Top 5 Tips for Care of Silk Clothes

Silk is a strong fiber that will retain its softness, silkiness and strength for years with proper care. Silk is much easier to launder than most people realize - that is why silk is so perfect for everyday wear and travel! Here are my top 5 tips when it comes to caring for silk:

1. Shampoo is Silk's Best Friend

All silks are natural protein fibers - the same as the hairs on your head. We are in luck - shampoo is formulated perfectly for protein fibers! Choose a gentle shampoo like baby shampoo and avoid harsh clarifying shampoos. Add a small amount of shampoo (and for added softness a few drops of hair conditioner) to a sinkful of cold water, swish your garment, rinse with cold water and hang to dry.

Washing your silks with shampoo is good for the fibers - it removes the dirt and oils and keeps the fibers "plumped up".

2. Air Dry Your Silks

Heat will shrink silk - some types of silk will shrink as much as 10% so avoid the dryer. It is much better to air dry a silk garment for the best wrinkle-free finish. After you wash and rinse, hang the garment dripping wet and let gravity dry it from the top down. Wringing or patting dry will actually create wrinkles, so keep it simple - wash, rinse and hang to dry.

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3. Silks Love a Hot Shower

A quick steam shower will freshen up and smooth your silk garments. Hang the garment in the bathroom while you shower - the steam will make any wrinkles fall out (this is especially great when traveling). Of course, if you live in a hot, humid climate, you can always hang your piece outside for a few minutes! A spray bottled filled with water to spritz your garments is another great way to keep them fresh and wrinkle-free.

4. Oh No! I stained my silk top!

Stains can be removed from silk without damaging the fibers. Place a drop or two of shampoo on a stain and gently rub the shampoo to cover. Let sit for 5 - 10 minutes, then wash and rinse the stained area and hang to dry. If the stain is less noticeable but still there, try shampoo again.

For oil based stains (dressings, butter, mayo, oil), try Dawn dish soap (the blue formula works best). Use the same process: cover the stain and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, rinse and dry. (Testing on an inside seam first is always a good idea.)

For really stubborn stains, you can try a commercial stain remover (such as Spray 'n Wash stick) but I definitely would test on an inside seam allowance first.

5. Special Care Situations

Bleeding Dyes: If your silks are bleeding excess dye when washing, you can reduce that by a soak in a cold water/vinegar rinse. Fill the sink with cold water and 1 cup of white vinegar. Soak 20 minutes to an hour, rinse and hang to dry.

Lined Garments are a Different Animal: Lined silk garments have interfacings that can make it impossible to handwash with good results. Lined silk garments often do need professional dry cleaning to maintain their shape.

Men's Ties: Spot clean or dry clean a men's tie. With the bias cut and special lining, ties do not handle complete submersion in water well - they will end up twisted. Better to dry clean.

If you must iron: Silk can be ironed. Use steam and keep the hot iron moving over the fabric. You can use a pressing cloth if you are nervous. But never iron wet silk - you will end up with rust spots.