How to Wash Silk Clothes: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

Silk is one of the most luxurious and delicate fabrics that requires special care when it comes to washing.

As a silk clothing beginner, you may be hesitant to wash your silk garments at home, worried about ruining them.

However, with the right techniques, you can easily wash silk fabric and maintain its beauty and quality.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll provide practical tips and simple instructions for washing silk fabric at home.

You’ll learn the dos and don’ts of caring for your precious silk clothes. Let’s get started!

collection of silk fabrics on table

Can Silk Clothes Be Machine Washed?

While you can machine wash some silk fabrics, I recommend washing them by hand.

The mechanical agitation of a washing machine can damage silk fibers and cause pilling, snagging, and loss of sheen.

However, there are exceptions. If the garment label specifically says “Machine Washable Silk”, then it’s likely a more durable silk blend designed for machine washing.

Turn the item inside out first. Use the gentle cycle with cool water and a mild detergent.

Here are some pointers for machine-washing silk:

  • Use a mesh garment bag to prevent friction damage.
  • Use the delicate or hand-wash spin cycle to limit agitation.
  • Lay flat to dry. Avoid the dryer.

Unless the label states machine washable, I suggest handwashing to be safe.

laundry mesh bag silk washing in machine
washing machine silk care with mesh bag
delicate cycle for silk in washing machine

Hand-Washing Silk Clothes

Hand-washing is the best way to clean silk clothing and preserve the quality. Follow these simple step-by-step instructions:

1. Fill a sink or basin with cool water

Avoid hot water as it can cause silk fibers to shrink. Lukewarm or cool water is ideal.

filling basin with water

2. Add a small amount of mild detergent

Specialized silk detergents are best, but a gentle baby shampoo or soap works too. Check the label to determine the washing solution.

3. Immerse and gently swish the garment in water

Do not wring, twist, or scrub the silk. Gently swish the item back and forth. Let it soak for no more than 5 minutes so the detergent can lift dirt.

hand laundering beige silk cloth
hand wash technique for beige silk

4. Drain the sink and rinse with cool clean water

Repeat rinsing until the water runs clear. Do not wring out excess water. Simply let the silk drain in the sink.

5. Lay flat on a towel to dry

Shape the garment and smooth out wrinkles. Let it air dry completely before wearing or storing.

And that’s it! By following these simple handwashing steps, you’ll keep your silk clothes looking like new.

gently patting silk with towel to dry

How to Dry Silk Clothes Properly

Silk should never be put in the dryer, but it can be ironed carefully on a low setting, and should not be hung on a clothesline. The heat will damage silk fibers.

To dry silk properly:

  • Lay the garment flat on a non-fuzzy towel or drying rack. Reshape while damp.
  • Allow to fully air dry. This may take several hours depending on the climate.
  • Use a fan to speed up drying time – but keep it on a low setting to avoid over-drying.
  • Once completely dry, store silk items folded in a breathable garment bag.

If silk dries too quickly or unevenly, it may stiffen and lose its fluid drape. Take your time and let it dry naturally before wearing or storing it.

What to Avoid When Washing Silk

There are certain mistakes that can ruin your precious silk clothes. Here’s what to avoid:

  • No bleach or fabric softener – These chemicals are too harsh for silk.
  • Skip the dryer – Heat damages silk. Always air-dry silk garments.
  • No wringing or twisting – This causes wrinkles, stretching, and breaks fibers.
  • Don’t scrub stains – Lightly dab stains. Scrubbing ruins the delicate fibers.
  • Avoid direct sunlight – Sunlight can fade dyes and weaken fibers. Dry silk in the shade.
  • Prevent yellowing – Chlorine, body oils, and perspiration can yellow silk over time.

By being mindful about how you handle and wash silk fabric, you can keep your clothes looking vibrant for many wears.

elegant beige silk fabric on wooden table

Restoring Silk After Washing

If silk loses its special sheen or appears dull after washing, don’t worry – you can bring life back into the fabric!

  • Use steam: Hold a steamer 6 inches above the garment, moving continuously to avoid water spots. The moisture will restore the silk’s healthy glow.
  • Self-steaming: For a sheer silk blouse or camisole, put it on and stand in a hot shower for 2-3 minutes. Your body’s warmth will act as the steamer.
  • Iron silk (carefully!): To minimize the risk of damage, place a damp pressing cloth over the silk item and gently iron on medium heat. This helps smooth out creases and wrinkles.

Read about the ideal way to care for silk blouses in your laundry regime.

ironing delicate silk fabrics

With a little TLC, you can revive silk clothing to look its absolute best for special occasions.

How to Dry Clean Silk Clothes at Home

While professional dry cleaning is an option for cleaning silk garments, you can also dry clean silk fabric at home safely and effectively. Here’s how to do it:

  • Place silk items in a sealable plastic bag.
  • Add 1⁄4 cup vodka or rubbing alcohol. This serves as the solvent.
  • Gently swish the bag for 2-3 minutes so the solvent can loosen dirt and oils.
  • Remove from bag, and let air dry fully.

