Ironing silk can seem daunting to the beginner. With its delicate nature and sensitivity to heat, it’s easy to see why so many are intimidated by the thought of pressing those luxurious silk fabrics.

But armed with the proper techniques and my tried-and-tested advice, you’ll be gliding your iron over silk with ease and confidence.

My goal is to equip you with all the skills and knowledge needed to successfully iron a variety of silks.

From lightweight chiffons to heavier satins and velvets, you’ll be able to care for your silk pieces properly. Ready to master the art of ironing silk? Let’s begin!

ironing silk fabrics with cotton protection

The Delicate Art of Ironing Silk

Silk has unique properties that make it more challenging to iron than cottons or other fabrics:

Understanding these special characteristics is key for ironing silk clothes without causing harm.

Always handle silk gently, test your iron heat before pressing fabrics, and take precautions to prevent moisture damage.

hand technique for silk wrinkles

Preparing to Iron Silk

Before you begin ironing, invest some prep time to check your equipment and fabric:

Select the Right Iron Temperature

  • Consult fabric care labels first for the recommended heat settings.
  • In most cases, medium to low heat (270°F or less) is suitable for silks.
  • Ensure your iron can precisely adjust to lower temperatures. Many now have a “silk” setting.
  • If uncertain – start low at 150°F and slowly increase as needed.
  • Silks with embroidery require even lower temperatures (under 200°F).
silk specific iron temperature setting

Check the Iron’s Steam Functions

  • Steam ironing can cause water stains on silk – rely more on heat instead.
  • However, many irons automatically emit steam bursts even on dry settings.
  • Opt for an iron with dry settings that don’t release steam.
  • Or, leave steam vents unblocked but don’t actively use the steam function.
iron steaming method

Use a Press Cloth or Other Protective Layers

  • Direct contact between a hot iron and silk can damage the fabric.
  • Always place at least one sheer, heat-resistant layer over your silk before ironing.
  • Recommendations: silk press cloth, cotton muslin, old silk/nylon stockings.

Now that your tools are prepped for silk, let’s get pressing!

Step-by-Step Guide to Ironing Silk

Follow these steps to properly iron different types of silk clothing, fabrics, and home wares without causing damage:

1. Check Garment Labels

  • Review fabric content, manufacturer’s care guidelines, and fiber blends.
  • These provide crucial clues on the best heat and methods to use.
silk fabric care label

2. Prepare Your Pressing Surface

  • Lay down a clean sheet or garment pressing mat. Avoid hard surfaces.
  • For added protection, cover with a Turkish towel or wool blanket.
damp cloth technique for silk ironing

3. Test Iron Heat on the Inside Hem

  • When trying a new iron temperature, first test it on an inconspicuous inner area of the garment.
  • Press the inside hem lightly and check for any problems before moving to the exposed outer layers.

4. Place Protective Pressing Cloth Over Area

  • Position your chosen press cloth, silk stocking, or other sheer material over the area to be ironed.
  • For garments, insert a cloth between both front and back layers.
using cotton press cloth for silk

5. Press Sections Methodically

  • Work in sections from top to bottom, shifting the protective cloth as you go.
  • Lift and lower the iron gently – never drag the iron horizontally across the fabric.
  • Apply light pressure, don’t press down too firmly.
cotton cloth layered silk ironing

6. Use Relaxed Hand to Guide Iron

  • Maintain a flexible wrist and light grip as you iron so the fabric can move freely.
  • This allows the heat and steam to do the work without tugging or over-manipulating the silk.

7. Allow Silk Sections to Cool and Dry Between Pressing

  • Don’t rapidly iron back and forth over the same spot or you may damage fibers.
  • Give each section a minute or two to cool off and dry before repeating.
avoiding shine on silk with cotton cloth

8. Use Tailor’s Ham for Contoured Areas

  • For shaped garment areas like sleeves, darts, or collars cover with a cloth and gently stretch over a tailor’s ham or cushioned surface while ironing.

And that’s it! With this careful approach, you can successfully iron a wide range of silk garments and textiles.

Always start conservatively with heat and build up slowly only as needed.

Now let’s get into specifics…

natural silk fabric detail

Tips for Ironing Different Silk Garments and Items

Ironing methods may vary slightly depending on the type of silk item. Refer to this handy table for fabric-specific do’s and don’ts:

