How to Hand Wash Silk Garments at Home
Silk is special. Considered luxe for millennia, this delicate fabric made from natural fibers is chic and practical. It works for both summer and winter wear thanks to its inherent breathability and heat retention. And even if the tag suggests DRY CLEAN ONLY, silk garments can be hand washed at home. It’s true! With the natural ability to release dirt fast, silk is fairly easy to clean. It can take a few minutes to execute, but the time and money saved is well worth the effort. All it takes is some mild detergent, a clean sink or wash basin, a towel, a plastic hanger, and some lukewarm and cool water. And please—whatever you do—don’t wash it in a machine on gentle cycle. Agitation is what makes silk shrink, so be gentle guys and gals! Follow our simple home care tutorial to launder your slinky silks without paying a professional.
Step 1 | The Silk No No’s
DO NOT BLEACH! Try lemon juice or vinegar (2 tablespoons + 2 cups lukewarm water) to remove discoloration. Spot test first.
DO NOT DRY CLEAN unless manufacturer recommended! It can shrink certain silks.
AVOID CONTACT WITH HAIRSPRAY AND PERFUME—the alcohol will damage the silk.
NEVER PUT SILK IN THE DRYER OR HANG IN SUNLIGHT. This can destroy the silk fibers, shrink the garment, and cause discoloration.
Step 2| Test Fabric
This is simply a precautionary measure. A step to ease the mind. Spot test your silk with a cool water soaked cotton ball by blotting a hidden spot, like the inside seam. Did the color fade or transfer onto the cotton ball? No. Then your silk is safe to hand wash! If discoloration occurs, bring the garment to your local dry cleaner instead.
Step 3 | Hand Wash
Fill sink or wash basin with lukewarm or cool water (pro tip: never use hot water on silk!). Add 1 teaspoon mild detergent to water to help preserve the silks natural oils. Agitate water to mix in detergent.
Add silk garment to water and immerse completely (pro tip: only wash one garment at a time to avoid mixing colors). Gently agitate the water to move the soapy water through the silk. Then soak item for two minutes.
Rub silk against itself to gently work out any stains. Any tool besides your fingers or the silk is too abrasive for the fine fabric. Remove the garment and rinse the basin to remove detergent.
Step 4 | Cold Rinse
Rinse the garment in cold water. Gently agitate the water or rub the fabric together to remove all detergent. Rinse with clean basin and fresh water if necessary. If the garment feels rough, add 1 teaspoon hair conditioner to a fresh cold water basin and agitate to soften silk and restore shine. Then rinse one last time in clean basin with cool water to remove conditioner.
Step 5 | Drying Silk Safely
Use a clean fluffy towel to dry the silk garment. (pro tip: do not wring or twist the garment. This can damage the fibers.) Remove the item from the water and gently roll it up in the towel. Gently squeeze the water out as you roll the towel against the garment.
Hang the garment to air dry away from sunlight or heat sources on a clean wooden or plastic hanger (pro tip: never use a wire hanger to dry silk. It can leave an imprint). To help the garment hold its shape and avoid wrinkles, button, zip, or tie any fastenings.
To remove wrinkles, hang in the bathroom while you shower or use a steamer on low. Avoid ironing at all costs! But if you must iron, turn the garment inside out and iron on the silk setting with a press cloth between the iron and fabric.
And voila! A clean silk garment!