Caring for Your Tarot Cards


Even if you’re not a Professional Tarot reader, your Tarot cards will, from time to time, need a little TLC. Perhaps you use your deck frequently, you might even be a little guilty of nibbling some chocolate while doing readings for yourself or your friends and made your cards all sticky; perhaps you’ve had an accident and spilt liquid on your cards! Have no fear, this post aims to show you the many different ways you can take care of your beloved tarot cards including:

Clearing your deck of any unwanted or negative energy through:
1. Visualisations
2. Smudging and incense
3. Lunar energy
4. Shuffling and re-ordering the deck
5. Using crystals

Cleaning your tarot cards so that they shuffle better after:
1. Real life spills
2. Sticky fingers and gleaming cards
3. Smooth shuffling

Storing your tarot deck after its use with:
1. Their original boxes
2. Fabulous fabrics
3. Bohemian bags
4. Beautiful natural wood

In putting this post together, I approached several Professional Tarot reading friends for their tips and techniques in how they care for their Tarot cards. The words that follow are a mix of mine and theirs, but are organised by method so that you can easily refer to this piece should you wish to try out the different and varied techniques they use.

Clearing your Tarot deck

Clearing, or cleansing your tarot deck is about purging it of unwanted energies that it may have picked up through working, resting and handling by others. Each clearing technique listed below is associated to one of the five elements. I have meditated upon which element is associated with which technique and have arrived at the conclusions below.

I’ve stated which element I have assigned to each technique under the heading for that technique with a brief explanation of my thinking. You may disagree with my choices, if so, I’d love to hear which elements you would swap around, and while this may be a little early to say, I’ll see you in the comments section…

Visualisations

Elemental association: Spirit. In drawing down or pulling up white light from the heavens or the earth, we are seeking to embody or assimilate their essences and spirit to merge with our own.

Using meditation based techniques are a great way to not only clear the energy from your cards after the days work, but they’re also a great way to ground yourself at the same time. It’s also important to remember that purification can come from pulling white light down from the heavens into yourself or your cards, while pulling white light up through and from the earth is better for grounding. Again, pull the white light up into your cards, and if for yourself, remember to pull the light up through your feet, continuing upwards through your body.

A wonderful extension to that exercise, while actually holding your tarot cards in your hands, is to visualise yourself holding them and then either pulling the light down or up through your cards and your body. While you are holding your cards you are connected to them – what better way to clear them than together, in unison, at the same time!

In the Smudging and Incense chapter below, Nancy of Tarot Explorer explains that she asks her spirit guides to bless her deck after she has smudged it. Using that part of her technique here, during a visualisation, is a great adaptation to this technique.

My little ritual consists of always β€œclearing” the cards before or just after a reading. And I do so by visualization, I visualize bright white light from above shooting right through the cards and immediately clearing them of any previous energies. Anton Rossi, Angel’s Tarot

Smudging and incense

Elemental association: Fire. Fire lights and keeps the the smudge stick or incense burning. It has long been associated with purging and purification rituals, and is the only element that can transform one thing into another.

By far the most popular method and it’s easy to see why. Perhaps it’s our memory of frankincense from days at church that make this technique feel effective. It evokes a real sense of cleansing just through the sight and smell of the smoke.

When using a smudge stick, look for white sage, though lavendar smudge is also very good if you can find it. Incense comes in many different varieties, aromas, strengths and purities. Each has its own characteristics, associations and functions. The range is huge and can get a little confusing. My advice to you is to try what you can find or what you have. In my own smudgings, I have used many different types to great effect. Don’t be too concerned about having to find exactly the right smudge or incense, you will, after lots of trials and error, and I can vouch that it’s a very pleasant experience in trying.

When I get a new deck, I sage it (light dried native sage and pass the deck several times through the smoke). The smoke from the sage cleanses the cards and creates a sacred space around them. I then ask my spirit guides to bless the deck and to help me use it only for the highest good of whomever I’ve reading for. Nancy Hendrickson, Tarot Explorer

Also favoured by Bonnie Cehovet, Laura Goodfellow, Rainbow Tarot, Misha, Tarot by Misha and my good self.

