method! Icons should never be thrown away, not matter how horrid they are. My suggestion is to take an unusable icon with you on a campout, wrap it in some old cloth or newspaper and burn it in the campfire. Distribute the ashes somewhere well off the trail once the fire has died down. Don't roast marshmallows or cook food over this fire: not only is it a bit sacreligious, but the paints and glues in most icons are toxic.


  6. We go over sanctified places with the manual push-sweeper before vacuuming to pick up any holy particles. The sweeper is then emptied into the burn pot. We can then vacuum the area with a conventional machine used for the rest of the parish.
  7. Alcohol is the best solvent around for cleaning. With either cotton rags (bath rags have those little fingers which can get into cracks and details a flat rag cannot) or paper towels, you can use alcohol to clean the censor and the chalice set. Lipstick and incense tar are the hardest to clean, but alcohol gets them both.
  8. Don't use "handy-wipes" and other such nonsense to clean the altar. They leave a film behind that summons dust even as far as the narthex. Besides, after you burn them, you'll have have to go to confession (in other wards, the chemicals and plastic fibers make an unpleasant and highly intoxicating smoke).
  9. The best metal polish available is Nevr-Dull. It won't wear off your platings, since it works without forceful polishing. However, if you have a chalice with a "gold wash" and and it looks oxidized, any attempt to polish it will remove the "wash," since the "wash" is what has oxidized.
  10. The best soap for cleaning the altar area and impliments is olive soap. Yes, it's made from olives, but it lacks all the additives modern soaps have. Does not leave a film. Besides, it is traditional!
  11. Getting wax off is a chore and I know of no entirely successful method. The best way to get wax off of fabric and carpet is with a paper bag and iron. Place the bag over the spot, then iron it. Make sure any printing on the bag is not in contact with the wax or the carpet will be stained. The bag will absorb the wax. Paper towels used in the same way tend to redistribute the wax, whereas the paper bag sucks it up and holds it.