Can You Wash and Dry Silk? Essential Garment Care Tips

Silk is one of the most luxurious and delicate fabrics. Yet many people mistakenly think that silk cannot be washed, or that putting it in the washing machine or dryer will ruin the fabric.

With proper care techniques, you absolutely can wash silk safely at home without damaging your precious garments.

In this complete guide, you’ll learn the do’s and don’ts of silk care so you can keep your silks looking and feeling fabulous.

I’ll provide plenty of step-by-step instructions and insider tips to make washing and drying silk a breeze while avoiding common mishaps.

Ready to pamper your silk pieces? Let’s get started!

soft hand wash for silk dress

Essential Silk Care: Washing and Drying Do’s and Don’ts

Before we dive into my detailed silk washing and drying techniques, here is a quick overview of the fundamentals:

Can You Wash Silk?

  • Yes, silk can and should be washed periodically, either by hand or using a washing machine delicates cycle. Avoid very hot water.
  • Use only gentle, sulfate-free detergents made for delicates. Wash separately from other fabrics.
  • Let silk air dry naturally – never put silk items in the clothes dryer!

The Perils of Drying Silk Incorrectly

  • Exposing silk to high heat causes irreversible damage such as shrinkage, tears, yellowing, and stiffness.
  • Tumbling and friction inside a dryer weaken silk fibers over time.
  • Always dry silk garments flat or on a drying rack, out of direct sunlight.

Follow my formula below to keep your silks in tip-top shape!

genuine silk fabric material

Step-by-Step Guide to Hand Washing Silk

The safest method for washing fine silk items is by hand. Here is my tried-and-true hand wash technique:

Supplies You’ll Need

  • 2 Clean Tubs or Sinks
  • Mild Liquid Detergent
  • Distilled White Vinegar
  • Towels
  • Silk Garment Bag

Step 1: Fill Tub #1 With Lukewarm Water

  • Avoid hot water, as this can shrink or otherwise damage silk. Lukewarm is best.
  • Add a splash of vinegar to the wash water – this helps set dyes.
  • Mix in a tiny amount of delicate detergent until sudsy.

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

Step 2: Soak the Silk

  • Place your silk item(s) in the wash tub, gently submerge, and let soak for 3-5 minutes. This loosens dirt and stains. Swish gently, do not wring, twist, or scrub harshly.
  • For tough stains, spot treat with detergent before soaking.
manual soak and wash silk dress
silk gown careful hand laundering

Step 3: Drain First Tub and Refill #2 For Rinsing

  • Transfer silk to the second tub once washing is complete.
  • Fill the tub with cool, clear water for rinsing. Vinegar helps here too.
  • Rinse the garment(s) thoroughly by gently pushing/squeezing water through. Repeat as needed until the water runs clear.

Step 4: Roll in Towel to Remove Excess Drips

  • Lay the garment flat on top of a dry, lint-free cotton towel.
  • Gently roll up the towel and silk together, and press to soak up drips. Immediately unroll, and smooth out silk to prevent creases.
towel blotting for silk dress dryness
silk dress careful towel press
silk dress towel padding technique

Step 5: Dry Flat on a Mesh Surface

  • Lay the silk piece evenly on a mesh garment drying rack, towel, or sweater comb. Shape knits back to size and smooth out woven fabrics.
  • Allow silk to air dry completely before wearing or storing.
silk dress hanging to air dry

Ta-da! With this careful hand-washing method, you can safely clean silk at home while ensuring the fabric keeps its beautiful drape and sheen over time.

Common Silk Stain Solutions

Silk stains easily, but many stains can be treated successfully at home. Here are my handy tips for tackling various stubborn silk stains:

Type of StainTreatment Solutions
Food/Drinks like Wine, Coffee, OilDish Soap – apply directly, allow to penetrate for 5+ minutesAmmonia – dilute with water, sponge gentlyBaking Soda – mix with water into paste, let sit before washing
PerspirationVinegarLemon Juice
Ink/GreaseRubbing Alcohol – use extreme caution!Hydrogen PeroxideTalcum Powder – sprinkle on, let sit, brush off
Mold/MildewLemon Juice – pure fresh lemon juice, expose to sunlight
  • Always spot-test stain treatments on a hidden area first to check for colorfastness.
  • Rinse extremely thoroughly after applying any chemical treatment to silk.
  • For severe stains, it’s best to take vintage or designer silk pieces to specialty cleaners.

Now that you know how to safely hand wash and treat stains on your delicate silks at home, let’s talk about machine washing.

silk fabric with stain

Machine Washing Silk: A Careful Approach

Many people believe that putting silk of any kind into a washing machine will destroy the fabric – not true!

If certain precautions are taken, a gentle machine wash can successfully clean washable silk items that are heavily soiled or need sanitizing.

Which Silks Can Go In The Washing Machine?