Silk Item/BlendDo ThisDon’t Do This
ShirtsIron the shirt collar and cuffs first for a crisp appearance.Leave the shirt on the ironing board too long after ironing, which can cause new wrinkles to form.
BlousesIron blouse sleeves and collars on a sleeve board to maintain shape.Iron over buttons or embellishments, which can damage them or the iron.
TopsHang silk tops immediately after ironing to prevent wrinkles from forming.Iron on a surface that’s too small, causing parts of the top to wrinkle as you iron.
TiesRoll up the tie loosely and store to avoid creases instead of ironing.Iron silk ties directly; it’s better to use steam from a distance if the tie must be refreshed.
Pocket SquaresLay flat and cover with a thin towel to iron the pocket square without direct contact.Use high heat, which can scorch or alter the fabric’s texture.
ScarvesIron silk scarves in sections, keeping the fabric straight and flat.Twist or pull the fabric while ironing, which can distort the shape.
GownsIron with the gown hanging if possible, to ease handling large, flowing fabrics.Iron intricate lace or beading; use steam or a professional service instead.
Wedding DressesConsult a professional; if DIY, carefully iron the wedding dress layers separately.Attempt to iron without proper equipment or space, risking damage to delicate details.
DressesIron dress seams and hems from the inside to preserve the exterior finish.Over-iron pleats or ruffles, which can flatten their intended volume and shape.
SkirtsUse a tailor’s ham for rounded areas like hips to maintain the shape.Iron over skirt pleats without securing them, which could misalign or flatten them.
PantsIron the pants waistband first, then move down the legs, keeping seams aligned.Create a crease on soft fabric pants not designed with creases, altering their intended look.
PajamasIron silk pajamas on a low heat setting quickly after washing for a cozy finish.Store folded tightly right after ironing, which can introduce new wrinkles.
PillowcasesIron both sides of the pillowcase for a smooth, inviting appearance on your bed.Use starch, as it can make the fabric feel stiff and uncomfortable against the skin.
RobesIron robes on a hanger to easily maneuver around large, open areas.Over-iron delicate trims or ties, which might damage or twist them.
JacketsIron jacket lapels and collars by pressing from the underside to maintain their structure.Apply heat directly to outer fabric without checking for heat sensitivity, risking sheen or scorch marks.
SuitsPay attention to the shoulders and sleeves to keep their shape; use a pressing cushion.Press silk suit too hard on the fabric, which can shine or flatten the wool’s natural loft.
CurtainsIron silk curtains while slightly damp to handle large areas efficiently, then hang immediately.Let them sit folded after ironing, which can reintroduce wrinkles.
GlovesUse a small towel inside to maintain the gloves shape while ironing gently.Apply too much pressure, which can stretch or misshape the gloves.
KimonoFollow traditional folding lines when ironing silk kimonos to maintain their shape and design integrity.Iron over silk screen prints or embroidery directly, which can damage these delicate features.
KurtaPress along the stitching to keep the kurta’s shape intact.Overlook ironing inside folds and under layers, which can leave noticeable wrinkles when worn.
SareesIron sarees on a flat, large surface to handle their length and avoid creases.Overlap or fold heavily embroidered sections, as it may damage the embroidery when pressed.
DhotiFocus on keeping pleats aligned while ironing dhotis to maintain its traditional appearance.Drag the iron across pleats, as it can cause them to lose their crispness and shape.
ChiffonIron silk chiffon in a straight, gentle motion to avoid stretching this delicate fabric.Let the iron rest in one spot for too long, as chiffon can burn or become misshapen easily.
Silk VelvetUse a steamer instead of an iron if possible, to avoid crushing the pile of the velvet.Press down on the fabric; always keep the iron hovering if you must use it to avoid crushing silk velvet.
Silk Polyester BlendIron on the polyester setting rather than silk to accommodate the blend’s resilience.Assume the silk blend can tolerate high heat; synthetic fibers might melt or warp.
Silk SatinKeep the iron moving constantly to prevent heat spots that can mar the silk satin’s glossy surface.Use steam excessively, as it can cause watermarks on satin’s lustrous surface.
Silk LinenIron while slightly damp to make it easier to smooth out natural silk linen wrinkles within the blend.Forget that silk linen blends crinkle easily; avoid bunching the fabric while ironing.
DupioniAccept the natural slubs and texture; don’t try to iron silk dupioni out completely for authenticity.Attempt to achieve a perfectly smooth surface; Dupioni’s charm is in its texture.
CharmeuseIron on the lowest heat setting to maintain the fabric’s delicate, luxurious feel.Rush the process; Charmeuse requires patience and gentle ironing.
Mulberry SilkUse a dry iron on a low setting to best preserve the mulberry silk’s natural sheen.Expose Mulberry silk to direct sunlight after ironing, as it can fade the natural dyes.
Fake SilkTest the iron’s heat on a small, inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn’t melt or distort.Assume all fake silk can be ironed at the same temperature; compositions vary and may react differently.
Faux SilkIron on the synthetic setting with light steam to avoid water spots and heat damage.Apply direct heat without a test; faux silk’s synthetic fibers can melt or warp under too much heat.
Vintage SilkUse a dry iron on a low heat setting to avoid damaging the delicate, aged fibers.Use steam, as vintage silk can be particularly susceptible to water stains and heat damage.
Pleated FabricHang the fabric vertically and use a steamer to gently remove wrinkles without flattening pleats.Press directly with an iron, which can remove the pleats or cause them to become uneven.
silk tie careful ironing

Addressing Common Questions When Ironing Silk

What Happens If I Iron Silk at Too High Heat?

Ironing silk too hot can cause Irreversible damage like shiny patches, melted fibers, and scorch marks. They cannot be removed once overheated.

