How to Make Silk Soft Again: Inexpensive and Safe Methods

Silk is one of the finest and most delicate fabrics, prized for its soft, fluid drape and smooth, luxurious feel against the skin.

However, silk can lose its softness over time, especially if not cared for properly, such as through incorrect washing methods.

The good news is that with the right techniques, you can easily rejuvenate stiff, rough silk and make it soft again.

Whether your silk garments need a little TLC or you’re new to silk fabric care, this guide will teach you how to maintain silk’s coveted softness.

hand washing silk garments in basin

Understanding Silk Fabric

Before diving into care techniques, let’s quickly go over what makes silk special:

  • Silk is made from natural protein fibers produced by silkworms, making it extremely delicate and porous.
  • The fibers have an irregular triangular shape that refracts light, giving silk its signature sheen.
  • Silk absorbs moisture easily but is also prone to water-based stains and damage.
  • It’s sensitive to heat and agitation, so high heat and rough handling can cause silk to lose its softness and luster over time.

Knowing these unique properties will help you understand why special care is needed to keep silk soft.

How to Make Silk Soft Again: Effective Methods

If your silk has become stiff, brittle, or rough, don’t panic! Here are the best ways to restore softness at home:


  • Hand wash in cool or lukewarm water using a gentle soap or mild detergent. Avoid hot water!
  • Rinse thoroughly in cool water to remove all soap residue. The remaining soap can leave the silk stiff.
  • Roll your silk in a towel to absorb excess moisture. Avoid wringing or twisting.
  • Lay flat on a towel and gently roll up to press out moisture. Let air dry completely.

For anyone with silk garments, Heritage Park Laundry Detergent (link to Amazon) is a must-try. It’s gentle on the fabric, yet powerful enough to remove any dirt or stains.

heritage park silk detergent silk clothes cleaning

Vinegar Soak

  • Mix 1 tablespoon white vinegar per 1 gallon of cool water. Vinegar helps remove soap residue and can soften silk.
  • Soak silk for 15-20 minutes to allow vinegar to penetrate fibers.
  • Rinse in cool water until the vinegar smell dissipates.
  • Lay flat to air dry.
silk refreshing wash in vinegar


  • Hang or lay silk out smoothly on a towel.
  • Hold a steamer 6-8 inches above the fabric and apply steam evenly across sections, taking care not to over-saturate silk.
  • Move the steamer slowly and continuously over the entire garment for 2-3 minutes.
  • Let silk rest for 5 minutes, then repeat the steaming process until the desired softness is restored.


  • Iron silk on the inside (wrong side) while still slightly damp from washing or steaming.
  • Use a dry iron set on low or silk/delicate settings. Avoid steam, which can damage silk.
  • Place a cloth between the iron and silk. Never iron directly on the fabric.
  • Iron sections gently to smooth out wrinkles and help silk regain its drape.
iron care for blue silk material

Fabric Softener

  • Add 1 teaspoon hair conditioner or fabric softener to rinse water during hand washing.
  • Alternative: fill a bowl with cool water and 1 tsp conditioner. Soak washed silk for 2-5 minutes.
  • Rinse thoroughly in cool water until the softener smell dissipates.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Silk Care

Caring for silk may seem tricky, but just remember these simple do’s and don’ts when cleaning, washing, and handling silk items:


  • Hand wash only using mild soap in cool or lukewarm water
  • Always air dry silk flat on towels – never hang silk garments
  • Use iron on low silk setting while damp
  • Store folded silk in breathable garment bags or tissue paper away from direct sunlight
washing beige silk by hand in basin


  • Wash silk in hot water or machine wash/dry
  • Wring, twist, scrub, or bleach silk
  • Use steam irons directly on silk fabric
  • Leave silk folded or hanging for too long without use
  • Expose silk to prolonged sunlight or high heat

My article explains the causes of stiffness in silk post-wash and how to avoid it.

machine washing silk 60 degrees

Avoiding these mistakes will prevent silk damage while following the do’s will maintain softness.

Identifying Silk Damage and Quality

Over time and repeated wear, silk can become irreparably damaged. Here’s how to inspect silk for problems:

Look for:

  • Shiny, smooth surface becomes dull and rough
  • Fabric loses drape and structure
  • Snags, pulls, or ripped seams
  • Discoloration, yellowing, or stains
  • Silk feels overly stiff, brittle, or uneven

To check silk quality:

  • Light test: Hold silk up to a light source – high-quality silk will glow.
  • Burn test: Lightly burn a corner of silk. Real silk forms an ash ball that crumbles away. Synthetics melt or become hard beads.
  • Fabric drag: Rub silk quickly between fingers – real silk feels smooth with minimal friction.
  • Sheerness: Stretch silk out – high-quality real silk is somewhat transparent.
silk fabric basin hand washing process

If damage is extensive or you suspect the garment is not real silk, it may be time to retire it. Minor damage can often be repaired.

