How To Clean & Wash Silk [4 Methods Inside]

Silk has been one of the finest luxury fabrics available for centuries. However, finding a way to properly care for silk items has likely been an issue for just as long. The very aspects that make silk so covetable are also what make it quite the tricky material to take care of — the fine, delicate fabric can shrink, tear, or completely disintegrate with improper cleaning. But never fear; we’re here to help! With this guide, we’ll be sharing four different step-by-step methods on how to clean silk, wash silk, and make sure your beloved garments last for years to come. Read on to learn more.

How to Clean & Wash Silk Garments

As previously mentioned, silk is not the easiest material to care for; this isn’t a fabric you’ll want to throw in the wash with the rest of your laundry. Silk is one of the strongest natural fibers available but, unlike cotton or wool, it loses up to 20% of its strength when wet. Moreover, silk has a very low level of stretch. Because of these reasons, it’s common for many people to simply take a trip to the dry cleaners and have them work their magic, but it’s absolutely possible to care for these items at home. The secret is all in a delicate hand, gentle detergent, and proper drying method. Silk items are often quite expensive, so you’ll want to take your time in giving this luxury material the luxury treatment that it deserves. Let’s take a look at four fool-proof methods for cleaning and washing your silk.

Method #1: Hand Washing Your Silk Garments

As a general rule of thumb, the best course of action is to wash your silk garments by hand. Once you throw your favorite silk camisoles into the washing machine it is, literally and figuratively, out of your hands. Hand-washing allows you to select the precise water temperature, target any marks or stains, and have the most control over the cleaning process, preventing unnecessary damage to your silk garment. Here’s our guide on how to hand wash silk.

Step 1: Fill Your Sink

Add in a small splash of gentle detergent. Which detergent you select for this process is vitally important. Since silk is a protein fiber, it can easily be damaged by harsh detergents. The best course of action is to find a detergent made specifically for delicate wash, such as the Silk and Lingerie Wash from Le Blanc. Use your hand to stir up the detergent, creating your cleaning solution.

Step 2: Add Detergent

Add in a small splash of gentle detergent. Which detergent you select for this process is vitally important. Since silk is a protein fiber, it can easily be damaged by harsh detergents. The best course of action is to find a detergent made specifically for delicate wash, such as the Silk and Lingerie Wash from Le Blanc. Use your hand to stir up the detergent, creating your cleaning solution.

Step 3: Submerge Garment

Fully submerge your item in the solution and leave it to soak for around 3 minutes. Remember to only wash one garment at a time when using this method.

Step 4: Agitate Garment

Next comes the most important part — cleaning your silk garment. One of many great things about silk is that, due to the smooth structure of its fibers, it releases dirt rather easily. To clean, simply agitate your garment in the soapy water by stirring it and pushing it up and down.

Step 5: Rinse

Once your garment has been washed, drain the water from the sink basin. Next, rinse the silk using cold water. You’ll want to be gentle, letting the water do the work until it runs clear and free of suds.

Step 6: Dry

Move the garment to a white cotton towel to dry. The towel should be white to avoid any color transfer to your item. From there, gently blot the silk to remove excess moistures, transfer to a padded hanger, and hang over the bathtub to finish the drying process. Never wring out silk, as it damages the fibers and can take away from the soft feel of your item. Also, be sure to let your garment dry away from direct sunlight to avoid discoloration.

Method #2: Machine Washing Your Silk Garments

While hand-washing is the safest method to wash items like silk robes, it’s perfectly fine to machine wash silk as well if one takes care to do it properly. The secret to success here is to wash your item only with other delicates and to use a mesh laundry bag, which allows you to separate your silk items from the rest of the wash. Read on for our method on machine washing silk.

Step 1: Sort Properly

Sort your laundry accordingly — silk should only be washed with other delicate items to prevent damage to the fabric. Also, only wash with similar colors, whites with whites and pastels with pastels.

Step 2: Use A Laundry Bag

Place your silk clothing in a laundry bag such as these. Mesh bags keep your more delicate items separate from the rest of your laundry to avoid abrasion or snagging.

Step 3: Load Machine

Load your washing machine, taking care to not overfill it. Overfilling your washing machine doesn’t allow garments to get as clean as they can when its filled properly.

Step 4: Add Detergent

Add your gentle detergent or silk detergent to your washing machine. Be sure to follow the instructions on the container in order to measure the proper amount. Harsh detergents should be avoided and you should never use chlorine bleach. Bleach and other harsh agents are known to dissolve silk and even diluted bleach can cause yellowing and color loss in your silk garments.

Step 5: Run Delicate Cycle

Wash your garments on the delicate cycle. Most washing machines have a dedicated setting for delicates but if not, choose the shortest spin cycle and a low temperature for the most gentle wash possible.

