Can You Wash Silk in Hot Water? Essential Silk Care Tips

As a new silk garment owner, you may be wondering: can I really wash my silk blouse, dress, or pillowcase in hot water?

I’ve been there too. With silk’s delicate nature, it’s normal to have questions about the do’s and don’ts of caring for this luxurious fabric.

In this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about washing silk, including:

  • Why hot water is risky for silk
  • How to wash silk properly
  • Tips for keeping silk soft and lustrous
  • Common silk washing mistakes to avoid

I’ll even share a handy temperature chart so you know exactly what settings to use. Read on for your complete guide to keeping your silks looking their absolute best!

silk garment hand washing in basin

The Delicacy of Silk Fabric

Before we dive in, let’s quickly go over what makes silk fabric so special and delicate:

  • Silk is made from natural protein fibers spun by silkworms. This gives it a beautiful sheen.
  • The fibers are extremely fine and smooth.
  • Silk tends to be lightweight and porous.
  • It dyes and holds color beautifully.
  • However, silk is prone to damage from heat, harsh detergents, and certain environmental conditions.

It’s these unique properties that require silk to be cared for differently than other fabrics like cotton. Now let’s find out how hot water comes into play.

Can You Wash Silk in Hot Water? The Short Answer

Here’s the simple answer: No, you should not wash silk clothing or other items in hot water.

Washing in hot water can cause silk to shrink, lose its sheen, become stiff and discolored, or even tear. The optimal washing temperature for silk is cool or lukewarm water.

Now, let’s look at why hot water has such a damaging effect on delicate silk.

silk fabric basin hand washing process

Why Hot Water Ruins Silk

Here are the main risks of using hot water to wash your silk items:

  • Shrinkage: The fibers relax and tighten when exposed to high heat. This causes the fabric to shrink up.
  • Loss of sheen: The intense heat from hot water can damage silk’s natural proteins, dulling its lustrous appearance.
  • Stiff texture: Hot water can remove the essential oils in silk that give it its soft, fluid drape. The fibers become brittle and rigid.
  • Color loss: The dyes used to color silk can leach out when washed in hot water, resulting in fading.
  • Permanent damage: Hot water can even cause silk fibers to tear and pull apart. This kind of damage cannot be reversed.

As you can see, exposing silk to hot water, even once, can have devastating and irreparable effects. Following the proper care methods is key to keeping your silk looking fabulous.

The Ideal Temperature for Washing Silk

To safely clean silk and maintain its quality, always use a cooler temperature setting. Here are the recommended washing temperatures:

  • Hand washing: Use cool or lukewarm water up to 30°C/85°F.
  • Machine washing: Select a delicate cycle and cold water setting, or 30°C/85°F if available.
  • Ironing: Iron silk on the silk setting if your iron has one, or use a medium setting if not. Avoid temperatures above 150°C/300°F.
washing machine silk delicates setting

Refer to this handy chart of the ideal washing temperatures for silk:

Washing MethodRecommended Temperature
Hand washUp to 30°C/85°F
Machine washCold or 30°C/85°F
IronMedium or silk setting

Remember, when in doubt, err on the side of cooler temperatures to keep silk safe. Never use hot water, and limit warm water to below 30°C/85°F.

My article on selecting the right temperature for washing silk offers practical advice.

Step-by-Step: Washing Silk Garments and Accessories

Now that we’ve covered why hot water damages silk and the right temperatures to use, let’s go over the proper technique for washing silk items at home.

Follow these steps to keep your silk looking fresh and lustrous:

Check the care labelLook for cleaning symbols and temperature guidelines specific to that silk item. This will indicate if it’s machine washable or must be dry cleaned.
Pretreat any stainsFor washable silks, apply a small amount of mild detergent or soap directly to stains. Let it sit for a few minutes before washing. This helps loosen stains.
Hand wash or use a mesh laundry bagFor delicate silk clothing, hand washing allows the most control. Or place the garment in a mesh bag if machine washing. This prevents snags.
Use a gentle silk detergentLook for liquid detergents made specifically for washing silk. Avoid powders or harsh detergents.
Fill your sink or machine with cool waterFor hand washing, use lukewarm water around 30°C/85°F. For machine washing, select a delicate cycle and cold water setting.
Gently wash the garmentAgitate the item very gently by hand or let the machine run a gentle cycle. Minimal agitation prevents damage.
Rinse thoroughly with cool waterRinse well in cool water to remove all traces of detergent residue.
Roll silk in a towel to remove excess waterAvoid wringing or twisting silk when wet. Instead, roll it up in a towel and press gently to absorb moisture.
Lay flat or hang to dryLay silk pieces flat on a drying rack or towel. Hang delicate items up very carefully.
Lightly steam or iron when still slightly dampUse an iron on a medium silk setting. Steaming also helps restore silk’s drape and sheen after washing.