Moon energy

Elemental Association: Water. La Lunar with her feminine, mysterious and fluid energy has long been associated with water and her power over entire oceans and even your body.

Using lunar energy to clear your tarot deck is very effective. At its most simplest, you simply place your deck on the window sill, or near to it, and let the moon work her magic in clearing, and rejuvenating your cards. You don’t need a Full Moon, though it helps, particularly if it’s visible from the window near to where you will place your deck. It’s a technique that I have applied numerous times with great effect. You can also add a little ritual around this technique, as the Tarot Lady suggests below, using crystals. Lighting incense or smudging to begin the ritual can be very beneficial too, and if you’re looking to add a little ambience to your Full Moon ritual, add candles, but be safe!

Leave the cards out overnight, loose, directly in moonlight. Be sure to keep them inside though and use a nice cloth to sit them on or a basket that you like. Bonnie Cehovet

The only time I’ve *had to* cleanse a Tarot deck was when I was first starting out in the wonderful world of divination and magick. I’d bought a second hand deck and each time I picked it up to work with it I got a headache. As I newbie I was a bit unsure of what to do so, through more luck than skill, I stumbled on a ritual which has worked for me ever since. I took a black lay cloth, sprinkled salt on top of it, wrapped my deck (in box) and left it out on the window sill for 24 hours. To this day I have no headaches when I work with that deck. Lyn, Witch Blog

Shuffling and re-ordering the deck

Elemental association: Air. Shuffling with focussed intent, being systematic and logically re-ordering your deck is very much a thoughtful, mental process. Visualise the deft hand movements of shuffling, light as air, quick to the touch.

This techinique is very popular, and requires little else than to be sat with your deck, playing gently with it (as we do), shuffling it until you feel it has been cleansed, or, putting the cards back into their original order before mixing it back up again. This isn’t something I’ve actually done before, however, I’ve inadvertantly done the latter recently while I’ve been working on some spread designs. I’d re-ordered the deck for the work I was doing and have found the same deck to be incredibly accurate after I’ve mixed it back up again for readings.

Favoured by Lori Green, Tarot For Life Guidance, Bonnie Cehovet and Misha, Tarot by Misha who brings in a little incense into her ritual (see above).

Using crystals

Elemental association: Earth. Born from the earth and containing her essence and power. Crystals ground effortlessly and eminate that power to whatever is around them, blessing whatever they feel nearby or touch, by the spirit of nature.

I love crystals and use them throughout my day, whether that’s holding one just to calm my nerves or help me focus, there’s no doubt they’re multitalented! Apart from the Tarot Lady’s excellent advice below, I often use one to sit on top of an opened deck, in between readings, or just because I’m working with the deck in another capacity and may be leaving it unattended for a while. It’s less about clearing & more about protecting, but is still a crystal working in harmony with a tarot deck.

Great all rounders are clear quartz and amethyst – useful for many tarot and spritual practices.

When I feel my deck has become “drained”, my preferred technique is to put it on a shelf with a crystal on top of the deck. Often I use a quartz crystal but will also use a smoky quartz or a hematite if I feel the deck has become ungrounded (this can happen if I read for a client who has really bad or spacey energy). If there is a full moon, I also try to make sure the deck can sit directly in the moonlight as this seems to really charge the deck beautifully. Theresa Reed aka The Tarot Lady

Cleaning your Tarot deck

From time to time, you will find that your tarot cards can get a little sticky which can make them harder to shuffle and much less pleasant to hold. Compare your well used deck to a brand new one and you will see exactly what I mean. There are remedies though and you can put the ‘slip’ back onto your cards with a little time and patience – yes, it can be a very laborious job cleaning 78 cards, but well worth the effort at the end of it.

For real life spills:

Rather like having a drink near a keyboard, you should take care with fluids around your deck. Also very worthy of note is eating while using your deck, or rather, not to. I have worked on the Psychic Text lines and it’s too easy to eat some chocolate while you’re working… Problem is your fingers will be way too sticky to be handling tarot cards, and I should know, I nearly ruined my Thoth deck doing just that! The following tips should help you keep your cards clean through general maintenance, and when you’re facing an emergency clean up job.

