How To Clean And Care For Silk

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Many people worry about buying silk garments or accessories because they think that silk is too difficult and costly to look after properly and that it is likely to spoil easily.  This is a misconception and by following a few simple rules your silk items will look good and feel beautiful to wear for years to come.
 
Cleaning
Always consult the label.  Sometimes items can be hand washed even though the label states it is ‘Dry Clean Only’ but the item may not be colour-fast and this would have to be checked.  If you don’t want to risk damaging your item then it really is best to follow instructions on the label.  You will have one of three options:-
 
Hand Wash
Although silk is a strong material when wet it becomes delicate so care should be taken when hand washing.  Silk should be hand washed in cool or lukewarm water with a mild soap or baby shampoo.  The soap or shampoo should be dissolved in the water first.  Never soak the silk for more than a few minutes .  Distilled white wine vinegar can be added to the rinsing water to dissolve any soap residue and reduce the risk of alkali damage.  A final thorough rinse in just cool water is needed.  Do not wring out or twist the silk to get rid of the water.  Instead place the silk item on a towel and roll it up or place the item between two towels and gently press the water out.  
 
Dry Clean
A silk item with a ‘Dry Clean Only’ label will often require dry cleaning in order to maintain the shape and colour of the item.   Badly stained silk should also be dry cleaned.  Pick your dry cleaner carefully.  Tell the dry cleaner the item is silk and make sure that they are used to dealing with silk items.  Preferably get a recommendation for a dry cleaner from a friend.  
 
Machine Wash
Even if the label says machine wash it is probably the worst way to wash silk and it is not recommended.  Any residual soap or dirt in the machine, the contact with other washing in the machine and the constant turning of the drum all increase the risk of staining and/or damage to the silk.  However, if your washing machine has a gentle cycle at a low temperature e.g. 30 degrees celsius and you really want to wash your item in the machine then you can by taking a few precautions.  Make sure the machine is free of any dirt or soap and place your silk item in a mesh bag or a loosely tied cotton pillowcase.  It is preferable to wash the item on it’s own but if you do not want to do this then only wash small lightweight items with it to decrease the chance of damage.  Do not forget to separate colours.  Use only a small amount of a mild detergent preferably suitable for silk.  Any spin cycle should be at a reduced speed for a short amount of time only.
 
 
Drying
Having gently pressed out any excess water with a towel fine silk should then be hung up to dry.  If your silk is of a heavier type then this can be dried flat.  Silk should not be placed near any heat sources and should certainly never be subjected to direct sunlight.
 
 
Ironing 
Silk should be ironed whilst still damp.  The iron should be on a low setting suitable for silk without any steam function.  Always iron on the reverse and above all be gentle.  
 
Any wrinkles in your silk item can be easily removed by placing the item in a bathroom where the steam from a shower will work it’s magic.
 
Storage 
Moth larvae feed on human hair and skin and so it essential that any silk items are clean when put into storage.  If using tissue paper make sure that it is non-acidic.  It is recommended that the silk items are placed in a cotton storage bag e.g. a pillowcase together with some form of moth/insect repellent.  Plastic bags should be avoided all together because they may cause moisture build up and yellowing of the silk.  The cotton bag should be tied loosely and placed in a dark, dry place. If storing for a long period of time then it is worthwhile occasionally taking out the silk item giving it a good shake and airing it in daylight away from direct sunlight.  
 
 
Summary
Always consult the label.
If stained act quickly.  Consult your local drycleaner. 
If hand washing do not soak the silk for more than a few minutes.
Do not wring or twist the silk.  Use a towel to gently press the water out.
Do not expose silk to direct heat or sunlight.
Iron whilst damp on the reverse on the appropriate heat setting.
Clean silk items before putting into storage.
Store silk items with some moth balls or cedar chips in a cotton pillowcase or other natural material that can breathe.
Store in a dark, dry place. 

Many people worry about buying silk garments or accessories because they think that silk is too difficult and costly to look after properly and that it is likely to spoil easily.  This is a misconception and by following a few simple rules your silk items will look good and feel beautiful to wear for years to come.

Cleaning

Always consult the label.  Sometimes items can be hand washed even though the label states it is ‘Dry Clean Only’ but the item may not be colour-fast and this would have to be checked.  If you don’t want to risk damaging your item then it really is best to follow instructions on the label.  You will have one of three options:-

 

Hand Wash

Although silk is a strong material when wet it becomes delicate so care should be taken when hand washing.  Silk should be hand washed in cool or lukewarm water with a mild soap or baby shampoo.  The soap or shampoo should be dissolved in the water first.  Never soak the silk for more than a few minutes .  Distilled white wine vinegar can be added to the rinsing water to dissolve any soap residue and reduce the risk of alkali damage.  A final thorough rinse in just cool water is needed.  Do not wring out or twist the silk to get rid of the water.  Instead place the silk item on a towel and roll it up or place the item between two towels and gently press the water out.  

 

Dry Clean

A silk item with a ‘Dry Clean Only’ label will often require dry cleaning in order to maintain the shape and colour of the item.   Badly stained silk should also be dry cleaned.  Pick your dry cleaner carefully.  Tell the dry cleaner the item is silk and make sure that they are used to dealing with silk items.  Preferably get a recommendation for a dry cleaner from a friend.  

 

Machine Wash

Even if the label says machine wash it is probably the worst way to wash silk and it is not recommended.  Any residual soap or dirt in the machine, the contact with other washing in the machine and the constant turning of the drum all increase the risk of staining and/or damage to the silk.  However, if your washing machine has a gentle cycle at a low temperature e.g. 30 degrees celsius and you really want to wash your item in the machine then you can by taking a few precautions.  Make sure the machine is free of any dirt or soap and place your silk item in a mesh bag or a loosely tied cotton pillowcase.  It is preferable to wash the item on it’s own but if you do not want to do this then only wash small lightweight items with it to decrease the chance of damage.  Do not forget to separate colours.  Use only a small amount of a mild detergent preferably suitable for silk.  Any spin cycle should be at a reduced speed for a short amount of time only.

 

Drying

Having gently pressed out any excess water with a towel fine silk should then be hung up to dry.  If your silk is of a heavier type then this can be dried flat.  Silk should not be placed near any heat sources and should certainly never be subjected to direct sunlight.

 

                               Ironing 

Silk should be ironed whilst still damp.  The iron should be on a low setting suitable for silk without any steam function.  Always iron on the reverse and above all be gentle.  

 

Any wrinkles in your silk item can be easily removed by placing the item in a bathroom where the steam from a shower will work it’s magic.

 

Storage 

Moth larvae feed on human hair and skin and so it essential that any silk items are clean when put into storage.  If using tissue paper make sure that it is non-acidic.  It is recommended that the silk items are placed in a cotton storage bag e.g. a pillowcase together with some form of moth/insect repellent.  Plastic bags should be avoided all together because they may cause moisture build up and yellowing of the silk.  The cotton bag should be tied loosely and placed in a dark, dry place. If storing for a long period of time then it is worthwhile occasionally taking out the silk item giving it a good shake and airing it in daylight away from direct sunlight.  

 

Summary

  • Always consult the label.

  • If stained act quickly.  Consult your local dry cleaner. 

  • If hand washing do not soak the silk for more than a few minutes.

  • Do not wring or twist the silk.  Use a towel to gently press the water out.

  • Do not expose silk to direct heat or sunlight.

  • Iron whilst damp on the reverse on the appropriate heat setting.

  • Clean silk items before putting into storage.

  • Store silk items with some moth balls or cedar chips in a cotton pillowcase or other natural material that can breathe.

  • Store in a dark, dry place. 

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