Cleaning Methods for Maintaining Softness

Regular, gentle cleaning is key for keeping your silk soft. Here are step-by-step methods:

Hand Washing Silk:

  1. Fill a sink or tub with cool or lukewarm water and add a teaspoon of mild soap. Avoid detergents with dyes, perfumes, or brighteners. Baby shampoo works well.
  2. Immerse silk fully and gently swish around. Avoid scrubbing or twisting.
  3. Allow to soak for 5 minutes so silk fibers fully absorb water and soap. This helps dissolve skin oils and dirt trapped in the fabric.
  4. Drain dirty water and refill with cool clean water to rinse. Rinse until the water runs clear.
  5. Roll silk in a colorfast towel to absorb excess moisture, then lay flat on a fresh towel.
  6. Reshape the garment gently and allow it to fully air dry before wearing or storing.
beige silk garment washing in basin
careful hand washing of beige silk in basin
towel drying method for beige silk
drying beige silk fabric with towel
flat hang drying technique for silk

Vinegar Soaks:

  1. Fill sink or tub with room temperature water and add 1⁄4 cup white vinegar.
  2. Place silk in a vinegar bath and gently move around to disperse liquid through the fabric.
  3. Soak for 15-20 minutes, giving vinegar time to penetrate silk fibers.
  4. Drain vinegar water and rinse very thoroughly with multiple cool water changes until the vinegar smell completely disappears.
  5. Lay silk flat on a towel, gently reshape and allow to fully air dry.

Repairing Damaged Silk Fabric

If you notice snags or small holes in your silk garments, don’t worry – you can often repair these at home. Here are a few easy methods:

  • Apply a small dab of colorfast fabric glue or clear nail polish on frayed edges or holes to prevent further damage. Let dry completely.
  • For minor holes, place fine mesh fabric or organza patch underneath and stitch around the edges using thread matched to the silk color.
  • Use iron-on patches, following package directions carefully for silk fabrics. Avoid any patches that must adhered to heat above silk/delicate setting.
  • Visible mending like darning, sashiko stitching or embroidery is an option to creatively add ornamental touches over damaged spots.

For large tears, extensive staining, or other major damage, seek professional help from a silk specialist cleaner or textile restoration expert. Proper repairs can give silk new life!

Ongoing Care and Maintenance

With proper care, you can keep your silk soft and prevent stiffness between washings:

  • After wearing, allow the silk to air out before storing it to prevent moisture buildup.
  • Iron gently with steam on the inside layer while still slightly damp to maintain smoothness and shape.
  • Use silk dress bags or acid-free tissue to store folded silk items in cool, dark places. Avoid plastic bags.
  • Periodically hand wash or steam silk stored long-term to prevent permanent creases and stiffness.
  • Wet a cloth with diluted white vinegar and gently wipe the silk before storing it to help repel yellowing.
  • Bring silk in for professional steaming or dry cleaning every year or two to revitalize fibers.

Discover how to bring back the luster in my guide on making silk shiny again.

silk cleaning in basin using heritage park detergent

Can I Use Fabric Softener Sheets to Soften My Silk Clothes in the Dryer?

No, do not use fabric softener sheets on silk garments. The chemicals and perfumes in dryer sheets can actually damage silk fibers over time, causing yellowing and brittleness.

Dryer sheets may make silk feel softer at first, but air drying is still the safest method. The heat of the dryer can shrink and warp silk’s delicate fibers as well.

If you want extra softness after washing, use a liquid fabric softener in the rinse water as described in this article.

Softener sheets are only safe for cotton, polyester, and other sturdy fabrics. Always air-dry silk clothing, scarves, and bedding naturally.

How Often Should I Wash Silk to Maintain Softness?

For best results, wash silk garments every 2-3 wears during the seasons when worn most often.

In warmer months when silk is worn more frequently, wash after every wear. In cooler months for seasonal silk pieces, wash every 5-6 wears.

Wash as soon as possible after sweating in silk to remove absorbed odors and oils. Here is a handy reference guide:

FrequencyWhen to Wash SilkSeason or Use Case
OftenEvery wearHot summer weather when sweating in silk often
ModeratelyEvery 2-3 wearsSpring and fall seasonal silk clothing that’s worn occasionally
LightlyEvery 5-6 wearsCooler weather for infrequently worn silk items

The key is washing before dirt, oil and perspiration can build up in the fibers.

Allowing silk to go too long between washings can lead to stiffness, yellowing, and difficult-to-remove odors. Proper frequency keeps silk feeling soft and fresh!

washing red silk fabric by hand


The luxurious softness of silk does require some extra care.

But armed with the tips in this guide, you can restore and maintain the fluid drape, smooth surface, and elegant look of your treasured silk garments.

By understanding silk’s unique properties, avoiding damage, and using the right restoration techniques, your silk will stay soft, supple, and lovely for many years of wear.

I hope you found this overview helpful! Let me know if you have any other silk care questions – I’m always happy to help keep silk looking its very best.

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