Helen Howell uses a J Cloth for spills to her deck. They absorb liquid quickly which is definitely a plus in an emergency situation! If you have no J Cloths or cloths like it immediately to hand, get your cards out of the spill as quickly as possible and separate them so they don’t stick together. You can dry them one at a time and hopefully, if they’re not damaged, you can then use the method below for restoring them back to their prime.

Sticky fingers and gleaming cards

I personally recommend furniture wipes to clean sticky cards, or for general cleaning maintenance. You can of course use baby wipes, I just find the furniture wipes leave a nice sheen and a smoother surface. In the UK in particular, you can get furniture wipes with nice spring time aromas so you don’t have to worry about that waxy smell normally associated with furniture polish.

Regardless of which you use though, you will need to dry your cards before restacking them. After using furniture wipes, dry and buff your cards with a nice high quality duster (clean and unused). Do this one card at a time and it will add a nice sheen and smoothness to them.

If you’ve opted for baby wipes, again, make sure they’re not too wet and then dry and buff them with any soft cloth so long as it’s clean before you use it. Please make sure it’s soft though as a rougher surface to your cloth will weaken the outer layers of the card and begin to damage them. I also cannot stress enough though that your cards shouldn’t be allowed to get wet during this process and if your wipes have a high moisture content, as the ones at the bottom usually do, drain them by squeezing before cleaning your tarot cards with them.

Sticky fingers are the main culprits for sticky cards and Helen and I joked that we really shouldn’t be eating while working with our cards! Good hand hygene is essential but there are times when that’s just not possible. If you’re reading away from home, or a sink, then the next best thing is Sanitizing Hand Gel. I love this stuff! You can buy a small handbag size bottle to carry around with you to use in place of soap and water. They’re also moisturising for your hands and also now come in fresh aromas and don’t smell medical at all. They also come in larger bottles with hand pumps, perfect for your desk or work area. Now your hands need never be sticky when you’re going to handle your deck ever again – result!

Smooth shuffling

This is a technique I’ve yet to try, but comes highly recommended by Barbara Moore and involves a little bit of magic, I’ll let Barbara explain….

I am not very consistent or ritualistic with my cleansing practices. However, something I do on a regular basis is apply fanning powder to my decks.

Fanning powder is something used by stage magicians. I first heard about it from Dan Pelletier when he was on a podcast, Tarot Connection by Leisa Refalo. It looks like talcum powder and is used to reduce friction and make the cards shuffle more smoothly.

Do not use talcum powder, though! Make sure you buy actual fanning powder (you can get it inexpensively from a Magic Shop). Talcum powder absorbs moisture, so it will have the opposite effect on your cards. It will make them sticky not smooth.

Reading cards is a tactile experience and shuffling adds to that. Fanning powder makes the shuffle feel better. Barbara Moore

Storing your tarot decks

How you store your tarot decks is as much about their care as is the clearing and cleaning of them. There are many ways to do this but the most popular are:

Their original boxes

If you have any number of tarot decks, chances are you will have one or two ‘working’ decks, leaving the others pretty much untouched. It’s a delightful habit to collect tarot decks and so many are left in their original boxes. As unglamorous as this is, your cards will be perfectly safe and cared for in this way. I work with a lot of my decks for readings as well as using them for spread design and tarot exercises. Many of them are kept in their original boxes and come out frequently with no harm to them at all.

We all have our favourite decks though and these deserve special treatment. The following list is for those stars in your collection who you think deserve a little red carpet treatment.

Fabulous fabrics

Imagine a beautiful piece of cloth wrapped around your favourite deck – colourful, silky and enchanting. Now imagine unwrapping the cloth from your deck like the most exquisitely wrapped diamonds at Christmas. The joy of peeling back the layers and asking your deck to wake from its slumber, it’s time to play….

The imagination is a wonderful thing, but this is not far from how I feel when I use a deck wrapped in fabulous fabric. Velvet, silk, satin or any variation makes a lovely protective coat for your favourite deck and can also double as a reading cloth. How evocative and enchanting this little unwrapping ceremony will be for your client too.