Here are the types of silk items that are fine to machine wash occasionally:

  • Washable silk blouses – Look for the “washable silk” label
  • Silk underwear
  • Silk sheets or pillowcases
  • Silk scarves made of habotai, chiffon, or charmeuse silk

I do not recommend machine washing for:

  • Heavy silk brocade fabrics
  • Vintage or designer silk garments
  • Silk trim or embellishments – hand wash only!
luxury real silk fabric

Machine Washing Silk Without Ruining It

To safely clean your washable silk garments in the washing machine, follow my simple instructions:


  • Mesh garment bag
  • Delicate/gentle detergent (no bleach!)
  • Fabric softener (optional)
  • Drying rack


  1. Turn the garment inside out to protect the silk’s delicate exterior threads
  2. Place in a mesh bag, tie the bag tightly closed
  3. Wash alone or with other delicates on cold gentle/delicate cycle
  4. Hang items to drip dry – do NOT put silk items in the dryer!
  5. Reshape & lay flat on a towel or mesh rack to finish air drying
silk scrunchie mesh bag preserving

By using mesh bags and a gentle cycle, the washing machine’s tumbling action is cushioned so silk emerges unharmed.

Just take care to lay flat immediately after washing so the fabric doesn’t lose its shape as it dries. And speaking of drying, let’s go over why tumble drying is a huge NO for silk fabrics.

Drying Silk Without the Dryer

Putting silk garments into a clothes dryer, even for just a few minutes, almost guarantees irreversible damage. The heat and friction inside a dryer break down silk’s delicate protein fibers quickly.

Air drying is crucial for keeping silk soft, lustrous, and wrinkle-free. Here are my top tips for properly air drying your hand washed or machine washed silk items:


  • Mesh garment drying racks
  • Felt sweater drying comb/rack
  • Large, clean bath towels

Technique Do’s + Don’ts


  • DO shape knits back to size
  • DO use sweater combs for heavy knits
  • DO dry indoors or in shade
  • DO lay silk out perfectly flat


  • DON’T hang or bunch silk up
  • DON’T leave sitting wet for hours

Here’s what you should do:

  • Lay your freshly washed silk piece out evenly on a flat, non-fuzzy surface away from direct light. For silk blouses, smooth the fabric out completely and button it up to retain shape.
  • For heavy silk knit sweaters, use a sweater rack to air dry back to the correct dimensions.
  • Check silk every few hours – once cool and dry to the touch, store carefully until ready to wear or iron.

Learning why drying silk the traditional way isn’t advised has changed how I approach silk care.

beige silk shirt cool air dry

Using my garment care tips, you can safely wash delicate silks in the comfort of your home and see them emerge looking revitalized and renewed – not a shrunken, raggedy mess!

Next, let’s review some common concerns.

Addressing Common Concerns

Does washing or drying incorrectly make silk shrink or get damaged? What about getting silk wet in the rain? Here is the truth on some key silk care questions:

Does Silk Shrink When Washed or Dried?

  • Yes! Exposing silk to high temperatures causes fibers to tighten and contract = shrinkage.
  • Machine drying, ironing on a high setting, or using hot water for washing can all make silk pieces drastically smaller.
  • Stick to cool water for washing and always 100% air dry for best results.
soft soap wash for white silk scarf

Is It OK to Get Silk Wet in The Rain?

  • Plain water does not damage silk fibers the way heat, soaps, and friction do.
  • Getting caught in a rain shower won’t necessarily ruin your silk garment or accessories.
  • However, letting silk stay soaked can cause stains. Thoroughly air dry as soon as possible.

See, silk is not as temperamental as everyone believes! Just use care when laundering and drying to prevent damage to your beloved pieces.

Now for a quick list of silk care mistakes, you’ll want to avoid at all costs.

Silk Care Mistakes to Avoid

Here are the biggest no-no’s that can spell disaster for your silk clothing and fabrics:

  • Machine or tumble drying silk garments
  • Using hot water, bleach, or harsh detergents containing sulfate on silk
  • Putting silk items in the washer/dryer with other fabrics (like denim)
  • Wringing, twisting, or scrubbing silk vigorously during washing
  • Hang or stretch drying silk items using clothespins (causes snags/tears)
  • Ironing silk on the steam or high heat settings

Follow my tips instead for keeping silk in tip-top shape for the long run!

I was curious about the changes silk undergoes when dried, so I set out to find the answers.

elegant genuine silk fabric

Advanced Silk Care Tips

Once you have the basics down, there are some additional tricks for maintaining that incredible silk sheen over many wears and washes:

  • Give silk pieces a vinegar rinse after washing – helps set dyes
  • Use silk-specific fabric freshening sprays between wears
  • Lightly steam iron inside out on low heat to avoid crushing delicate exterior threads
  • Store off-season silk apparel in breathable garment bags
  • Bring heirloom silk wares to specialty cleaners for deeper cleaning

Treat your silk pieces with care and they will last you even longer than their synthetic counterparts!

natural real silk quality


I hope these comprehensive silk washing, drying, and storage guidelines give you the confidence to keep your silk items looking utterly fabulous.

No more panicking about water spots or shrunken seams!

With a gentle approach to laundering along with proper air drying methods, silk can be safely cared for at home.

Understanding silk’s unique properties allows you to keep beloved garments intact for many years of enjoyment.

Time to go pamper your silk collection!

Just be sure to always handle gently, wash infrequently in cool water, dry flat away from direct sunlight and heat, and your precious silks will thrive under your attentive care.

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