How to Clean 100% Silk at Home: A Step-by-Step Guide

Silk is a luxurious and delicate fabric that requires special care. While dry cleaning is often recommended, you can safely clean 100% silk items at home with the right techniques.

This beginner’s guide will walk you through everything you need to know, from understanding silk’s properties to washing, drying, ironing, and storing it properly.

Follow these simple steps, and you’ll keep your silks looking beautiful for years to come.

silk care hand washing in basin

Understanding the Unique Properties of 100% Silk

Silk has some unique characteristics that require gentle care:

  • Extremely fine fibers – Silk threads are very thin and fragile. Vigorous agitation can damage the fibers.
  • Prone to shrinking – Silk fibers are stretched out when woven into fabric. Washing can cause the threads to contract and shrink the garment.
  • Absorbent – Silk readily absorbs water and stain particles. It’s important not to overload the fabric.
  • Sensitive to heat – High temperatures from ironing or drying can damage silk permanently.
  • Easily discolored – Silk is very susceptible to water spots, perspiration stains, and perfume discoloration.

With proper precautions, you can successfully wash pure silk items at home without harming the delicate fibers. Here are some common misconceptions about silk care:

Silk cannot be washed at homeSilk can be hand or machine-washed if proper steps are taken
Silk must be dry cleanedDry cleaning involves harsh chemicals that can damage silk over time. Gentle home washing is often better
Silk cannot get wetSilk can get wet if the water temperature is moderate and it’s washed gently without wringing

Now that you understand silk’s properties, let’s go over how to prep your silk for washing.

showcasing beige silk on table

Preparing 100% Silk Items for Washing

Before washing, inspect the silk item’s care tag and use these guidelines:

  • Look for the “100% silk” label: Do not wash silk blends at home unless the tag specifies it’s safe. Many need dry cleaning.
  • Check for the “dry clean only” tag: This is common, but home washing is still possible if done carefully.
  • Identify delicate embellishments: Avoid washing silk items with beads, sequins, or other decorations that may snag or fall off.
  • Inspect older silk for weak spots: Antique or vintage silk in poor condition should be dry cleaned or hand-washed extremely gently.

Only wash pure, lightweight silk items at home. Heavy constructions like silk coats or quilts still require professional dry cleaning.

Some good candidates for home washing include:

  • Silk blouses and shirts
  • Silk dresses and gowns
  • Silk slips
  • Silk pajamas
  • Silk scarves and ties

Gather these supplies before washing:

  • Mild, sulfate-free liquid detergent or silk wash
  • Large basin or sink for hand washing
  • Soft towels
  • Silk cleaning glove or extra soft brush for stains
  • Non-rusting drying rack
  • Iron on low heat setting
silk garment basin wash technique

Now let’s go over the step-by-step process for gently hand washing delicate silk items at home.

How to Hand Wash 100% Silk

Follow this method to keep silk fabric looking renewed:

1. Check clothing tags

Verify the item is 100% silk and not specifically “dry clean only” before attempting hand washing.

2. Pretreat any stains

Apply a small amount of mild detergent or baking soda directly on stubborn spots. Wait 5-10 minutes before washing. This helps loosen staining particles from the silk fibers.

baking soda for silk stain cleaning

3. Fill a sink or a basin with lukewarm water

The water should feel slightly warm, not hot, to your wrist. Hot water can cause silk to shrink irrevocably.

4. Add a small amount of mild detergent

Select an ultra-delicate soap or detergent marked safe for silks. Mix into the water just until sudsy.

5. Gently lower the item into water

Submerge the silk completely, but do not agitate it vigorously. Gently move it in the water.

hand laundering beige silk cloth

6. Allow to soak for 2-3 minutes

Gently move the item around to fully saturate with water and detergent.

7. Drain the dirty water

Carefully lift out the silk without squeezing or twisting it. Drain the basin.

careful hand wash for beige silk dress

8. Rinse with clean water

Repeat steps 3-5 using fresh, lukewarm water to remove all traces of detergent.

9. Drain and press out water

Lift silk out of the rinse water and press gently between towels to absorb excess moisture. Do not wring or twist.

10. Dry flat on a rack or towel

Lay the silk piece flat to dry out of direct sunlight. Moving air from a fan can speed up drying.

towel drying silk fabric

11. Lightly iron on low heat

Use an iron on silk setting with steam to smooth out any wrinkles or creases after fully dried.