Bohemian bags

Tarot bags are like little quilts or sleeping bags for your tarot deck. They’ll be all tucked up nice and snug, safe and protected in one of these babies. Available from any New Age or metaphysical store on the high street or online. Buy handmade if you can, there’s a little bit of love sewn into everyone and you can’t beat that. I personally recommend the handmade tarot bags from fellow Professional Tarot reader Ania Marczyk, they’re gorgeous!

Beautiful natural wood

Solid, strong and waterproof, wooden boxes will keep your cards protected at home from pretty much every danger. The only downside is really that a wooden box is perhaps bulky and more difficult to transport. But at home, they come into their own. Depending on their size, they can hold two decks or even a deck wrapped in fabulous fabric and are even stackable for better storage.

Closing thoughts

I hope you enjoyed reading how other Professional Tarot readers clear their Tarot cards, and hope you will try out their tried and trusted methods. I also hope you get don’t have to implement any emergency procedures with spills!

If you have a technique you use that’s not listed here, whether it’s clearing, cleaning or storing your tarot cards, please feel free to share your techniques with us in the comments so others may try them too!

 
Catherine
 

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39 thoughts on “Caring for Your Tarot Cards”

    1. Hi Bonnie – thank you!

      I had some very helpful friends help me out though, so please take your share of the credit, I loved your suggestions πŸ™‚

      Like

  1. Hi Catherine,

    Great stuff – as usual. I usually use a pendulum for cleansing but will certainly try some of the suggestions in your post. I also use the same pendulum to guide me when I am in some doubt about the timing of a reading for myself, i.e. Am I centred enough to be objective with the guidance I receive from the cards.

    Love and light

    Brian

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    1. Hi Brian,

      What a great way to use your pendulum – seems you are very well connected together. Is it a crystal? Which one? Nosey me πŸ˜‰

      Thank you for a great comment πŸ™‚

      Like

  2. Fabulous article Catherine – and gave me lots of other techniques to try. Right now I’m especially keen on Theresa Reed’s comment about using crystals on a “drained” deck.

    I have a couple of decks that I’ve stopped using because they feel totally drained – and one of them is my sweet Tarot of the White Cats – which I cannot do without! Good timing on this suggestion as I just purchased something called a Fenster Quartz, which apparently is a “window” quartz – so you can see inside it. Mine has some water trapped inside and I can’t wait to use it on my drained decks. Next new moon – July 11.

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    1. Hi Nancy – lovely to read your comment. I’ve never heard of a Fenster Quartz, sounds intruiging with trapped water inside. Will you report back to us after the new moon and let us know how it worked out?

      Thank you for another great comment πŸ™‚

      Like

  3. I am a re-orderer when I have time. If I am in a busy reading environment, I fan the cards and rap them on the table quite sharply. I can’t remember who taught me that, but it feels effective to me. πŸ™‚

    I do love smudging my decks as well. Loved this post!

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    1. Hi Arwen – I think it might have been DenElder as she said the same thing about the rapping of the knuckles on the deck, but to be honest, I wasn’t so sure what she meant! But now I know, and perhaps you now know where you got it from πŸ˜‰

      Thanks for stopping by Arwen and welcome to Tarot Elements πŸ™‚

      Like

    1. Hi Flavio,

      Thank you for you kind comment – I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Welcome to Tarot Elements πŸ™‚

      Like

  4. Hey Catherine,

    I actually use Reiki – not normally to cleanse my decks (though I have once or twice when they really seemed to need it), but whenever I buy a new tarot or oracle deck I have a little ritual of doing Reiki on them as part of making them “mine”. I suppose that’s pretty much the same as the visualization exercises, but not exactly the same either.

    Yours,
    Megan

    Like

    1. Hi Megan – Reiki seems a lovely way to connect and cleanse your deck and is something that I hope to train in soon – at least I’ll know who to ask for advice πŸ˜‰

      Thank you for contributing a great idea to this post and welcome to Tarot Elements πŸ™‚

      Like

    1. Thank you Helen – glad you enjoyed it, even though you helped to make it what it is, so thank you for your contribution πŸ™‚

      Like

  5. Catherine,
    I also use Reiki to clear my cards. I am a master/teacher and I do a ritual involving the breathe into the cards while fanning theml I then tap the top of the deck and trace on the top card the mental/emotional symbol.
    It works for me.

