How to Wash Silk Pillowcases: A Step-by-Step Guide

I love the luxurious feel of sliding into bed at night and resting my head on smooth, cool silk. 

Silk pillowcases aren’t just comfortable – they also provide hair and skin benefits you can’t get from regular cotton pillowcases.

However, silk requires more delicate care to keep these fancy pillowcases in top shape.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the entire process of washing silk pillowcases.

I’ll share step-by-step instructions for handwashing and machine washing (if possible), along with tips to prevent damage, yellowing, and other issues.

Let’s start with some silk pillowcase care basics.

hand cleaning beige silk in basin

Understanding Silk Pillowcase Maintenance

Silk has a very smooth, delicate fiber that requires gentler cleaning than sturdier fabrics like cotton. Here are a few key things to know:

  • Silk is prone to color-bleeding, dye transfer, and water spots.
  • Rough handling and harsh detergents can cause tears, pulls, and other damage.
  • Silk fibers weaken when washed in water hotter than 30°C (86°F).
  • Pillowcases may say “dry clean only” – but gentle handwashing is usually safe.

Always check the tag on your specific pillowcases for the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

But in general, it’s best to wash silk gently by hand or use a delicate cycle in the washing machine.

Preparing to Wash Your Silk Pillowcases

Before washing your silk pillowcases, gather the following supplies:

  • Mild, gentle liquid detergent or soap, like Woolite or baby shampoo
  • Large sink, bucket, or basin for handwashing
  • Soft towels and cloth bags or zippered delicate bags

Avoid regular laundry detergent, as the surfactants are too harsh for silk. Make sure any products used are free of dyes, perfumes, or other additives that could cling to the fabric.

Heritage Park Laundry Detergent (link to Amazon) is my go-to for silk items. It’s incredibly gentle on the delicate fabric, ensuring that my silks last longer and stay gorgeous.

detergent silk fabrics heritage park use

Step-by-Step Guide: Washing Silk Pillowcases by Hand

Handwashing is the safest, most gentle method for cleaning silk. Follow these steps:

  1. Fill your sink or basin with lukewarm water around 30°C (86°F). Check the temperature to make sure it’s not too hot!
  2. Add a small amount of mild detergent, around 1-2 tbsp per gallon of water. Swirl gently to dissolve.
  3. Submerge your pillowcase(s) in the water and let soak for 3-5 minutes so the detergent can penetrate the fibers.
  4. Agitate and press the silk gently to work out light stains, being very careful not to twist, wring, or scrub aggressively.
  5. Drain the water and refill your basin, repeating steps 2-4 until your pillowcase is clean.
  6. Drain and press excess water from your pillowcase using a rolled-up towel. Don’t wring!
  7. For stubborn stains, spot treats with a diluted vinegar solution (1 part vinegar, 4 parts water), then rinse.
  8. Refill your sink and give pillowcases a final cold water rinse.
  9. Roll pillowcases in a towel to absorb moisture. Allow to air dry completely out of direct sunlight.
silk garment hand washing in basin
washing beige silk by hand in basin
towel drying method for beige silk
drying beige silk fabric with towel

The key is to handle the silk gently at all times. Never wring, twist, scrub, or bleach silk, as this can damage the delicate fibers.

Machine Washing Silk Pillowcases: Can You and How?

Many silk pillowcase tags say “Dry Clean Only” – but gentle machine washing is usually fine. Here are some best practices:

  • Use the Delicate or Handwash cycle at cool temps around 30°C (86°F).
  • Wash pillowcases separately or use a mesh bag to prevent friction damage.
  • Use minimal mild detergent – about 1-2 tbsp for a regular-size load.
  • Skip the wash and rinse cycles – just let them soak for a few minutes.
  • Allow pillowcases to air dry; avoid high heat drying.
delicate cycle for silk in washing machine

If machine washing, inspect for damage, fraying, or pulled threads afterward. Over time, the agitation can be rough on silk fibers.

When in doubt, stick to handwashing for a longer-lasting pillowcase.

Learn the correct method with my article on how to wash silk in a washing machine.

Drying Your Silk Pillowcase: Best Practices

Proper drying is just as crucial as washing when it comes to keeping silk pillowcases looking their best. Here are some dos and don’ts:


  • Allow pillowcases to air dry naturally – this is ideal to prevent damage from heat. Lay flat or hang to dry.
  • Pat gently with towels to absorb moisture if needed. Avoid rubbing or twisting.
  • Use the no heat/air fluff setting if the machine drying. Check frequently to prevent over-drying.


  • Put silk pillowcases in the dryer, even on low – the tumbling can cause tears.
  • Hang to dry in direct sunlight – this can fade colors.
  • Use fabric softener or dryer sheets – they coat the silk fibers.
  • Let silk air dry directly on a radiator or heater – the direct heat can yellow over time.

