Here’s Exactly How To Wash Silk (And It’s Surprisingly Simple)

washing silk

Whether it’s in the form of a set of bed sheets, a bathrobe, or even a blouse, nothing feels quite as luxurious as silk. Although silk production is believed to have originated in China 5,000 years ago (or even earlier), silk remains as much of a luxury good today as it was back then!

Silk fiber comes from silkworms, which produce it in in one long continuous strand that they spin around themselves to form a cocoon. It takes about 2,500 of these cocoons to produce one pound of silk, which helps explain why silk has never really been a commonplace, affordable fabric option.

If you happen to have any silk clothes or linens at home, I can safely assume that you want to keep those items in good shape for as long as humanly possible. If that’s the case, I’m happy to inform you that you are in just the right place, because today’s post will teach you everything you need to know about how to wash silk clothing and other items safely and effectively! :-)

washing silk

Before Washing Silk, Test For Colorfastness

But before we get to the washing step (before we even think about the washing step!), it’s important to determine whether or not your silk item is colorfast. Colorfast silk is much easier to clean because you don’t have to worry about color loss, while silk that isn’t colorfast may bleed, fade, or otherwise lose its color if you attempt to clean it yourself.

To find out if your silk item is colorfast, dab at an interior seam (or on some other inconspicuous area) with a damp cloth or damp cotton swab. If the cloth or swab picks up color from the silk, the item is NOT colorfast and you’re likely to damage it by attempting to wash it at home.

The best option for silk that isn’t colorfast is to dry clean it, ideally by a cleaner who has experience with dry cleaning silk. If your silk item is colorfast, proceed to the next section to learn how to wash it a home! :-)

How To Wash Silk

Machine washing silk can be a bit risky, so the safest option is hand washing silk clothing in cold water with a gentle detergent (or according to the instructions provided on the care label.) In this section, we’ll explore these two options for how to wash silk in greater detail.

washing silk

1. Washing Silk In Your Washing Machine

Silk requires delicate care—really delicate care. So while technically you can machine wash your silk items, it’s worth noting that even the gentlest cycle your washing machine has to offer may be a bit rough for washing silk.

But if you still want to give it a try, follow the guidelines laid out in this post. (Between protecting the fabric in a mesh bag and washing it on a cold, delicate cycle, it’s about as gentle as you can be while still washing something in your washing machine.)

washing silk

2. Hand Wash Silk Items (Recommended)

Hand washing is the safest way to wash silk at home. In just a few simple steps, you can wash your silk pillowcases, scarves, shirts, pajamas, and more as safely as possible.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Fill a basin, bucket, or your sink with cool water, then add a small amount of gentle laundry detergent like Woolite Delicates or even baby shampoo. (Silk is protein-based like your hair, and you certainly wouldn’t want to wash your hair with a harsh detergent either!)
  2. Place the silk garment in the water, stir it around a bit, then let it sit for a few minutes. Silk releases dirt fairly quickly compared to other types of fabric, so it doesn’t take long. Gently agitate the water and garment with your fingers, then drain off the soapy water.
  3. Fill the bucket or sink with fresh, cold water and add 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar, which will help restore the silk’s luster. Let the silk soak in the rinse water for a minute or so, agitate it gently, then drain the water.
  4. Spread the garment out on a thick white bath towel, then roll the towel up to absorb excess moisture from the fabric. Repeat this process several times, moving the garment to drier spots on the towel (or another dry towel) until most of the excess water has been absorbed.
  5. Hang silk to air dry on a plastic hanger, in an area away from direct heat and direct sunlight. (Silk and dryers do not mix, so avoid your dryer entirely!)
  6. To remove wrinkles, steam them out with a handheld steamer or by hanging it in a steamy bathroom. (I don’t suggest using the steam setting on your iron, because even the lowest heat level may singe the delicate silk.)

As long as you make sure to follow these simple steps and handle your silk items with care, they’ll come out clean as a whistle and ready for you to wear again! :-)

washing silk

The Takeaway

Due to its value and delicate nature, silk requires special care. So before I finish up, I wanted to quickly reiterate the most important things to remember about caring for silk:

  • Avoid heat when you’re dealing with silk (which means no hot water, no dryer, and no direct sources of heat and sunlight.)
  • Avoid harsh detergents, bleach, laundry brighteners, and fabric softeners. Gentle detergent and vinegar are all you need!
  • Don’t wring out or scrub silk. Be gentle!
  • Don’t spot treat silk, because it could lighten the area and lead to a “reverse stain.” For moderate stains, wash the entire garment using the process described in this post, and for more severe stains, take the garment to the dry cleaner.

So there you have it—everything you need to know to keep your silk items in tip-top shape! Just keep this information in mind while you wash silk clothes, and the process is sure to go smooth as, well, silk!

Do you have any silk items at home?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


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