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  6. I have always wrapped my tarot cards in silk and I have a bag for each of the decks that I got my wife lovingly make me i have 4 decks the robin wood that is a green bag the tarot of the elements is in a black bag ans silk and I have a light blue bag for my rider waite deck and i do leave the cards on the silk in moon light this seems to work for me as am in a good position where i live

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  7. What a great article. I’d love to try the smudging some day. Although I have my Rider Waite cards now for 12 years, I have never cleared or cleansed them. After a reading I just shuffle the cards untill I feel it is sufficient and then I store them in the nice silk cloth which I decorated myself and this package goes in the wooden box. My collection of about 20 different tarot decks are stored in their separate wooden boxes. Besides that I also collect gazing balls, I Tjing coins, pendulums, Runes etc etc. In short all divination tools that are available πŸ˜‰

    My precious (lord of the rings mode) Rider Waite deck is my working deck and the rest has not been used. Well… not quite. I sometimes use the Mlle. Lenormand cards for fun readings (although they are surprisingly correct).

    Thanks for sharing en warm regards from The Netherlands.
    Linda

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    1. Hi Linda – wow, you take great care of you decks!

      Smudging is great not just for cleansing your tarot cards, but is also great for clearing negative energy in houses and other spaces. I do it regularly where I live. As for the pendulum, I bought one recently at a conference after a commenter on this post said they use one. I haven’t tried it yet myself, so if you have any tips – I’d be very grateful πŸ™‚

      Thank you for your comment, and welcome to Tarot Elements πŸ™‚

      Like

  8. I recently had a two decks of oracle cards get wet in a rainstorm by accident. I used blow dryer very effectively, but will try the furniture polish wipes to get the gloss back.
    Will look for the fanning powder too. Thank you.

    Like

    1. Hey there, Anne,

      I’m glad you could rescue your oracle cards. The furniture wipes should help, along with a fine duster for buffing. Make sure it’s clean and dry and also big enough so that you can encase a single card in it and buff both sides at the same time.

      I’d love to know how you get on with restoring them – please drop by again when you’ve had the chance to spend time on them.

      Thank you for your comment, and welcome to Tarot Elements πŸ™‚

      Warm wishes,

      Catherine

      Like

  9. Hi, I was wondering about this. I am very sure I need to cleanse my deck. I am a newbie and had just recently bought my Tarot deck, say a day ago. Did not hear about the no hands. The worst part is is that the hands touching it weren’t even during a reading and by a friend and a guy who is pretty disrespectful. I am, you could say, underage. I probably won’t be able to acquire crystals, or salts. And I would be very grateful if you can tell me what to do.

    Like

    1. Hi Monica,

      First, don’t worry if someone has touched your deck. It’s annoying, especially if the person didn’t ask first. They haven’t tainted your deck, just perhaps in your mind. We can be a fickle lot and we each have our own little idiosyncrasies with regards to our decks.

      If you cannot get any crystals or salt, one of the best things you can do is which is free is put your cards our on your window sill (providing it doesn’t get wet from condensation) and let the power of the full moon cleanse and re-energise your deck.

      You can also hold your deck between your hands and say a prayer or affirmation over them, asking the Universe/Archangels etc to cleanse them of any negative energy or influences they may have picked up. Visualisation techniques are incredibily effective and useful for many things, but closing your eyes and visualising your deck being cleansed with purifying white light will do a wonderful job on them.

      Let me know how yo get on.

