Top 5 Tips for Care of Silk Clothes

Posted by Susan Marling on

Top 5 Tips for Care of Silk Clothes

1.  Shampoo is Silk's Best Friend!
All silks are natural protein fibers - the same as the hairs on your head.  And we are all in luck since shampoo is formulated perfectly for protein fibers!  Choose a gentle shampoo (baby shampoo is fabulous) and avoid clarifying type shampoos - they really are too harsh.  Add a small amount of shampoo (and for added softness a few drops of hair conditioner) to a sinkful of cold water, swish your garments, 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 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.

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 - if you do have a few wrinkles, the steam will make them fall out (this is especially wonderful 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 bottle filled with water to spritz your garments is another great way to keep them fresh and smooth.

4.  Oh No!  I stained my blouse!
Stains can be removed from your silks without damaging the fibers.  When you notice a stain, place a drop of shampoo on it and gently rub the shampoo to cover the stain. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then wash and rinse the area or garment  and hang to dry.  If it becomes less noticeable, but is still there, try shampoo again.
For oil-based stains (dressings, butter, mayo, oil), you may need to use Dawn dish soap (the blue formula works best) if shampoo doesn't do the trick. Use the same process - cover the stain, let it sit 5-10 minutes, wash, rinse, dry!  Depending on the garment, it never hurts to test the Dawn dish soap on an inside seam first.
For really stubborn stains , try a commercial stain removal product (I prefer the Spray 'n Wash stain stick), but always test first on an inside seam. 


5.  Special Care Situations

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

Yellowed Silks:  Use the vinegar trick again - this will usually remove "yellow" tones and brighten the garment.  Vinegar also removes any mildew smells and is usually safe for all natural fibers.

Lined Garments are a Different Animal:   Handwashing lined garments is not always a rewarding process - not because of the fibers (silk is silk) but they often have interfacings and lining materials that can interfere with your garment drying to a "wash and wear" result.  So, proceed with caution - it really depends on the level of detail and the manufacturer's recommendation, some lined silk garments really do need professional cleaning to look their best.

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.

If you must iron:  Silk can be ironed.  Use steam and keep the hot iron moving over the fabric.  (Use a pressing cloth if you are nervous.)  Never iron wet silk - it will leave rust spots. 

Artisan Clothing: Every artist knows the best way to care for the garments they create - so always follow the instructions of the artist or designer.


In Summary, silk is a strong fiber that with proper care will retain its silkiness and softness for years.  The easy laundering makes it a fabulous fabric for everyday wear and travel!  Wear and enjoy silk - it is the perfect fiber for a busy life!

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