How To Wash Silk

Aug 19, 2021

how to wash silk

How to Wash Silk Safely

If you have treasured silk pieces, whether blouses, dresses, nightgowns, sheets, or other items, you know how soft and beautiful silk is. However, you likely also know that silk is a very delicate fabric, and if it isn’t washed and cared for properly it may shrink, fade, or even tear. If you’ve been bringing your silk clothing and linens to the dry cleaner, you may be wondering if it’s possible to wash your silk pieces from the comfort of your home. Fortunately, you can, as long as you follow the right steps. Continue reading, and we’ll share more information to answer all of your questions about how to wash and preserve this beautiful fabric.

 

Before Washing

We know that your primary concern when washing any silk fabric is protecting it and preventing damage or discoloration, so before you begin thinking about how to clean silk, it is important to start by testing your items for colorfastness. Some silk is not colorfast, and the color will bleed too much when washed. This can result in your silk fading, and that vibrant blue blouse you love may turn into a boring pale blue blouse, and nobody wants that!

a bright blue silk blouse on a hanger

If a silk item is not colorfast, bringing it to the dry cleaners is the best option to preserve its colors. To test for colorfastness, use a damp cloth and carefully blot the inside of a seam or another hidden area. If the color from the silk fabric bleeds onto the cloth you’re using, that means that it is not colorfast and you shouldn’t try to wash it yourself.

 

How Do You Wash Silk?

Two of the most common questions we get asked on the subject of washing silk fabrics are “can I wash silk in the washing machine” and “can I hand wash silk?”

Let’s start with the question about using a washing machine. While washing machines can be more convenient, they are not the best choice to use on delicate silk clothing or linens. So, what happens if you do choose the washing machine option? It can really depend, in some cases it may come out OK, but in other cases, the washing machine may be too rough on the material and may cause it to fade or tear.

If you still would like to use a washing machine to wash your delicate fabrics, consider using the delicate or hand washing cycle on your machine combined with a mesh laundry bag to be safe. You will want to group your delicate items together and place them within the mesh laundry bag, which will withstand a thorough machine wash, but also gives the added protection against common wash issues such as; pesky snags, pulling and twisting.

What does all of this mean for washing your silk items? Even though it may be a bit more work, hand washing silk is the best choice. This is the most gentle way to care for garments or linens that you want to protect. The extra time and effort will certainly be worth it when you’re able to protect your treasured items and extend their usable life!

a swathe of luxurious cream silk

When you’re hand washing silk, keep the following key pointers in mind. First, use cold or cool water with a very mild detergent. Colder water will help prevent the color from fading, and a gentle detergent will protect the delicate proteins that are spun together to make the silk.

Take care and only wash one item at a time. This will keep the fabrics from rubbing against one another and will prevent any color transfer between items. After you place your silk item in the tub of cold water with detergent, gently stir it around, then let it soak in the detergent/water mixture for a few minutes. It shouldn’t take long for dirt to release from the silk material, so you should rinse your items after about three minutes, but no longer than five minutes.

Next, drain the water and detergent and refill the tub with ¼ cup distilled white vinegar and cool water. Place the silk back in the tub and gently mix it around again. When you add in this extra step before simply rinsing the silk with water, it works to effectively remove silk or alkali traces from the garment.

Finally, drain the water and fill the tub with clean water to give the silk one more rinse. Voila — now you have freshly cleaned silk! But that’s not the end of it,; drying your silk properly is just as important, so keep reading for some silk drying tips.

 

Drying Silk

So we are now at the stage where you have gently washed your beautiful silk garment and it looks like a little ball of wet material. You are keen to get it dry as soon as possible but be warned that the dryer is a 'no go' and so is wringing it out. You don't want to damage your silks, or shrink them or leave them misshapen, that would be tragic!

To dry silk safely lay it out on a white cotton towel. Carefully fold the towel over the silk or roll it to remove some of the excess water. Then, you may either leave the silk laying flat on a clean towel or hang it up to dry. While sunlight can help dry other materials, it should not be used when drying silk as it can cause the fabric to fade.

 

Treating Stains and Removing Wrinkles

 lemon juice mixed with warm water will make a gentle stain remover

You've done everything right so far, and followed the correct washing and drying procedures, but these are only two aspects of caring for your silk items. Caring for silk also means treating and removing stains and safely smoothing out any wrinkles.

If one of your silk garments gets a stain, you’ll want to use a gentle stain remover. Making your own is one way to ensure that you aren’t subjecting your silk to any harmful chemicals that could cause the fabric to deteriorate. Try mixing two tablespoons of lemon juice with two cups of warm water. After testing the garment for colorfastness, spray the solution onto the stain using a spray bottle. Then dab the solution into the area that is stained using a clean sponge. Take care to work gently, and never rub or scrub the fabric as it could cause damage to the silk fibers. After the stain has come out, use the steps we shared above to wash the garment.

The best way to remove wrinkles from silk is to use steam. Start by using a steamer designed for use with more delicate fabrics. Always steam silk when it is dry, not still damp. Using a lower heat setting on your steam will also help you avoid damaging the silk.

 

When to Dry Clean Silk

dry clean only label for a silk garment

Although you may prefer hand washing, sometimes it might be wise to get silk dry cleaned just to be safe. The last thing you want is a tie dye effect if your silk is not colorfast! We would hate for you to ruin any of your favorite silk pieces!

 

Washing Silk at Home

Hopefully we’ve helped you understand that the answer to “can I wash silk” is yes, if you do so carefully and correctly. Your silk items are valuable and gorgeous, and your wash routine should reflect that. Use the steps we outlined above, and you will be able to take excellent care of your silk linens and garments right at home!

 walking on the beach in a silk skirt billowed by the wind

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