Step 6: Pat Dry

Once the cycle is complete, remove your silk garment and pat dry with a white cotton towel to remove excess water. You should never dry silk. As a rule, high heat should never be used on silk as it can easily damage and even scorch the item.

Step 7: Hang To Dry

Hang your garment to air dry out of direct sunlight, either on a drying rack or over the bathtub.

Method #3: Removing Stains & Wrinkles From Silk

We all know the feeling of accidentally staining our pristine clothing with food, dirt, perspiration, or any other annoying elements. It’s often even more painful when it happens to our beloved silk pieces. But never fear, because there is a solution to getting rid of those stubborn stains that a simple wash can’t quite solve. Here are our steps for gently removing stains and marks from silk.

Step 1: Test Color

Before you attempt removing stains from silk yourself, make sure to test the color of your garment. The color of bright or dark-colored silk may run if you try to wet it yourself. Take a damp white cloth and dab an inner seam or the underside of the hem. If you notice any color transfer, a trip to the dry cleaners is your best option. If there’s no transfer, continue to Step 2.

Step 2: Prepare Solution

For removing stains from silk, you’ll first need to prepare a simple mixture. One easy DIY solution for removing stains from silk is a mixture of equal parts lukewarm water and either lemon juice or white vinegar.

Step 3: Dab Stain

Using a clean white cloth, dab the solution on the stain. As with all things, patience is a virtue here — continue to dab at the stain, but never try to rub the stain out. This will not only spread the stain but damage the silk as well.

Step 4: Wash

Once you’ve nixed the stain, wash it according to either Method #1.

Method #4: Take Your Silk Garments To A Dry Cleaner

At the end of the day, there may be times when it’s best to leave matters in the hands of the experts. Dry cleaners have access to cleaning methods and solutions that aren’t readily available in most homes. With such a delicate and finicky fabric like silk, many care labels will even recommend “Dry Clean Only”. If you find yourself with a colorful, dark, embellished, or particularly fragile silk garment, it’s best to take it to the cleaners. You may have to pay a small sum, but it will be far easier to stomach than losing your (much more) pricey silk treasure.

Step 1: Find A Reputable Cleaner

Before deciding on a dry cleaner, do a bit of research. Check the web for reviews and the company website to see what services are available — bonus points if they specialize in dry cleaning silk.

Step 2: Give Them The Run-Down

In order to achieve the best possible service, point out any problem areas or stains on the garment you’re having cleaned. This will make it easier on your cleaner and ensure that nothing gets missed. Also inform them of any at-home solutions you’ve tried just to be safe.

How To Store & Care For Your Silk

Making sure your silk garments last as long as possible begins with proper storage and care. To prevent creasing, silk should generally be hung on hangers (velvet ones will prevent your clothing from slipping off). Always make sure your garments are clean before storing, as they can become food for moths, and never leave silk in direct sunlight.

How to Remove Wrinkles From Silk

While not as prone to wrinkles as fabrics like linen and cotton, silk is heat-sensitive, which can make removing any creases a bit difficult. Your best bet for removing wrinkles from silk is a steamer. This provides just enough moisture to loosen up the fabric and let any wrinkles or creasing fall out. For more deep-set creases, ironing will do the trick, but be sure to set the iron to the lowest temperature possible to prevent scorching.

The Bottom Line

Silk is beloved for its beauty and luxurious quality and deserves the best possible care in order to preserve it. Whether you’re washing your silk robes or camisoles, following these methods will ensure that your pieces last for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does silk get ruined in the washing machine?

Not if you wash it properly. When washing silk in the washing machine, set your machine to the Delicate setting or to its lowest spin cycle and temperature. Place your silk in a laundry bag and only wash with other delicates and similar colors.

How do you wash silk and keep it soft?

Silk becomes less soft as the fibers get damaged. To prevent damage and keep your silk perfectly smooth, wash it using cold or cool water and gentle detergent (or silk detergent). Never use harsh detergents, bleach, or excessive heat on silk.

What happens when you wash silk?

Carefully washing your silk garments will preserve their luster and smoothness and also prevent them from being eaten by moths.

Is it better to hand-wash silk?

Yes. Hand-washing allows for a more gentle approach that washing machines simply can’t offer. This method also makes it easier to target and remove stains from silk.

How often should you wash silk?

Just as often as any other material. As long as you use the right method and laundry detergent, silk can be washed after every wear.

How do you wash silk without it shrinking?

Washing your silk in cold water and hanging it to dry will prevent any shrinkage. Avoid drying silk in the dryer to avoid damage and shrinking.

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