Silk Care and Cleaning

Silk should either be gently hand washed or professionally dry cleaned.  If the colors are prone to bleeding, such as with Hermes scarves from the 1970's, the silk should be professionally dry cleaned only.  However if the colors are steadfast and not prone to bleeding then gentle hand washing is preferable.  Hand washing can be done quickly, inexpensively, and leaves no toxic residues.

Important hand-washing points:

  • Gently hand wash only in lukewarm water.
  • Never twist or wring out silk garments; doing so can damage the fabric.
  • Never put silk in a dryer.

Washing Silk
To wash the silk by hand, start by adding cool water to a sink or plastic tub. Add a few drops of baby shampoo or wool detergent and agitate the water by hand until suds appear on the water’s surface. Place the silk in the soapy water and submerge it until all the fabric is wet. Gently rub any stained spots on the silk with the soapy water, but be careful not to rub too hard. Scrubbing the silk too strongly can damage the silk’s fibers. Allow the silk to soak for no longer than five minutes.

Rinsing and Treating the Silk
Drain the water from the sink or wash tub and fill it with fresh, cool water. To the water, stir in one-fourth cup white vinegar, which acts as a neutralizer to the alkaline in the soap. Submerge the silk in the vinegar/water solution, making sure all parts of the fabric have come into contact with the solution, then drain the solution from the sink or tub. Rinse the silk under cool, running water, turning the silk inside out after a minute or two to make sure all the soap is rinsed away.

Drying Silk
Once the silk has been rinsed thoroughly, it can be squeezed to get rid of excess water. Avoid wringing the silk because wringing can damage the silk fibers. Lay the silk on a flat towel made of terry cloth and roll the silk up in the cloth to create a log shape. Press the log-shaped towel bundle so the towel absorbs excess water from the silk. Unravel the towel and lay the silk flat on another dry, terry-cloth towel so the silk can dry naturally. While drying the silk, keep it out of direct sunlight.

Pressing Silk
Some types of silk fabric are wrinkle-resistant, so they rarely need to be pressed. If wrinkles are evident as the silk is drying, the silk can be pressed with a cool iron. It’s best to iron silk while it is still damp from washing. If the silk has completely dried, it can be sprayed with water from a spray bottle. Always press a silk garment inside out to avoid leaving any marks on the silk’s exterior surface. If the wrinkles are stubborn and will not flatten, a pressing cloth can be used with the iron to create perfectly pressed silk.

Storing Silk
When hanging a frequently worn silk garment in the closet, use rustproof plastic or wooden hangers. For longer-term storage of silk, cover the silk with a cotton bag while hanging or use acid - free tissue and boxes to store the silk flat. Closets should be cool and dry to prevent mold and mildew from forming on the garment. Lastly, never store silk in plastic or allow it to be exposed to sunlight for long periods of time.

Packing a Silk Blouse
Silk blouses are strategic wardrobe items to pack when taking business trips and vacations. This is because silk can be easily cleaned by hand and has a quick drying time. Silk blouses also allow travelers with limited suitcase space to have an item available that can be worn in a variety of formal and informal settings. To pack a silk blouse, fold the sleeves crosswise across the front of the blouse. Roll the blouse together starting with the top of the blouse and moving downward. Place the rolled blouse in a suitcase around other items. If small wrinkles are present after a silk blouse is unpacked, simply hang the blouse in a closet overnight, which should get rid of the wrinkles. If large wrinkles are present, use a cool iron on the blouse to flatten any wrinkles that are present.