Mulberry Silk Disadvantages: Essential Facts Before Buying

I’ve always loved the look and feel of mulberry silk outfits. The shimmery fabric drapes beautifully and feels incredibly soft against the skin.

However, as I’ve learned more about mulberry silk, I’ve realized it has some significant downsides that are important to understand before making a purchase.

In this article, I’ll overview the key disadvantages and drawbacks you should know about mulberry silk.

My goal is to provide unbiased facts and examples so you can make an informed decision if mulberry silk is right for your needs and budget.

black mulberry silk bolt

Why Mulberry Silk Comes With a High Price Tag

Mulberry silk is one of the most expensive fabrics on the market. Here’s a look at how it compares in cost to other common textiles:

  • Mulberry silk can cost $80−500+ per yard
  • Regular silk ranges from $30−100 per yard
  • Cotton fabrics are typically $5−30 per yard
  • Synthetic fabrics like polyester range $3−30 per yard

What makes mulberry silk so much more costly to produce?

Intensive Production Process

Mulberry silk comes from silkworms that only feed on mulberry leaves.

The labor-intensive process of harvesting the silk from the cocoons, unreeling the fine filaments, and weaving the threads into fabric requires specialized skills and is difficult to automate, so it remains very manual.

This intensive production process gets passed along to the consumer through higher prices.

beige mulberry silk fabric yardage

Limited Supply

Global production of mulberry silk is concentrated in China, which produces about 80% of the world’s supply.

But even as demand rises, mulberry silk remains constrained by the limited geographical areas suitable for sericulture (silk production) and the relatively long production cycle from silkworm breeding to finished fabric.

This scarcity drives up the cost.

The high price tag puts mulberry silk out of reach for many consumers on a budget. While beautiful, it’s an indulgent luxury fabric rather than an everyday essential textile.

blue and white mulberry silk fabric piece

Fragile Fabric Requires Special Care

Mulberry silk has a delicate, fragile nature. It lacks the durability of cotton, linen, or synthetic blends, making it prone to damage.

Here are the special care requirements to keep mulberry silk items looking their best:

  • Dry clean only – Home washing risks shrinking, distorting colors, or reducing the sheen
  • Hand wash gently if dry cleaning isn’t an option
  • Line dry only – Avoid heat from dryers to prevent pilling
  • Steam gently rather than ironing to avoid flattening
  • Store silk properly folded or on hangers
  • Be extremely careful to avoid snags, pulls, tears or stains

It’s a laborious process compared to tossing everyday items in the wash and dryer. One accidental over-drying or splash of coffee could ruin a prized silk garment.

blue and white mulberry silk textile

Easily Damaged and Stained

In addition to specialized washing methods, mulberry silk also requires vigilance in how you wear and store it.

Pilling, snagging, tearing or staining are real risks due to the inherent fragility of the fabric.

Environmental Threats

Exposure to sunlight, humidity, and pollution can all cause premature deterioration of mulberry silk.

The proteins fibers will slowly break down through photodegradation when exposed to UV rays from the sun.

High humidity can result in mildew growth. Environmental pollutants can weaken fibers through chemical degradation.

beige mulberry silk cloth

Susceptible to Snags and Runs

The smooth, delicate silk fibers have little elasticity. Just one small snag can quickly run into a major tear if you accidentally pull on a thread.

Earrings, watches, rings, hangnails, velcro, and rough surfaces are all hazards that can catch and pull delicate threads.

Stains Can Be Impossible to Remove

The fineness of mulberry silk makes it prone to staining. Oils, lotions, and other grease-based products can leave permanent stains.

Food and drinks like wine, coffee, and fruit juice create stubborn spots. Even perspiration and makeup can discolor silk if left on the fabric.

Attempts to spot clean stains often end up spreading the stain and ruining the clothing.

blue and beige mulberry silk fabric

Challenging to Source Authentic Mulberry Silk

Between the cost and care requirements, mulberry silk may seem too high maintenance.

But part of the expense comes from the effort of finding genuine mulberry silk rather than cheaper look-alikes. Here are tips for identifying authentic mulberry silk:

  • Check the label – Authentic mulberry silk will be clearly labeled as such. Look for certification codes from authorized regional authorities.
  • Review seller reputation – Buy from reputable brands and check reviews. Beware of prices that seem too good to be true.
  • Learn fabric hallmarks – Genuine mulberry silk has a distinctive sheen, soft drape, smooth texture, and subtle ribbing in the weave.
  • Test with fire – Carefully pass the edge of a thread over a flame. Mulberry silk will quickly ball up without damaging the rest of the fabric.