Take silk out of the washer or off the line as soon as it’s dry to avoid over-drying and damage.

silk drying by flat hanging

Addressing Common Silk Pillowcase Issues

Even with proper care, silk pillowcases can develop some problems. Here are some troubleshooting tips:

Issue: Yellowing of white or light-colored silk


  • Sun damage from drying in direct sunlight
  • Heat damage from hot water or dryer
  • Buildup of hair/body oils and perspiration


  • Wash in cool water with mild detergent
  • Avoid heat drying
  • For severe yellowing, try soaking the pillowcase in diluted hydrogen peroxide

Issue: Lost shine, dull appearance


  • Over-washing which strips natural silk oils
  • Use of harsh detergents
  • Heat damage


  • Wash less frequently, only when needed
  • Use proper silk detergents
  • Apply silk shine restoration spray

Issue: Snags, pulled threads, tears


  • Aggressive handling and twisting
  • Overcrowded washer/dryer
  • Jewelry, zippers, buttons causing friction


  • Hand wash only using gentle motions
  • Use a garment bag for washing and drying
  • Avoid overfilling machines
  • Inspect pillowcases carefully and remove jewelry before laundering

With some trial and error, you’ll find the right techniques to keep your silk pillowcases looking their best.

Special Care for Blissy and Other Silk Types

Blissy, charmeuse, and mulberry-silk pillowcases come in many luxurious varieties.

While the general washing guidelines remain the same, some specialty silk types have extra care recommendations:

Silk TypeSpecial Care Tips
MulberryAvoid soaking; gentler detergents like baby shampoo
CharmeuseAir dry flat to prevent water spots
BlissyWash infrequently and by hand only

Check the manufacturer’s instructions, as techniques can vary. When in doubt, err on the side of gentleness with water temperature and handling.

In my latest post, I delve into the best practices for washing a 100% silk dress.

manual wash of silk clothing in basin

How Often Should You Wash Silk Pillowcases?

Avoid over-washing, as too much laundering can damage silk over time. Here are some guidelines on frequency:

  • Warm weather/heavy use: wash every 5-7 wears
  • Cool weather/light use: wash every 10-14 wears
  • Use silk pillowcase liners to prolong the time between washes
  • Wash when soiled – don’t follow a strict schedule

Assess the current condition of your pillowcases as well. Wash more frequently if you notice:

  • Visible stains or dirt
  • Buildup of hair/body oils causing dullness
  • Changes to color (yellowing of whites)
  • Unpleasant odors

The key is to launder enough to keep pillowcases fresh and hygienic while limiting washing to preserve the integrity of the silk fibers.

using laundry mesh bag for machine washing silk

Can I Use Fabric Softener When Washing My Silk Pillowcase?

It’s best to avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets when laundering silk pillowcases.

The perfumes, chemicals, and coatings in fabric softeners will cling to the silk fibers and gradually damage them over time.

Softener residues can also attract dirt and dust to the pillowcase. For softness, simply use a hair conditioner in the rinse water instead.

What Type of Stain Removal Works on Silk?

To spot treat a stain on silk, avoid rubbing and scrubbing the fabric directly.

Mix a mild enzymatic cleaner like Eucalan or Kookaburra with cool water and gently dab it onto the stain using a soft cloth.

Never use harsh chemical stain removers or bleach.

For oil-based stains, try gently dabbing some cornstarch onto the spot and letting it sit overnight before washing.

The Tag Says “Dry Clean Only” – Can I Wash My Silk Pillowcase at Home?

Many silk pillowcases are labeled “Dry Clean Only” by the manufacturer. However, gentle hand washing is usually safe if done properly at cool temperatures with a mild detergent. 

Start by testing a small, inconspicuous area of the pillowcase for colorfastness and shrinkage before attempting an overall hand wash.

Avoid machine washing if the tag specifies dry clean only, as the agitation can be too rough. 

When in doubt, opt for professional dry cleaning to be safe, especially for bright-colored or heavily embellished silk pillowcases.

With care, washing delicate dry clean only silk pillowcases at home is possible in many cases.

Can I Iron My Silk Pillowcase?

It’s best not to iron silk pillowcases whenever possible. The high, concentrated heat of an iron can damage silk fabrics over time, potentially causing shiny patches, tears, or melting.

If you do need to iron silk, use the lowest temperature setting, place a damp cloth over the pillowcase, and take care not to let the iron sit in one spot for too long.

smoothing blue silk with iron


To keep your silk pillowcases looking their best:

  • Handwash using mild detergent and cool water
  • Limit machine washing to delicate cycles on low
  • Avoid heat and direct sun when drying
  • Address any yellowing, damage, or pilling promptly
  • Wash infrequently – only when soiled

With proper care, your silk pillowcases can remain soft, luminous, and luxurious for years to come. Treat them gently, and enjoy the blissful beauty of silk!

I hope these detailed tips help you feel confident about how to care for your silk pillowcases. Do you have any other questions? Let me know in the comments!

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