Does Mulberry Silk Shrink? Care Tips to Prevent Shrinkage

Mulberry silk is one of the finest and most desirable types of silk fabric. But its delicate nature also makes it prone to shrinking if not properly cared for.

So does mulberry silk shrink? The short answer is yes, it can definitely shrink if exposed to heat, water, and improper handling.

The key is understanding the unique properties of mulberry silk and following specialized care methods to keep your luxurious silk items from shrinking.

In this article, I’ll provide practical tips on washing, drying, ironing and storing mulberry silk to maintain its lovely drape and sheen for years to come.

beige mulberry silk fabric yardage

Why Mulberry Silk Tends to Shrink

Mulberry silk fabric is made from the long filaments produced by Bombyx mori silkworms that are specifically fed mulberry leaves.

This gives the silk exceptional smoothness, shine, and strength. However, there are also some characteristics that make mulberry silk prone to shrinkage:

  • The natural protein fibers of silk are sensitive to heat and moisture. Exposure to high temperatures or steam causes them to contract and tighten.
  • Agitation or friction during washing can disturb the neat arrangement of silk fibers and cause them to tangle and shrink.
  • Improper drying and ironing techniques using excessive heat can damage silk and make it shrink.

So to prevent shrinkage, it’s vital to understand and follow the proper care methods for mulberry silk.

blue and white mulberry silk material

Best Practices for Washing Mulberry Silk

When it comes to preventing shrinkage, the washing process is the most crucial stage since the combination of water, friction, heat, and detergents poses the highest risk for silk.

Here are the best practices to follow:

Hand Wash for Best Results

  • The most gentle cleaning method for mulberry silk is washing by hand in cool or lukewarm water using a mild detergent or specialty silk wash.
  • Start by filling a sink or large container with lukewarm water and dissolving a small amount of mild detergent.
  • Submerge the silk item and allow it to soak for 3-5 minutes so the detergent can penetrate the fibers. Do not rub, twist, or scrub the fabric.
  • Drain the water and refill, then gently press—don’t wring—the silk item to remove excess water. Rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear.
  • Lay the silk item flat on a non-fuzzy towel and roll up to absorb moisture. Do not bunch up the fabric.
  • Avoid direct heat and sunlight during drying.

Learning whether mulberry silk can handle moisture was crucial for my garment care routine.

filling basin with water
beige silk fabric careful handwash
towel drying gently beige silk
blotting beige silk with towel
dab drying beige silk with towel
hanging beige silk to air dry

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.

using heritage park detergent for silk washing

Use a Washing Machine with Care

  • If hand washing isn’t practical, you can machine wash mulberry silk items on the Gentle/Delicate cycle using cool water and a mild detergent.
  • It’s best to use a mesh laundry bag to minimize friction damage during the wash and rinse cycles.
  • Wash dark and light colors separately as dye may bleed.
  • Use the shortest, most delicate cycle option. Some washers also have a Hand Wash or Silk setting that further reduces agitation.
mesh bag silk protection method
silk scrunchie mesh bag preserving
delicate cycle for silk in washing machine

No matter if washing by hand or machine, always use cold or lukewarm water and non-alkaline, bleach-free detergents specially formulated for delicates and silk.

Never use hot water or harsh chemicals!

Here’s a comparison of hand washing vs. machine washing mulberry silk:

Hand WashingMachine Washing
Most gentle cleansing methodConvenient for large/bulky items
Allows careful inspection and treatmentMesh bag protects from friction
No risk of mechanical damageMust select delicate cycle
Water and detergent fully under your controlCold water and mild detergent only
blue and white mulberry silk fabric piece

Proper Drying Guidelines for Mulberry Silk

It’s just as important to dry mulberry silk correctly as washing it. Improper drying can cause irreversible damage like brittleness, yellowing, and shrinkage. Here are some key guidelines:

Air Dry Laying Flat is Best

  • Lay the freshly washed silk item flat on top of a non-fuzzy cotton towel or drying rack.
  • Carefully smooth out any wrinkles or creases and gently reshape the fabric to its natural silhouette.
  • Move the item out of direct sunlight and avoid placing near heat sources.
  • Allow silk to air dry completely before wearing or storing. This may take 24 hours or longer for heavy fabrics.
indoor air drying beige silk shirt

Avoid Hanging, Tumble Drying or Direct Heat

  • Do not hang mulberry silk items as the weight may stretch them out of shape.
  • Never machine tumble dry silk items or use a hairdryer to speed up drying as the heat will damage silk fibers.