      Thanks for your comment, and welcome to Tarot Elements πŸ™‚

      Catherine

      Like

  10. Is there anyway to clean my Tarot cards partly eaten by our rabbit? :)))) i am not kidding ! Our lionhead breed rabbit ate some parts of my cards,i couldn’t find the same pair,i had to buy another one 😦

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  11. Hi Catherine – Great site! Thank you so much for all the information. I do have one question. There are a few people I regularly read tarot for and everytime I get so incredibly tired I cannot focus towards the end of the reading. This also happens to me if I am in a room with anyone getting a reading (by someone else). Do you have any idea what could be the cause of this and is there anything I do, espeically while I am the one reading?
    Thanks so much!
    Aimee πŸ™‚

    Like

    1. Hi Aimee,

      You’re simply absorbing their energy. You need to make sure you ground and protect yourself as daily practice. Visualise a white light coming down from the heavens that enters your body through the top of your head. Watch it as it moves through you, your head, neck, shoulders, arms, body, legs, feet and then watch it go into the ground. If you visualise easily, see this cleansing white light purifying you on the inside also, at the cellular level. Keeping your eyes on the earth, visualise a golden light going up through your body. The white light remains mingles with the golden light as it travels your body. When the golden light gets to the top of the head it flows over like a waterfall. Enjoy this visualisation for a moment then allow the white light to leave you through your feet and the golden light to form a bubble around you. You are now cleansed and protected. If you feel the need to, carry a crystal with you. A clear quartz is about the best there is and is also a multipurpose stone and can be used for many things. Make sure you cleanse that also and charge it with your intent, in your case, for protection of the energy of others.

      When you’re in their company, remind yourself of your golden light, see it around you and if you must, in your mind, just tell the other person’s energy to stay outside of the golden light. You can also say any affirmation that relates to that visualisation. For example, “I am safe, cleansed and protected by the divine source and ready to face the world.” Anything like that will help to solidify the meditation, so do that after you complete the meditation and at any other point in the day when you feel the need to.

      Hope that helps,

      Catherine

      Like

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Use the sunlight to re-energise them (see my other response), cleanse them with incense and/or rock salt, hold a clear quartz crystal over them and speak your intention that they are cleansed by the method you’ve chosen.

      Blessings,
      Catherine

      Like

    1. Hi Kevin,

      You could re-energise them in sunlight, most people use the moonlight to cleanse, particularly a full moon. Leave your cards spread out on a window sill in full view of the window, bearing in mind immediate care from things like condensation. If you suffer that on your window sills, place them near to the window and if it’s safe and appropriate, leave the curtains open so the moonlight can hit the cards overnight.

      Hope that helps,

      Catherine

      Like

  12. My mother is wiccan and she says I should use a full lunar cycle to cleanse my cards. That means I should put them in moonlight on the new moon-full moon. Otherwhise it wont work as well.

    Like

  13. I just opened a brand new deck of tarot cards. I do not believe I shuffled them all the way. I drew 3 of the pentacle cards upside down and noticed all the pentacles were in the same area. The reading kinda has me on edge..does that count

    Like

    1. Hi Tracey,

      I’m a stickler for proper shuffling but I know another reader who is less concerned about thorough shuffling, believing the cards that are meant to come out, will. While I believe in that sentiment, unless the cards are properly shuffled, I would feel the same as you. I would also be reluctant to redo the same reading again. What you can do though, is ask for clarification in another reading. If it’s just the pentacle cards that are bothering you, ask about these. What you can do is ask for further cards in those positions in the spread, to help you understand further.

      I hope that helps,

      Catherine

      Like

  14. Catherine –

    Love to have found this blog & to see it stretches six years! The connections with the five elements is food-for-thought in meditation, indeed…..

    I store my Waite-Smith wrapped with a rose quartz & a silver pentacle ring I wear for readings in a sturdy cloth altar cloth. Over-shuffling does not exist for me and my thoughts tend to align well I handle the cards. πŸ™‚

    Thank you for this and your other articles!

    Be Blessed,

    Matthew

    Like

    1. Hi Matthew,

      Thanks for your kind words. It’s some time since I wrote this post. I now have a lovely chest I keep my most frequently used deck in so they are always in easy reach. Of course my favourites get the best of the tarot bags, some have custom bags. It’s been a while since I smudged any of my decks. I find refiling them back into order and then doing a thorough mix up of the deck to get a fresh perspective – the connections being with the reader, not the cards, as it I see it now.

      Warmly,

      Catherine

      Like

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