This gentle process cleans without the harsh chemicals of commercial dry cleaning. Just be sure to test colored silk first, as alcohol may cause dye bleed.

An alternative is dry cleaning gel solvents designed for home use on delicates like silk. These offer an easier, non-toxic cleaning method.

Simply apply the gel to the fabric, let sit for 5 minutes, then gently rinse off.

While professional dry cleaning has its place for heavy soiling, home dry cleaning is a simple way to freshen up your silks between wears.

Learn how to wash silk pants effectively while preserving their quality.

beige silk cloth spread on table

Spot Cleaning Silk Clothes

Silk stains easily, so prompt stain removal is key. Here are some tips for spot-cleaning silk:

  • Blot stains immediately using a clean white cloth. Avoid rubbing.
  • Pre-treat oily stains with a little dish soap. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  • Gently work in stain remover, starting from the back/inside of the fabric.
  • Rinse and air dry before the stain sets in the fibers.
  • Always test products first on an inconspicuous part of the garment, like an inside seam.
  • For stubborn stains, take it to the dry cleaner for professional spot treatment.

When spot-cleaning silk, remember to be gentle and take it slow. Don’t let stains sit or they’ll become permanent.

Choosing the Right Detergent for Silk Clothes

Picking an appropriate detergent ensures your silk stays soft, vibrant, and lustrous. Here are the best options:

  • Silk-specific detergents – Available at fabric stores, these are designed just for silks.
  • Baby shampoo – Extra gentle on delicate fabrics.
  • Mild soap – Like Orvus Paste or other sulfate-free cleansers.
  • Wool wash – Popular option for hand washing fine fabrics.

I absolutely love Heritage Park Laundry Detergent (link to Amazon) for my silk clothes! It’s so gentle yet effective, leaving my silk garments beautifully clean without any damage.

heritage park detergent wash for silk fabrics

Avoid regular laundry detergents, as the chemicals and fragrances are too harsh. A mild, fragrance-free solution will get your silk clean without damage.

Here’s a table comparing some of the most common silk-washing detergents:

Heritage Park DetergentEffective on stains, gentle on fabricsMay be pricey compared to regular brands
The Laundress Delicate WashSpecially formulated for delicate fabricsHigher price point than standard detergents
Slip Silk WashDesigned for silk and delicate fabricsLimited availability in some regions
Woolite DelicatesWidely available, gentle on clothesNot as effective on tough stains
best silk detergents

Test out different brands to find your favorite silk wash. Using the right detergent makes a big difference.

Special Considerations for Different Types of Silk Clothes

While technique is most important, you may need to adjust washing methods based on the type of silk garment.

Type of SilkDescription and Care Instructions
Sheer SilksDelicate camisoles, slips, etc. Handle extremely gently and dry flat, out of direct light.
Heavy SilksCoats, gowns, and thicker fabrics. May require professional dry cleaning due to weight and embellishments.
Silk BlendsMixes like silk-cotton, silk-wool, etc. Follow garment label instructions. Wash gently and lay flat to dry.
Brightly Dyed SilkRed, pink, blue, and other deep colors. Use a color catcher sheet to prevent dye transfer and bleeding. Wash in cool water.
Embellished SilkGarments with beads, sequins, etc. Hand wash only and dry flat, shaping decorations so they dry properly. Avoid snagging embellishments.
LingerieBras, slips, nightgowns, etc. Hand wash with mild detergent, roll in towel to remove excess moisture, lay flat on a non-slip surface.
Ties and ScarvesRoll tightly in a towel to squeeze moisture out rather than wringing. Use a steamer to refresh shape.
Vintage SilkOlder, delicate fabrics. Stain treat first, hand wash extremely gently in room temperature water using a mild detergent. Handle with care.

The main thing is to follow garment care labels and treat all silk fabrics with a gentle touch. Adjust your washing technique as needed for special silk items in your wardrobe.

heritage park detergent for silk hand wash in basin


Caring for your silk clothing may seem daunting at first. But as you can see, washing silk properly is very manageable with the right techniques.

The keys are using cool water, mild detergent, handling garments gently, and always air drying. Avoid harsh chemicals, heat, and mechanical damage from washing machines.

By following this beginner’s guide, you can confidently hand-wash silk clothing and keep your favorite pieces looking luxurious.

To summarize:

  • Check labels and opt for handwashing when possible
  • Use cool water and silk-safe detergents
  • Handle garments gently and lay flat to dry
  • Spot clean stains promptly to avoid setting
  • Steam, iron, or self-steam to refresh silk after washing

With the proper care, your silk blouses, dresses, and other garments will stay vibrant and lustrous for seasons to come.

So don’t be intimidated to launder your silks at home. With these tips, you’ll be washing silk like a pro!

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