Caring for your prayer beads

The prayer beads offered by Be Still Beads come strung on one of two different materials: stainless steel wire or nylon cord. (For a general comparison of the characteristics of wire strung rosaries versus hand-knotted cord strung rosaries, visit our Comparing wire and cord rosaries post after you finish this one.)

The insides of gemstone beads are incredibly rough, and this wears on any type of stringing materials used. This means that all of them will need to be restrung eventually, depending on how much they are used and how they are cared for.

Proper care of your prayer beads can extend their life, and this care looks a little different depending on the type of stringing material used in your set of prayer beads.

Wire-strung prayer beads

Some of Be Still Bead’s rosaries (both Anglican rosaries and Roman Catholic rosaries) are strung on stainless steel wire. The type of wire I use is 49 strands of wire twisted together with a nylon coating to maximize its durability and flexibility.

While wire is strong, it still has its weaknesses that require appropriate care, if you want them to last. This stringing wire is still wire, and like any wire, it will weaken and break if it is subjected to sharp bends or kinks. (Just like any wire weakens and breaks if repeatedly bent sharply back and forth at one place.)

Although using many strands of wire twisted together helps its flexibility, it also means that once these thin strands start breaking, the entire wire is quickly weakened and will break all the way through.

To avoid this, be sure to store your prayer beads in roomy spaces that will not cause them to be kinked sharply between stones. Keeping them in pants pockets or stuffing them into very tight storage bags that cause the beads to be forced into tight bends will cause the stringing wire to fail. (If done frequently, they will generally only last a few months before needing to be re-strung, so this absolutely needs to be avoided at all costs!)

Cord-strung prayer beads

All of Be Still Bead’s malas and an increasing number of the rosaries are strung on hand-knotted nylon cord. While nylon cord is much more durable than more natural cords (like silk), it is still subject to slow wear from the rough insides of gemstones beads and will eventually break down.

Unlike the wire-strung prayer beads, nylon cord has much more flexibility and can handle a wider range of storage conditions. However, storing them in tight places will still place extra stress on the cord and should still be avoided.

Wearing your mala while doing physical activities that could cause it to be caught or snagged on things (including during sleep) is not recommended because this puts extreme stress on the cord. Likewise, wearing your mala on your wrist as a bracelet is not recommended (unless it is one that is specifically designed for this) as this also puts stress on the cord.

Avoid getting your mala wet, as this will also weaken the cord over time. If they do need cleaning, use a clean, dry cloth instead.

If your mala has a tassel that has become tangled or frayed, you can lightly wet down the tassel and gently comb it to straighten it out, then allow it to dry fully overnight. (I like to do this by exposing it to steam for a gentle dampening and ease in drying.) If the ends have become frayed, you can trim them with sharp scissors, preferably while still damp.

All prayer beads

There are some care recommendations that apply to all prayer beads, no matter how they are strung.

Gemstones can also be much more fragile than you might think. Avoid dropping, banging, or otherwise subjecting your prayer beads to sharp forces to protect the integrity of the stones used in them.

If your prayer beads need cleaning, wiping them with a clean cloth is your best bet. Not all gemstones do well with exposure to water or other cleaners (including jewelry cleaners), so this is not recommended.

Wooden beads tend to naturally darken over time as they absorb oils from your fingers during use. This oil absorption is actually good for the wood and helps protect them, so this is not something to be avoided.

Some gemstones may lighten or shift color with exposure to excessive sunlight.

Exposure to excessive sweat, water, and chemicals (like perfumes, sunscreens, cleaners, etc.) is also not recommended.

Restoring your prayer beads

If your prayer beads do break or have become worn, re-stringing them is a way to restore them to their original condition.

Hand-knotted prayer beads strung on cord have the benefit that a break in one place will only leave one bead loose to potentially be lost, but wire-strung prayer beads that break may result in the loss of many of the beads.

Contact me for more information about potentially re-stringing your prayer beads. Cost will vary based on the type of stringing material (hand-knotted cord is more expensive than wire due to the amount of labor involved) and the number of beads or other parts to be replaced during the re-stringing process.

Proper care of your prayer beads will extend the life of them and will reduce the need for re-stringing them.

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