How to Store Silk Long Term: Tips for Preserving Quality

I absolutely love wearing silk, but properly caring for my silk items has always seemed a bit mysterious.

Through trial and error combined with expert advice, I’ve learned the best practices for keeping delicate silks in pristine condition for years to come.

In this article, I’ll share everything I wish I knew earlier about long-term silk storage.

You’ll learn the ideal storage conditions, materials, and techniques to preserve the beauty and quality of your favorite silk pieces.

silk stored in a zippered garment bag

Choosing the Right Storage Environment

The key to extended silk storage is creating an environment that avoids damage from light, heat, humidity, and pests.

  • Store silk in a cool, dry, dark place. Fluctuating temperatures can weaken silk fibers over time.
  • Prevent direct sunlight exposure, which can fade colors.
  • Keep humidity under 65% to inhibit mildew growth.
  • Avoid basements and attics as storage spaces due to temperature extremes.
  • The best spots are inside closets, under beds, or on shelving in spare rooms.

I store my silk items in acid-free archival boxes inside a closet in a guest bedroom. The closet stays dark and maintains a very consistent, cool temperature all year round.

Folded silk items packed inside a fabric storage box

Preparing Silk for Storage

Before storage, it’s vital to gently clean and completely dry your silk pieces using the proper methods.

  • Dry clean delicate silk garments instead of washing. If hand washing, use a mild soap in cold water.
  • To dry silk, lay flat on top of towels and reshape while still slightly damp. Never place wet silk directly on hangers.
  • Fold scarves, ties, and other small silk accessories. Hang dresses, blouses, and long garments to prevent permanent creases.

I always hand wash my silk scarves using baby shampoo diluted in cool water.

After reshaping the damp scarf on towels, I let it finish air drying completely before storing to prevent moisture damage over time.

soft soap wash for white silk scarf
towel dab drying white silk scarf

Using the Right Storage Materials

Choosing quality materials designed for preservation is essential for keeping silk in optimal condition.

  • Store silk in acid-free tissue paper to prevent yellowing. Change the paper every few years.
  • Place the wrapped items in breathable fabric boxes or bags. Avoid plastic containers that trap moisture.
  • Padded hangers are ideal for hanging silk garments, preventing snags and shoulder dents.
  • Roll scarves and loosely fold ties to minimize creasing and wrinkling.

For my silk dresses, I use thick padded hangers inside breathable garment bags.

Smaller items like scarves and ties go in archival boxes wrapped in acid-free tissue, separated by sheets of the tissue paper.

silk wrap with acid free paper
acid free paper silk packaging

Protecting Silk from Pests

Guarding against fabric pests like moths is crucial for keeping stored textiles damage-free.

  • Inspect regularly for early signs of infestation like tiny holes or shedding fibers. Catching issues early is key!
  • Moth larvae hate the scent of cedar, lavender, rosemary, mint, and other natural aromatics. Use them throughout storage areas.
  • Place sachets of these dried herbs inside storage boxes and hang cedar blocks in closets. Replace the repellents every 3 months to retain potency.
lavender and silk fabric

I sprinkle dried lavender buds in all my silk storage boxes and hang cedar blocks on either side of the closet hosting my silk garments.

I check the items thoroughly twice a year and replace the lavender and cedar regularly to keep moths away.

This table summarizes the optimal materials and techniques for storing different types of silk items:

Silk ItemBest Storage MethodRecommended Materials
Dresses & BlousesHang on padded hanger inside breathable garment bagPadded hanger, archival garment bag
ScarvesFold loosely & wrap in acid-free tissue inside archival boxAcid-free tissue paper, archival box
Ties & RibbonsRoll loosely & wrap in tissue inside archival boxAcid-free tissue paper, archival box

How Long Can Silk Last?

With proper storage methods, high quality silk can remain in pristine condition for decades or even centuries!

  • Frequent use and improper care cause silk to deteriorate faster from light damage, humidity, creases, etc. Proper storage vastly extends its lifespan.
  • Over time, silk may yellow slightly or develop minor splits along fold lines. But these changes happen very gradually.
  • Make sure to check periodically for early signs of damage. Addressing issues quickly prevents rapid deterioration.