Counterfeit silk-like fabrics may resemble mulberry silk but won’t stand up to scrutiny. Take time to inspect fabrics and purchase from trustworthy sources.

blue and beige mulberry silk weave

Not Versatile for All Uses

The refined delicacy that makes mulberry silk so prized in certain applications also limits its versatility for everyday use.

Here are some examples where other fabrics tend to perform better:

  • Outdoor gear and sportswear – The fragility makes it poorly suited for high activity uses subject to abrasion, snags, sweat, and stains.
  • Children’s clothing – The cost and care requirements make silk impractical for kids’ clothing that takes a lot of wear and tear.
  • Heavy-duty clothing – Silk lacks the rugged durability desired for workwear and uniform shirts subjected to strain and repeated laundering.
  • Upholstery and curtains – Silk upholstery and drapes require dry cleaning rather than vacuuming and would wear poorly in high-traffic areas.

While silk scarves and blouses make beautiful occasional accessories, the fabric lacks all-around functionality for the full spectrum of clothing and household uses.

blue mulberry silk piece

Ethical Issues in Silk Production

Another disadvantage of mulberry silk lies in the ethical issues surrounding commercial silk production. Most silk is made by boiling silkworm pupae to extract the fine protein filaments. 

Some consumers object to contributing to the billions of insects sacrificed each year to fuel the silk industry.

Silkworms live short, confined lives strictly for human benefit rather than their own survival and reproduction. Strict vegetarians may also wish to avoid silk for this reason.

black mulberry silk weave

Not as Sustainable as Other Fabrics

In addition to the question of insect exploitation, mulberry silk production also has sustainability drawbacks compared to other natural fabrics.

As consumer awareness grows around responsible sourcing and environmental impact, silk falls short in some areas:

  • Pesticide use – Mulberry trees are often heavily treated with insecticides and pesticides to maximize leaf production for the silkworms. These chemicals contaminate groundwater and harm beneficial insect populations.
  • Intensive land and water use – The thirsty mulberry monocultures used to feed silkworms divert precious resources away from food production in some water-scarce regions.
  • Limited biodegradability – Silk fibers lack the ready biodegradability of plant-based textiles like cotton and linen which break down through composting at end of life.

While silk may seem like a natural fabric, commercial production carries hidden environmental costs compared to more sustainable options.

black mulberry silk sheet

Allergic Reactions and Skin Irritation

In addition to sustainability concerns, people with sensitive skin or textile allergies also need to carefully consider mulberry silk.

About 1-3% of the population experiences allergic skin reactions to silk which can manifest in symptoms like:

  • Red, itchy rashes
  • Hives or raised welts
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Eczema flares

The irritating agents appear to come from the sericin proteins that coat the silk filaments. 

These sticky proteins help silk fibers bond together but can provoke immune responses in those with sensitivities.

People often mistakenly assume silk must be hypoallergenic because it comes from a natural protein fiber.

But the reality is that silk allergies occur in a small percentage of the population. Skin testing is the only way to confirm if you can safely wear mulberry silk without risking irritation.

green and white mulberry silk weave

The Positive Side of Mulberry Silk

While this article focuses on shining a light on the disadvantages and drawbacks of mulberry silk, there’s also a reason it remains prized as a luxury textile.

Here’s a quick look at some of the benefits it offers to those who can accommodate the cost and care requirements:

  • Smooth, luxurious feel
  • Lightweight, breathable comfort
  • Subtle luster and drape
  • Temperature regulating
  • Resilience and shape retention
  • Hypoallergenic for most wearers

My goal isn’t to discourage you from mulberry silk.

But I do want to provide a balanced perspective so you have reasonable expectations about the cost, care, and limitations before purchasing.

Going in with eyes wide open helps ensure it meets your needs and avoids disappointments down the road.

In my experience, mulberry silk stands out among other silks for several reasons.

beige mulberry silk textile

Key Takeaways on Mulberry Silk

  1. Expensive – High production costs put it out of most budgets for everyday use
  2. Fragile – Susceptible to snags, tears, and difficult stains
  3. Care Intensive – Requires special handling and dry cleaning
  4. Hard to Source – Risk of counterfeit fabrics passed off as silk
  5. Limited Uses – Lacks durability for activewear and upholstery
  6. Ethical Issues – Involves killing silkworms and environmental impacts
  7. Allergy Risk – Problematic for those with textile sensitivities

What do you think – are the benefits of mulberry silk worth accommodating these disadvantages?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with this luxurious but finicky fabric. Feel free to share them in the comments!

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