Silk is a natural protein fiber composed mainly of fibroin and produced by certain insect larvae when they form cocoons (source: Wikipedia). It’s naturally produced without using harsh cleaning ingredients.
Why does silk require special care when washing? Silk is incredibly delicate. Just think about where it came from—tiny bugs. Whether you’re washing silk by hand or in a machine, there are a few rules you’ll want to bear in mind to protect that special garment.
What to Avoid When Washing Silk
Because the fabric is so delicate, there are a few best practices when it comes to washing silk. Listed are a few common laundry techniques that you should avoid:
- Harsh ingredients, specifically bleach. Bleach will damage the natural fibers.
- Do not tumble dry. High temperatures from a dryer can shrink or damage your silks.
- Avoid enzymatic stain pre-treatments (like OxiClean or select detergents). These are meant to clean protein stains from more durable fabrics, meaning they’re not good for a protein fabric like silk.
- Avoid drying your garment in the direct sunlight, this can cause the colors to fade.
How to Wash Silk in a Washing Machine
Sometimes there just isn’t enough time (or energy) for hand washing – and sometimes that’s ok! Here are the best ways to clean silk using your traditional washing machine:
- Wash only with other delicate, light-weight fabrics.
- Wash in a mesh garment bag.
- Add a gentle detergent, such as:
- Soak – Soak is skin- and fabric-friendly, as it’s made without harsh chemicals or overwhelming fragrances. Plus, their bottles, caps and labels are recyclable and printed with water-based inks.
- Laundress – An allergen-free non-toxic formula specifically formulated for delicate wash cycles (like silk!).
- Wash on a delicate cycle.
- After washing, roll the damp garment in a dry towel to remove any excess moisture. Then hang or lay flat to dry.
How to Wash Silk by Hand
Hand-washing is the safest way to wash silk garments. These are the quick steps to take for cleaning silk by hand:
- Fill a basin, sink, or tub with cool water (not warm or hot!)
- Add a few drops of gentle detergent like Soak and mix into water. You’ll only need a few drops—less is more!
- Soak garment in soapy water for 3 minutes.
- Agitate garment in water with your hands.
- Gently rinse garment under clean, cool water until there is no soap remaining on fabric.
- Absorb excess water by laying flat on a dry towel then rolling fabric into the towel and gently pressing.
- Hang garment until fully dry.
How to Spot Treat Stains on Silk
There are three quick tips to keep in mind when removing stains from silk:
- Use very diluted detergent OR two cups of water mixed with two tablespoons of white vinegar or lemon juice. More on natural stain removing techniques here!
- Try not to agitate fabric more than necessary to avoid messing up the color.
- Always spot treat an inconspicuous location first before treating obvious stains!
How to Care for Silk Garments
Taking care of your silk goes beyond how to clean silk by hand or by washing machine and how to remove stains. Here are some care tips that will help you keep your silk garments in great shape.
How To Iron Silk
Do NOT spray the silk garment with water before ironing. Place a different piece of fabric, such as cotton, between the iron and silk.
The Best Way To Store Silk
Keep your silk stowed away in a cool, dry place that is out of the sun. A closed door closet, dresser drawer, or a covered storage bin is great. For other storage tips, specifically when it comes to folding and hanging all clothes, head over here.