Always start cooler rather than hotter to be safe. If uncertain of fiber composition, assume it’s delicate silk and use conservative temp and dry heat only.

How to Remove Iron Marks from Silk

If your iron is too hot or stays in one spot too long, it can leave a shiny mark on silk.

To remove minor marks from silk, place a damp cloth over the area and hold a medium-hot iron over it, allowing the steam to diffuse the mark.

For more stubborn shiny spots, try rubbing the area gently with a paste of baking soda and water. Rinse clean.

This should lift residue from the silk fibers without damaging the fabric.

silk clothing wash in baking soda
refreshing silk garments with baking soda

Does Silk Shrink When Ironed?

Silk is prone to shrinking when exposed to high heat. If you notice your silk garment getting tighter after ironing, you’re using water that’s too hot!

Lower the iron’s temp to a silk-safe setting. To relax the fibers, steam the fabric while gently tugging and smoothing it back into shape. Lay flat to dry.

Keeping Silk Wrinkle-Free After Ironing

Ironing silk takes time and care. After putting in all that effort, the last thing you want is for everything to get wrinkly again in storage!

Follow these tips to keep your silks smooth:

Proper Hanging

  • After ironing, allow garments to fully cool before hanging to avoid new creases from forming
  • Use wide, padded hangers that evenly distribute the weight of the garment
  • Hang heavy silks like velvet and satin by the waist or bottom hem – avoid hanging delicates by the shoulders

Folding & Storing

  • Wait until completely cooled before careful folding
  • Use acid-free tissue paper between folds
  • Lay flat in cool, dark places – avoid stuffing tightly on shelves or in drawers
silk wrap with acid free paper
acid free paper silk packaging

Traveling with Silk

  • Pack using garment bags with tissue paper to prevent crushing
  • Put items on padded hangers in the car/plane if possible to minimize new wrinkles

For example, when ironing a silk cocktail dress or blouse for an upcoming event, hang on a wide hanger covered with felt or velveteen to keep the shape.

Before packing into a suitcase, wrap in tissue and place in a garment bag, laying flat amongst other clothes.

Upon arrival, steam or use a blow dryer if new creases appeared. Following these easy storage rules will keep delicate silks looking their best!

elegant pure silk texture

How to Steam Silk

Steaming is an effective way to remove wrinkles from silk without an iron. Use a garment steamer with variable temperature controls suited for delicate fabrics.

Test on an inconspicuous area first before steaming a garment entirely. Hold the steam head 6-8 inches away and steam vertically only (no sideways waving motions). 

Steaming helps relax fibers – avoid excessive heat and moisture. You can also use a steam iron if you select an appropriate temp for silk.

But in general, steaming puts less concentrated heat on silk compared to ironing, making it the safer choice and less likely to ruin your delicate fabric.

Nonetheless, take care not to damage fibers with excess moisture when steaming. And remember to stretch and reshape items if any shrinkage occurs.

The HiLIFE Steamer (link to Amazon) has been a game-changer for my delicate silk fabrics, leaving them smooth and wrinkle-free every time. It’s super easy to use and gentle on the fabric, making it my go-to tool for a fresh, polished look!

fabric steamer in box
preparing steamer for fabric use

How to Unwrinkle Silk with a Hair Dryer

A blow dryer on a cool setting can be used to relax light wrinkles in silk, providing a convenient alternative for those who may not have access to a steamer.

Turn the garment inside out and gently stretch the area with one hand while blowing air across wrinkles around 6 inches away.

The airflow helps smooth fibers. Be very careful not to concentrate heat in one area to avoid damaging silk.

selecting lower setting on hair dryer
silk smoothing with hair dryer

Specific Considerations for Unwrinkling Dry Clean Only Silk

For “dry clean only” silks that are prone to water spotting, use only a cool blow dryer, cool steam from an iron or garment steamer, or try hanging in a steamy bathroom.

Do not use any water or wet methods. Test hair dryer and steamer settings on the inside seams first.

Carefully stretch and work wrinkled areas with your hands to avoid friction damage.

How Is Unwrinkling Silk Blends Different from 100% Silk?

Silk blended with sturdy fabrics like cotton, wool, or polyester can typically handle higher heat from ironing or steaming than pure silk.

Check garment labels for temperature guidance. Blends can still be delicate though – start low with anything silk.

And remember to steam vertically, keep the iron moving, and not over-manipulate fabric when removing wrinkles from silk blends.

premium green white silk detail

Key Takeaways for Fuss-Free Silk Ironing

I hope this beginner’s guide gives you ample tips and confidence to start properly caring for your elegant silks at home.

Follow the fabric-specific suggestions in this article, invest in quality ironing tools, always use conservative temperatures, and refrain from excess moisture.

With some practice, a steady hand, and a bit of patience, you’ll be able to press delicate silks minus any disastrous shine marks, scorches, or tears.

Say goodbye to dry cleaner visits and maintain your beautiful silks in pristine condition for special occasions and everyday wear!