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What is the Best Way to Clean Silk?

By Jodee Redmond
Updated May 16, 2024
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Silk is a natural material that requires special handling to keep it looking like new. You can clean silk at home if you take certain precautions, or you can take your silk garments to an experienced dry cleaner to keep them looking good for a number of years. If you decide that you want to clean silk yourself, you will need to treat your clothing very gently. Hand washing is best, as opposed to putting the item in the washing machine. Even on the "Delicate" cycle, you may still damage the fibers if you use this method to clean silk.

Use cold water and a mild detergent to clean silk at home. A detergent used for delicates or to clean baby clothes may be used. Read the label to make sure that you have something that will not damage the silk before using it. If this is your first time trying to clean the item, start by dipping an inconspicuous part of the garment in the soap and water first. The color may bleed a little when it gets wet, and this shouldn't be something for you to be concerned about.

Dip the item into the soapy water. You will want to avoid excessive handling of the fabric. Simply dunking it in and out of the water a few times should be enough to loosen the dirt and clean the garment.

Once the item is clean, you will need to rinse it in clean water. If you are trying to clean white silk and you are concerned about the color turning yellow, try adding a a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar into the rinse water. This will help to guard against the color changing. You will want to rinse one more time in plain water after using the vinegar rinse.

When the silk item is clean, you can hang it up to dry. Be sure to keep it out of direct sunlight when doing so. Silk may be damaged if exposed to strong light.

Another option when you want to clean silk is to take your clothes to a dry cleaner. You will want to find out whether the cleaner you are considering has experience with these types of fabrics. Point out the fact that your garment is made from silk when you drop it off for cleaning and ask the person you are dealing with to make a note of the fact on the tag. That way, they will give your item the special care it needs.

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Discussion Comments
By candyquilt — On Mar 11, 2011

@fify-- Don't worry, you might be able to get the stains out, even though it's usually tougher as more time passes. I'm a tailor and have been working with silk for many years now. When silk has been stained, the best thing to do is to wash it with cold water and take it to the dry cleaners immediately. You can also buy some dry clean solution or stain remover that is safe for silk and apply a little bit (follow the directions on the bottle) on the stain. Getting stains out of silk is hard. I tried and failed several times, silk tends to absorb stains very quickly and finding stain remover that removes the stain without damaging the silk is difficult. That's why you're better off taking it to the dry cleaners.

To prevent fading, you can definitely add some vinegar to the rinse water. Another tip is that unless there is a stain, for the first three washes, only wash silk clothing with cold water. Don't use any detergents. After three washes, you can use any mild detergent as you have been doing. Also, once in a while, maybe once or twice a year, depending on how often you wear it, I wash silk clothes with a shampoo that contains protein. This makes the colors look brighter.

By fify — On Mar 09, 2011

How do you clean silk with deep stains? I have several expensive silk dresses and shirts. A couple of them have stains on it. I have tried hand washing with a mild detergent but it hasn't worked. Plus, the colors have dulled and faded. Should I take it to the dry cleaners? Are there any tips for getting out stains from silk as soon as it happens? Please help! I don't want to throw them out.

By ysmina — On Mar 06, 2011

I hand wash my silk clothing with an all natural organic detergent or soap and then lay it down in front of a fan that is working on the lowest setting. I've found that this is the best way to do dry it without damaging the fabric and making permanent fold marks. After about seven or ten uses, I take it to the dry cleaners for gentle polishing. This revives the color but make sure that your dry cleaner uses natural and chemical free products.

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