I have silk pieces inherited from my grandmother that still look and feel brand new after almost 70 years in storage! With proper care, silk lasts for generations.

elegant green white silk design

Expert Tips for Preserving Silk

I asked textile preservation experts to share their top silk storage tips:

  • “Storing silk items loosely allows air circulation to prevent moisture buildup and potential mold growth” – Sarah K., Textile Conservator
  • “Always store silk in complete darkness to avoid fading, yellowing, or weakening of fibers over time” – Jessica P., Museum Curator
  • “Wash or dry clean silk before storage to remove acids from body oils, perfumes, and environmental pollutants” – David F., Fabric Care Specialist
  • “Check regularly for pest activity and small holes or trails. Catching infestations right away allows for easier treatment.” – Sarah K., Textile Conservator

Avoid boxed or vacuum storage methods which trap humidity! Give your silk pieces room to breathe for best preservation.

I discovered some invaluable tips on how to preserve silk fabric, ensuring it stays beautiful for years.

How often should stored silk be unwrapped and aired out?

Plan to unwrap stored silk pieces and air them out about once a year if possible. This helps release any trapped gases or moisture inside the wrapping and prevents yellowing.

Refold and rewrap in fresh acid-free tissue afterward.

folded silk in breathable bag

Does the light source matter when inspecting stored silk?

Yes, only inspect stored silk items using incandescent light bulbs, never fluorescent lighting. 

The UV rays emitted by fluorescent bulbs could accelerate fading and deterioration. Handle with care near windows as well.

What’s the best way to wash silk before storage?

Hand wash delicate silk pieces in cool water using a very gentle soap or detergent like Heritage Park Laundry Detergent (link to Amazon).

Avoid twisting, wringing or scrubbing the fabric. Rinse thoroughly and reshape garments while still slightly damp before air drying fully. Iron at low temperature if needed.

heritage park silk detergent silk clothes cleaning

How can you tell if stored silk has been damaged by humidity or temperature fluctuations?

Signs of damage from improper storage conditions include yellowing, stiffening or brittling of fibers, mold/mildew growth, weeping/water stains, bleeding dyes, and the presence of foul odors.

Catching issues early allows the best chance to preserve the silk through specialized cleaning methods.

Should silk be stored folded or hanging?

For most silk clothing items and scarves, folding is better to avoid permanent creases from hanging.

Delicate silk garments like dresses can be hung on thick padded hangers inside breathable garment bags.

Fold scarves, ties, and ribbons loosely and wrap in acid-free tissue paper inside archival boxes.

silk on padded hangers

Is it safe to use plastic storage bins or vacuum storage bags for storing silk?

No, both plastic bins and vacuum bags trap moisture and gases that can accelerate deterioration of silk over time.

Always use breathable archival cardboard boxes and fabric garment bags instead to allow airflow and prevent a buildup of humidity.

How can you tell if silk has been damaged by pests or insects while in storage?

Signs of pest damage may include tiny holes in the fabric, trails or tunnels on the surface, loose fibers, casings from larvae, and tiny dark specks which could be insect waste material. 

Moths and carpet beetles are common fabric pests. Act quickly at the first signs of an infestation to limit damage.

holes chewed in silk fabric

What is the best way to store vintage or antique silk that is already discolored or fragile?

For fragile vintage or antique silk items that are already damaged, storage methods may need to be customized. Consult a textile preservation specialist.

Options could include extra-gentle cleaning, keeping the item continually flat to avoid tears, wrapping in specialty buffered paper, and storage in a climate-controlled case rather than a box.

Handle with extreme care.

Caring for My Precious Silks

I used to just shove my silk items in the back of drawers or closets.

Now I take the time to properly store each beloved piece using archival materials in ideal dark, cool, and dry conditions.

While it takes a little more effort, I find the ritual of gently wrapping and organizing my silks to be calming self-care.

And I have peace of mind knowing these sentimental textiles will last for years to come and even be enjoyed by future generations!

I hope these silk storage tips help you maintain your own delicate fabrics in pristine condition.

Let me know if you have any special methods for keeping your silks looking their absolute best in the comments below!

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