This hand-washing technique is ideal for delicate silk garments. For small silk accessories or more durable items, you can also wash silk in the washing machine.

ironing method for silk textile

Machine Washing 100% Silk

Machine washing is fine for casual silk items provided these precautions are followed:

  • Use mesh garment bag: Place loose silk items inside the bag and zip shut to prevent snagging.
  • Wash on delicate cycle: Choose the gentlest machine cycle without agitation. Consider a hand wash cycle if available.
  • Cold water only: Set water temperature to cold to prevent shrinking and dye run.
  • No bleach or fabric softener: Avoid any additives that could damage the silk fibers.
  • Air dry only: Line dry or lay flat to dry. Never put silk items in the dryer.
laundry mesh bag silk washing in machine
using laundry mesh bag for machine washing silk
delicate cycle for silk in washing machine

Detergent Tips:

  • Use an ultra-mild, sulfate-free liquid detergent formulated for silk.
  • Alternately, try a mild shampoo or hair conditioner which act as gentle soaps for silk.
  • Mix detergent in water before adding garments to avoid direct contact.
  • I swear by Heritage Park Laundry Detergent (link to Amazon) for all my silk garments. It’s gentle, effective, and leaves the silk feeling wonderfully smooth and looking vibrant.
heritage park silk detergent silk clothes cleaning

With the proper washing method, machine laundering can safely clean washable silk items like blouses, ties, and underwear.

Just take extra care to regulate water temperature and prevent friction damage.

My guide on cleaning silk fabric effectively offers valuable insights.

Drying and Ironing to Restore Silk’s Beauty

Silk requires very gentle drying and ironing due to its fragile fibers:

Drying Guidelines

  • Lay flat on top of a towel or mesh drying rack. Moving air speeds drying.
  • Never wring out silk or place it in the dryer. High heat damages fibers.
  • Dry in shade to avoid sun exposure which can fade colors.
  • Check items thoroughly before air drying to prevent creases. Smooth out hems or collars first.
  • Use rust-proof pins to hold scarves or other small pieces in shape as they dry.
laying wet silk out for air drying

Ironing Instructions

  • Wait until silk is fully dry before ironing to avoid water spots.
  • Iron on the reverse side whenever possible to prevent shine damage.
  • Use the lowest heat setting and place a cloth over the silk as added protection.
  • Only apply light pressure with the iron in smooth, straight motions. Do not push down hard.
  • Check for any beads, sequins, or other embellishments before ironing to prevent snagging or impressions.

With extra diligence taken when drying and ironing, you can restore silk’s beautiful sheen and texture after washing.

Troubleshooting Common Silk Washing Problems

Follow these tips if your freshly washed silk has issues:

Silk seems misshapen, stiff, or shrunken after washing.This is likely due to heat damage from water or iron. Very gently stretch the item back into shape while still damp and allow it to fully air dry. Do not force shape or over-iron.
Silk feels rough and lost its softness after washing.Use an ultra-mild conditioner as a rinse or add a few drops of hair conditioner to the rinse water to restore the silk’s smooth feel.
Silk has perspiration, perfume, or other stubborn stains.Spot treat with diluted mild soap, vinegar, or lemon juice. Avoid chemical stain removers which may harm dyes. Exposure to sunlight also helps remove some staining.
Silk develops fuzziness or snagged threads after washing.Use a very soft lint brush or silk glove to gently remove surface fuzz. Avoid washing delicate silk items with embellishments in machines where they may catch.

With extra care taken while washing, you can avoid common mishaps and maintain silk’s integrity.

elegant beige silk fabric on wooden table

Caring for Silk Properly Between Washes

Here are some tips for protecting silk items between wearing and washing:

  • Allow silks to fully air out after wearing to prevent perspiration stain setting.
  • Use silk dress shields in garment underarms to absorb moisture.
  • Hang silk items on wide, padded hangers to prevent creasing.
  • Cover with a garment bag for added protection from dust and sunlight.
  • Hand wash or spot clean silk scarves after each wear to prevent oil and makeup stains from setting.
  • Apply silk creams or lotions after washing to add moisture back into the fibers. Avoid alcohol or oil-based products.
  • Store off-season silk items sealed in breathable garment bags with cedar blocks to repel insects.
  • Bring silk to the dry cleaner every 1-2 seasons for a deeper, professional cleaning, if needed.

With preventative care between washes, your silk garments and accessories will maintain their beauty and long lifespan.

Find out the ideal care method in my guide on whether to wash or dry clean silk.


Caring for silk fabric properly is easy when you follow these fundamental tips:

  • Always check garment tags before attempting home washing.
  • Hand wash using a gentle detergent and cool water for best results.
  • Machine wash very delicately in mesh bags on a cold, gentle cycle.
  • Avoid wringing and high heat when drying to prevent damage.
  • Iron at low temperatures only until you understand the silk’s needs.
  • Address stains and roughness issues promptly after washing.
  • Store silk in breathable conditions between wears and washes.

While silk requires delicacy, the extra care is worth it to extend the life of this luxurious natural fabric.

With this beginner’s guide, you can feel confident washing and caring for your favorite silk blouses, dresses, ties, and more. Go ahead – give it a try at home! Your silks will thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *