How to Wash a 100% Silk Dress: A Comprehensive Guide

I’m sure we’ve all been there – you buy a beautiful new silk dress only to discover it’s “dry clean only”. You start worrying that one wrong move could ruin your delicate new item.

Well, I’m here to tell you that washing your silk dress at home is possible!

With some care and the right techniques, you can safely hand or machine wash your silk dress without damage.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about washing silk dresses at home.

I’ll cover pre-wash preparations, hand-washing methods, machine washing dos and don’ts, drying techniques, and tips for maintaining your silk dress after washing.

Let’s restore the joy of wearing silk without the dry cleaning bill!

washing silk attire manually in basin

Can You Wash a 100% Silk Dress?

The short answer – yes! While dry cleaning is recommended for most silk garments, you can wash a 100% silk dress at home if you follow certain precautions. Here are some tips:

  • Check the care label – Some silks can be washed, but others explicitly say “Dry Clean Only”. Respect what the manufacturer recommends.
  • Do a spot test – Wet a small hidden area of the dress to see if the color bleeds or the fabric reacts poorly.
  • Wash separately – Wash your silk dress alone to prevent snagging on other materials in the load.
  • Use a gentle cycle – Machine or hand wash silk on the most delicate setting. Agitation can damage silk fibers.

With the proper care, washing silk at home is possible without issues! Just be very gentle.

I’ve shared my experience on the proper way to wash a 100% silk shirt in this helpful article.

Pre-Washing Precautions

Before washing your silk dress, take some precautionary steps:

  • Inspect the dress carefully: Look for any stains, discoloration, or fabric damage. Make note of any problem areas that need special attention during washing.
  • Read the care instructions: Check if the dress is “dry clean only” or if the manufacturer approves washing. Follow accordingly.
  • Do a spot test: Dampen a small hidden part of the dress with water and detergent and check for colorfastness and shrinkage.
  • Buy a gentle detergent: Opt for a mild liquid detergent like Woolite or a silk-specific detergent. Avoid regular detergents.
  • Have supplies on hand: Mild detergent, soft towels, mesh wash bags, drying rack, garment steamer.

If you cherish your silk items as I do, you’ll love Heritage Park Laundry Detergent (link to Amazon). It gently cares for the fabric, preserving its natural beauty and prolonging its life.

silk items hand washing technique in basin

Hand Washing a Silk Dress

Hand washing is the best way to clean your silk dress while being gentle. Follow these steps:

  • Fill a sink or tub with cool water and add a small amount of mild detergent. Swish gently to dissolve.
  • Submerge your silk dress fully and let it soak for 3-5 minutes so the detergent penetrates the fibers.
  • Agitate the dress very lightly by swirling and sloshing the water. Do not wring, twist, or scrub the fabric.
  • Drain the water and refill the tub with cool clean water to rinse. Rinse until the water runs clear.
  • Do not wring out the dress! Simply lift from the water and let excess drip off.
  • Lay the dress flat on a towel. Roll up to gently press out moisture. Unroll, reshape, and lay flat to dry.

Hand washing allows you to be extremely gentle with the silk fibers. Take your time and treat the dress delicately.

washing silk by hand in basin
washing beige silk by hand in basin
basin hand wash for beige silk
drying silk with towel
drying beige silk fabric with towel
flat hanging method for drying silk

Machine Washing: Is it Safe for Your Silk Dress?

While hand washing is ideal, machine washing a 100% silk dress is possible if done carefully:

  • Only machine wash if the care label specifically allows it. Most say “Dry Clean Only”.
  • Use a mesh bag to prevent snagging and pulling. Zip carefully.
  • Wash on the delicates cycle using cool water and a mild detergent.
  • Consider skipping the wash cycle and just rinsing to remove body oils and debris.
  • Take the dress out immediately after the cycle ends and lay flat to dry.

Never put silk in the dryer! The heat will damage the fibers.

With caution, machine washing can be safe for some silk dresses. But when in doubt, go with hand washing or dry cleaning.

using laundry mesh bag for machine washing silk

What Happens if a Silk Dress Gets Wet?

Silk can be tricky when it gets wet unexpectedly. Here’s what to do if your silk dress gets soaked:

  • Blot any wet areas immediately with a soft towel. Avoid rubbing or twisting motions.
  • Sprinkle talcum powder to absorb extra moisture and let sit for 20-30 minutes.
  • If there are water marks or stains, take the dress to the dry cleaner for professional spot removal.
  • Once dry, use a garment steamer to relax any stiff areas and restore the drape and sheen.
  • Wash soon after to remove any water residues left behind.

With quick action, you can rescue a silk dress from an accidental soaking! Just don’t panic and remember to stay gentle.

Drying Your Silk Dress Correctly

Drying is one of the most critical steps in washing silk. Follow these guidelines:

  • Lay flat immediately after washing. Do not hang silk items as the weight can stretch them.
  • Smooth out the dress and shape the bodice and sleeves so they dry properly.
  • Roll up the dress in a towel to gently press out moisture, then unroll and re-lay flat.
  • Let the dress air dry naturally. Moving air from a fan can help.
  • Once almost dry, use a garment steamer to relax the fibers and restore sheen.
  • Never machine dry or expose to direct sunlight which can damage silk.

With careful drying, your silk dress will retain its beautiful drape and vibrancy!

hanging silk flat for drying

Special Considerations: Washing Silk Dresses Labeled “Dry Clean Only”

Many silk dresses say “Dry Clean Only” on the tag. In these cases:

  • Check if the dress is heavily embellished. Things like beads or sequins may make home washing challenging.
  • Consider taking it in for at least the first cleaning to establish a baseline and understand how the dress reacts.
  • If washing at home, take even more precautions. Limit soaking time, handle very gently, and dry flat immediately.
  • You can try using specialty at-home dry cleaning kits made for delicate fabrics. Test first.
  • For heavy stains or cleaning needs, trusted professional dry cleaning is best.

While it’s possible to wash a “Dry Clean Only” dress at home, it carries more risks of damage or shrinkage. Assess the particular dress carefully before attempting.

Maintenance Tips for Silk Dresses

Once you’ve washed your silk dress, keep it beautiful with these care tips:

  • Store silk folded loosely in breathable fabric like cotton or linen. Avoid plastic which traps moisture.
  • Hang silk dresses on wide padded hangers to prevent stretch marks on the shoulder seams.
  • Keep silk garments away from direct sunlight which can fade colors.
  • Steam silk dresses before wearing to freshen the fibers and smooth out wrinkles.
  • Spot clean stains immediately with water, mild detergent, and a soft cloth.
  • Bring silk to the dry cleaner regularly for professional cleaning, 1-2 times per season.

With proper storage and handling, your silk dress will last and feel luxurious for many wears!

For luxurious bedtime accessories, read my guide on how to wash silk pillowcases effectively.

ironing method for blue silk fabric

Can You Use Bleach or Fabric Softener When Washing a 100% Silk Dress?

No, you should avoid using any bleach or fabric softener on silk dresses. Bleach can damage, discolor, or dissolve silk fibers.

Fabric softener can leave behind a coating that dulls silk’s natural sheen. For best results, wash silk dresses in mild detergent only using cool water and handle gently.

Is It Okay to Wash a 100% Silk Dress in the Washing Machine if You Use a Lingerie Bag?

Washing a silk dress in a lingerie bag can help prevent snagging, but does not make machine washing completely safe.

The agitation of a washing machine can still be too harsh for delicate silk fibers and may cause irreparable damage.

Even on the gentle cycle, it is best to hand wash silk dresses to control the motion and detergent exposure. Only machine wash if the garment’s care tag explicitly allows it.

Is There a Difference Between Washing Silk Georgette, Chiffon, Crepe, and Charmeuse?

Yes, the specific weave and weight of different types of silk can require slightly different washing methods.

Lighter silks like georgette and chiffon are the most delicate and require extra care not to stretch the fabric.

Heavier silks like charmeuse and crepe are more durable for home washing but still require gentleness.

Read garment tags carefully and pre-test any new silk item before washing fully.

In general, hand wash in cool water with mild detergent and lay flat immediately after rinsing to dry. Handle all silk types with extreme care.

three silk fabric types


While silk requires gentle care, washing 100% silk dresses at home is absolutely possible. 

Now that you know how to properly hand wash, machine wash, dry, and store silk garments, you can keep your silk dress looking like new for longer!

Follow the techniques in this guide and refresh your silk dress between professional dry cleanings.

With some patience and a light touch, you’ll have your silk dress looking fabulous for a fraction of the cost. Just remember to always treat silk delicately.

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