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How do I Care for Dupioni Silk?

By Margo Steele
Updated May 16, 2024
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Caring for dupioni silk is similar to caring for other silk fabrics but, while many silks are washable despite their dry-clean-only label, a number of manufacturers and vendors advise against washing dupioni. Some sources say that hand washing is acceptable, but they note that washing dupioni can cause the fabric to shrink and may also soften its texture. There is disagreement on this point, but the consensus seems to be that the wise consumer will err on the side of caution and dry clean articles made of dupioni silk. In addition, special care is called for in dealing with the problems of wrinkles, water or perspiration stains, and sunlight.

Allow wrinkled dupioni silk clothing or drapery panels to hang for a few days. Most wrinkles will relax and fall out on their own. If any remain, press clothing or drapes on a padded, cloth-covered ironing board with a dry iron set on a low setting. Avoid the possibility of creating water spots by not using water or steam. Press garments or draperies on the wrong side even if they are lined.

Water will spot this fabric, and the spots may be permanent. If only one or two spots mar the fabric, it may be possible to erase them by immediately blotting up as much moisture as possible, then gently buffing the edges of the spots with a clean, soft cloth to keep a ring from forming. Treat water spills on silk upholstery the same way. Remove the cushion cover, if possible, and work on the area from the back as well as from the front. Avoid rubbing too hard, because this can leave abrasion marks on the fabric.

Perspiration has the same effect on silk fabric as water does. It will form unsightly rings that may be permanent and can cause the fabric to deteriorate. Wear a cotton blouse or shirt under a silk jacket, and use a reliable antiperspirant. If the garment is designed to be worn without a blouse or shirt and has sleeves, wear underarm shields designed specifically for this purpose. Clean silk worn next to the skin frequently, preferably after each wearing.

Vacuum silk drapes regularly to remove dust that can damage the fabric over time. Use a hand or canister vacuum with a fabric attachment, and, if possible, leave them in place for cleaning. Never spray draperies with fabric-freshening sprays, which also have the same effect as water.

Sunlight will also damage dupioni silk. Protect it by storing silk clothing in a closet without windows, and do not hang garments in direct sunlight when airing or removing wrinkles. Have silk draperies lined with thick cotton. Draperies in windows that receive direct sunlight may also need an inner lining. Keep furniture with silk upholstery out of direct sunlight to avoid damage or fading.

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Discussion Comments
By FrankPolito — On Jan 20, 2014

I have 30 years of experience in dealing with silk fabrics and have just started my retail online business.

First of all, it is worth mentioning that silk fabric like dupioni is very delicate. We recommenced to all of our customers to wash silk fabric with very cold water and apply some not too strong detergent like wool-lite. We then suggest that the fabric is rinsed until all soap is gone. Then use a towel to dab away excess water and roll it in a towel so that some water is removed. Finally, air dry it.

By burcidi — On Aug 29, 2012

@ZipLine-- Your mom doesn't dry the dupioni in the dryer does she?

I did that once and it damaged the fabric, made the dupioni silk curtains all fuzzy. I completely ruined it. Now what I do is I hang it up to air dry and then I will dry iron it on the lowest setting with a towel in between. This is the only thing that works for me.

I haven't heard of many people who wash dupioni in the washing machine but I guess it depends on the machine as well. Some older machines do not have settings for gentle cycle so that's not a good idea. But some of the newer machines might do a better job with dupioni. It's still a risk though.

By ZipLine — On Aug 28, 2012

My mom works with wholesale dupioni silk and makes curtains and drapes with it. She actually does wash it in the washing machine but she uses the gentle cycle. She also sets it up to wash in cold water and rinse in cold water as well. She tells me that this is fine and it doesn't shrink the silk or damage it.

However, she also irons the silk out on the lowest setting after it is washed to make it smooth and shiny again. She has been doing this for a long time and has not had any problems. So I guess dupioni silk is machine washable.

By fify — On Aug 27, 2012

I don't have dupioni silk but I do have a lot of regular silk clothing and fabrics. I usually wash them by hand but I don't do this very often. I basically try to keep them clean as long as possible and if it's necessary to wash, I hand-wash it in warm water with a mild soap. Generally, all-natural soaps and detergents work best.

I have never put silk fabrics in the washing machine because it's just too harsh and wears out the fabric.

I'm guessing if I had dupioni silk, I would do the same. But from what I understand, dupioni silk is a little more sensitive than regular silk. So if the dupioni silk fabric is very thin and flimsy, I would probably end up dry cleaning it.

By LisaLou — On Aug 27, 2012

I have a couple dressy silk tops that I wear for special occasions. There is something special about the luxury of silk, but I like clothes that are easier to take care of.

I have never had silk curtains and this sounds like they would be even more work than silk clothing. If they aren't supposed to hang in direct sunlight, shouldn't be sprayed with water and need to be dry cleaned, they wouldn't last very long at my house.

For me, it doesn't sound like they would be worth all the extra time and expense.

By honeybees — On Aug 26, 2012

@andee-- Taking care of dupiono silk fabric does require special care. If someone is used to fabric that can be machine washed and dried, silk takes more care than that.

I have some dupioni silk panels in my living room that I just love. They look and feel very elegant and luxurious. I take them to the cleaners when they need to be cleaned, and they come back looking like new.

As far as the wrinkles go, they should eventually look OK. Many times when they are packed tightly for shipping, it takes awhile for all the wrinkles and creases to come out of them.

By andee — On Aug 25, 2012

I ordered some dupiono silk curtains online and while I have been pleased with the way they look and feel, I have had a hard time getting the wrinkles out of them.

These curtains have been hanging for about 3 weeks now, and they still look wrinkly. This is the first time I have ever had silk curtains, and am not so sure I would ever buy them again.

By SarahSon — On Aug 25, 2012

I have a faux dupiono silk shirt which I just love. Since this isn't the real thing, the care instructions are probably different than they would be otherwise.

I can wash this shirt in the washing machine in cold water, or wash it by hand. I love wearing this shirt because I have always loved the feel of silk. This is also easier to take care of than a garment that is made of 100% dupiono silk.

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