Learn how to wash silk! Silk is one of the gentlest, softest and most flowing fabrics that always gives a beautiful finished product. Therefore silk needs a gentle, soft treatment and to be washed carefully. Hand washing is generally recommended, but many washing machines do have cycles for delicate fabrics that can be used with caution.
How to Wash Silk
Silk is a natural fiber used for lingerie, formal clothing and beautiful flowing garments. With silk, the first-ever wash is the most important one and will help you know how to proceed for the next washes.
Step 1 - Test Before you Start
READ THE LABELS - Don't do anything until you have read the washing and care labels. If your label specifies dry clean only, then head straight to the cleaners. It is not worth risking an expensive silk garment. If the label says washing is ok then here is where to start.
TEST - Always test for colorfastness and wash separately the first time., particularly for darker colors that might run. Start with a spot test in an inconspicuous place to see how colorfast your piece of fabric is. Dip a spot in some warm water and see if the dye runs. Rub the wet spot on a scrap of white fabric to see if there is any transfer of color. If you are sewing a piece of silk fabric then cut a small sample of fabric to do the colorfast test.
Look at the reaction and if there is no effect, then you are safe to wash the garment and continue on to the next step. If the color runs, you may have to have your fabric dry cleaned to prevent color fading.
Step 2 - Mix Detergent
- Mix a small amount of warm water together with some of the washing powder or detergent you plan to use. This will help the detergent dissolve first and is especially important for powders. You don't want any white residue left on your precious silk garments.
- Make sure you use a gentle washing powder suited to delicate fabrics.
- Do not add bleach to silk fabrics. The delicate fabric will be ruined by bleach and you are likely to end up with holes.
Step 3 - Wash
HANDWASHING - Once you have tested your silk, you are ready to wash gently in a basin of lukewarm or cold water. Swish the fabric around in the water with some gentle squeezing. Try not to wring or scrub the fabric. If you have a soiled area rub it gently with your fingertips. It is better to let the silk soak for a short time up to 30 minutes rather than continually moving it around. Wet silk is even more delicate than dry silk.
MACHINE WASHING - If you want to risk machine washing, then wash silk on a delicates cycle with cold or lukewarm water. Small items may wash well if they are enclosed in a net washing bag. These are often called lingerie washing bags and are used to wash bras and delicates. Wash the item separately and not with your normal washing load. Take the silk garment out of the machine immediately when the cycle is finished and don't let it just sit there.
STAINS - Try seeing if stains are removed by simple washing and soaking. If you want to try a stain remover, make sure you read the instructions and ensure it is suitable for silk. Do a test in an inconspicuous place first to see if it removes color. Spray at your own risk. In saying that, if your silk garment is stained it may be ruined anyway so it may be worth the risk. If you have any doubt, you may be best taking the garment to a dry cleaner to remove the stain.
Step 4 - Rinse
When you are sure the garment is clean empty the water out of the basin and rinse the garment in cold water until you are sure there is no more soap. Most machine washes will have a rinse cycle so this is only relevant for hand-washed silk items.
Step 5 - Drying
- Do not squeeze the wet silk. Instead, lay the garment flat on a towel and roll up the towel to include the silk garment. Squeeze the towel to draw the water out of the silk. Open the towel and repeat the process if the silk needs to dry out further.
- When you are sure there is little or no water left in the fabric lay it out flat to dry on top of a towel. The reason it is best to dry silk flat is that it can go out of shape easily and stretch when it is wet. Drying it flat minimizes any loss of shape and stretched out places where the hanger is placed.
- Dry in the shade away from sunlight or excess heat.
- IMPORTANT - Do not put silk into a dryer.
Step 6 - Ironing Silk
Ironing silk takes a little extra care to protect this delicate fabric
- Ensure your silk garment is completely dry before you attempt to iron it. Wet or damp spots can leave marks as the area heats up.
- Turn your item inside out so you will be ironing the wrong side of the fabric. This will prevent iron marks on the right side.
- Use a pressing cloth so that the iron does not touch the silk directly
- The iron should be on low heat. Some irons have a specific silk setting so check your dial first.
- Do not spray the silk with water or ironing sprays as it may leave marks. Also check that your iron does not emit water spots which may mark the silk.
Step 7 - Storing Silk
Now you know how to wash silk you need to hang it up. If you plan on storing your silk garment it is important to prevent it marking and getting damaged.
- Always store silk away from light so the colors do not fade.
- Silk is a natural fiber so it is important to protect it from moths and silverfish.
- If you have a plastic bag over your silk garment, do not seal it completely so it can breathe.
How to Wash Silk - Summary
- Test for colorfastness on a small, inconspicuous spot
- Dissolve the detergent in the water first
- Hand wash in lukewarm or cold water
- If using a machine wash use a gentle cycle and remove immediately
- Rinse well with cold water
- Use a towel to remove excess water
- Dry flat in shade
- Do not put silk in a dryer
- Iron on a silk or low setting and do not spray water
- Store away from light and protect from insects
How to Wash Silk - In Conclusion
Silk is delicate and needs special attention. Pure silk fabric has all the qualities of refinement and elegance so it deserves respect at all times. Millions of silkworm hours went into making the original piece of material! Washing it with care is the only way to preserve its true value as a beautiful fabric.