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.

using heritage park detergent for silk washing
beige silk garment washing in basin
drying beige silk with towel
drying beige silk fabric with towel
silk garment drying flat hang

Avoiding Common Silk Washing Mistakes

Now that you know the right way to launder silk, let’s go over some common mistakes to avoid:

  • Using hot water – Stick to cool or lukewarm water only.
  • Overloading the washing machine – Wash silk pieces separately with extra space.
  • Aggressive agitation – Hand wash or use the gentle cycle on your machine.
  • Over-drying – Let silk air dry to prevent removing healthy oils.
  • Ironing damp silk – Wait until just slightly damp as steam can damage silk.
  • Storing silk wet – Always dry fully before storing to prevent mildew.
  • Using bleach or fabric softener – These chemicals can discolor and damage silk.

I’ve ruined a silk top or two by making some of these mistakes myself! Being mindful of silk’s sensitivity to heat, moisture, and harsh chemicals will help you avoid these pitfalls.

See if high temperatures work in my guide on washing silk at 60 degrees.

Caring for Silk After Washing

Once you’ve washed your silk using the proper techniques, there are a few additional tips for keeping it luxurious:

  • Steam or iron while the item is still ever-so-slightly damp to bring back silk’s signature sleek and shiny appearance.
  • Use silk creams if the fabric feels dry or stiff. These lotions contain oils that renew silk’s softness. Massage it in gently.
  • For clothing, hang folded over a towel rack to fully dry and prevent creases from forming.
  • Dry clean only when needed for stubborn stains, or when care labels indicate. Dry cleaning uses chemical solvents instead of water to clean.
  • Store silk properly by hanging if possible or refolding and placing it in breathable drawers or boxes.

With a little extra TLC after washing, you can keep your favorite silk pieces feeling luxuriously soft and supple for many years of wear.

smoothing blue silk with iron

Protecting Silk from Damage

Caring for silk doesn’t stop after washing – preventing damage between wears is also key. Here are my top tips for keeping silk in flawless condition:

  • Store silk in a closet or dresser away from direct sunlight, which can fade colors.
  • If ironing delicate silk clothing, place a cloth in between the garment and iron. Use a medium heat setting.
  • Avoid wearing silk on extremely hot, humid days. Perspiration can stain silk permanently.
  • Prevent snags by fastening buttons, zipping up zippers, and trimming loose threads.
  • Spot clean stains immediately with cool water and a gentle soap. Don’t rub vigorously.
  • Use silk pillowcases and linens to prevent facial creams and nighttime skincare products from transferring onto clothing.

With preventative care, your silk pieces can outlive trends and become timeless classics.

Can I Put Silk Items in the Dryer?

No, silk should never be placed in the dryer even on a low heat setting. The tumbling motion and hot air can damage silk fibers. Always air-dry silk pieces flat or on a drying rack.

How Hot Is Too Hot to Iron Silk?

Iron silk using a silk setting on your iron if it has one, or use medium heat if not.

Avoid temperatures above 150°C/300°F as higher heat can scorch or shine silk. Refer to your iron’s manual for the right settings.

blue silk garment care ironing


I hope this article has helped shed light on the do’s and don’ts of washing silk fabric.

While silk requires delicate care, taking the time to hand wash or machine wash in cool water, only when needed, will maintain its integrity and extend its lifespan.


  • Always check garment labels for cleaning instructions
  • Wash silk in cool water below 30°C/85°F
  • Use a mild silk detergent and a gentle cycle
  • Dry flat and steam or iron while slightly damp
  • Store silk properly and handle it with care

Follow these tips, and your silk will continue looking and feeling luxurious wear after wear.

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