By air drying silk garments laying flat, you allow them to retain their natural shape and texture without risking shrinkage from heat or friction.

Be patient and let silk dry thoroughly before wearing or storing.

beige mulberry silk cloth

Safe Ironing Methods for Mulberry Silk

Ironing is fine for silk items if done carefully using the proper precautions:

  • Before ironing, ensure the silk is completely dry. Attempting to iron damp silk can damage fibers and cause shrinking.
  • Use an iron set on the lowest silk or delicate fabric setting. Start around 250°-280°F max.
  • Place a cloth like a clean cotton pillowcase between the iron and silk fabric to avoid direct contact and potential scorching.
  • Iron slowly using light pressure, lifting the iron frequently and checking underneath for any issues.
  • Only iron the areas that need it rather than attempting to press the entire piece of silk fabric. This minimizes exposure to heat.
  • Turn delicate silk garments inside out prior to ironing to better protect embellishments that my melt or flatten.
silk specific iron temperature setting
silk smoothing with cotton press cloth
silk ironing with cotton press cloth

By taking these precautions, you can safely touch up wrinkles without subjecting delicate mulberry silk to excessive damaging heat.

Storing Mulberry Silk Properly

Improper storage is another culprit that can lead to silk shrinkage over time. Here are some tips for keeping stored silk items in great condition:

  • Before storing for the season, ensure silk items are thoroughly clean and dry.
  • Use padded hangers to evenly distribute shape and avoid potential stretching and distortion of shoulders and necklines.
  • If hanging silk garments in a closet, use breathable garment bags to protect from dust and dirt.
  • Fold silk garments using acid-free tissue paper rather than plastic dry cleaning bags which prevent air circulation.
  • Avoid subjecting silk to moisture, mildew, insects, or direct sunlight by storing in clean, dark places with adequate climate control and ventilation.
  • Periodically check stored silk for any early signs of yellowing or deterioration and have professionally cleaned if required before further storage.
green and beige mulberry silk material

Common Mistakes That Damage Silk

It’s also helpful to be aware of the most common mistakes that can unintentionally damage delicate mulberry silk:

  • Machine drying silk at high heat causing severe, irreparable shrinkage.
  • Using very hot water for washing or soaking silk instead of cool or lukewarm water.
  • Exposure to direct high intensity sunlight leading to fading and deterioration.
  • Improper storage with inadequate ventilation resulting in mildew, discoloration or holes from insects.
  • Attempting to hand wash or home dry clean silk garments without proper training or materials.

I’ve researched whether mulberry silk is prone to pilling, and the findings are quite interesting.

Can I resize a silk garment if minor shrinkage occurs?

While severe shrinkage is irreversible, minor shrinkage may be remedied depending on the construction of the garment.

For woven silk fabric, a professional tailor may be able to carefully ease the fabric back to its original dimensions.

However, knit silk shrinks permanently due to the nature of the knit. The best approach is proper preventative care to avoid shrinkage in the first place.

green and white mulberry silk texture

Is dry cleaning preferable to washing for mulberry silk?

Dry cleaning uses chemical solvents rather than water to clean clothes, so no moisture reaches the silk fibers. However, the heat and agitation risks still exist.

Request no hot drying and warn the dry cleaner it is a delicate silk garment.

While dry cleaning avoids the need to hand wash, the chemicals can also strip dyes over time.

For the health of the silk and our environment, gentle hand washing is best when needed.

Can I stretch silk clothing back to size after accidental shrinkage?

Unfortunately, attempting to manually stretch silk is not effective and risks further damage. 

The application of tension to silk’s protein fibers can cause them to break rather than return to their original length.

Any stretching or reshaping should be done very gradually by professionally steaming the fabric. Small adjustments may be possible, but severe shrinkage is permanent.

To avoid heartache, carefully follow the recommended washing, drying and storage guidelines for mulberry silk.

blue and beige mulberry silk material


While silk can feel high maintenance compared to other fabrics, taking the time to gently hand wash, air dry and properly store your silk garments will keep them looking fabulous for many years.

Follow these mulberry silk care tips and you’ll avoid shrinkage while keeping your silk items soft, lustrous and lovely!

Let me know in the comments if you have any other care tips or tricks for preventing shrinkage in delicate fabrics like silk. I’d love to hear what has worked well for you!

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