How to Wash Silk Sarees: Expert Tips for Maintaining Quality

Silk sarees are some of the most beautiful and elegant traditional outfits that Indian women wear.

From delicate chiffon silk sarees to heavily embroidered Kanchipuram silks, these garments require special care and handling to preserve their look and feel.

As someone who has grown up around silk sarees and helped care for my family’s precious silks for years, I want to share my best tips on washing silk sarees correctly.

Proper washing methods are key for maintaining the sheen, color vibrancy, and integrity of your silk sarees while avoiding damage from water, heat, and agitation.

luxurious silk fabric for sarees

Assessing Your Silk Saree

Before washing, it’s important to understand the type of silk saree you have and identify any special embellishments or fabrics that require dry cleaning:

  • Kanchipuram silk – These heavily embroidered and brocaded silks from Kanchipuram are often decorated with delicate zari metallic threads. Handle with care and dry clean when possible.
  • Chiffon silk – Extremely lightweight and sheer. Often needs to be dry-cleaned.
  • Georgette silk – Lightweight and semi-sheer fabric. Can be gently hand-washed.
  • Crepe silk – Has a slightly crinkled texture. Low risk for hand washing.
  • Tussar silk – Rougher texture than others. More durable for hand washing.
  • Zari or metallic embellished – Avoid getting the zari work wet as the metallic threads may tarnish or discolor. Dry clean is best.
  • Beaded or sequined accents – Dry clean to protect beading.

Once you’ve identified the type of silk, inspect your saree closely before washing. Look for:

  • Loose beads, sequins, or embroidery that may snag or come loose
  • Tarnished or cracked zari work
  • Weak spots in the fabric
  • Loose threads along the hem or edges
  • Stains that require spot cleaning

Make note of any areas needing repair or extra care. Unfold the saree fully and neatly to prep for washing.

Pre-Wash Tips for Silk Sarees

Before fully submerging your silk saree in water, take these precautionary steps:

  • Test for color bleeding – Take a soft white cloth, dampen it, and press gently against colored areas of the unfurled saree. Check the cloth for any fabric dye transfer.
  • Check water temperature – Lukewarm water is best. Avoid hot water that could damage silk fibers.
  • Use a mesh wash bag – Place the saree in a mesh bag and tie it loosely to prevent tangles and snags.
  • Select a mild detergent – A mild or silk-specific liquid detergent is ideal. Avoid powders that may be too harsh on the fabric.

I swear by Heritage Park Laundry Detergent (link to Amazon) for all my silk garments. It’s gentle, effective, and leaves the silk feeling wonderfully smooth and looking vibrant.

heritage park silk detergent silk clothes cleaning

Hand Washing Silk Sarees

For most silk sarees, gentle hand washing is the best method. Here are my tips for properly hand-washing silk sarees:

  • Fill a sink or large tub with cool, mildly soapy water. Dissolve about 1-2 teaspoons of mild detergent into a few gallons of cool water.
  • Gently lower the saree into the water in its mesh bag. Fully submerge and let soak for 2-3 minutes.
  • Very lightly agitate the saree, moving it gently up and down. Be extremely delicate with embroidered areas.
  • Drain dirty water. Refill the sink or tub with fresh cool water and gently swish the saree to rinse, until water runs clear.
  • Do not wring or twist the saree to drain water. This can damage the delicate silk fabric. Instead, gently gather up the saree and press down to squeeze out water.
  • Lay the wet saree flat on a clean towel. Roll up the saree in the towel to absorb excess moisture.
  • Allow the saree to air dry completely before ironing or storing. Hang to dry or lay flat.
  • For stubborn stains, use a small amount of mild detergent and gently dab the spot. Avoid vigorous rubbing.

Here are a few key things to remember when hand washing:

  • Temperature – Always use cool or lukewarm water. Hot water can damage silk.
  • Avoid wringing/twisting – This causes creases, stretching, and damage. Roll in a towel to absorb moisture instead.
  • Rinse thoroughly – Get rid of all soap residue which can discolor silk over time.
  • Air dry – Lay flat or hang to dry fully. Avoid direct sunlight to prevent fading.

Machine Washing Silk Sarees

While hand washing is best, machine washing is possible for some washable silk sarees that don’t have delicate embellishments.

If machine washing, these tips will help minimize the risk of snags and friction damage:

  • Use a mesh garment bag to contain the saree.
  • Select the gentlest cycle with cool water. The delicates or silk cycle is ideal.
  • Use a mild detergent made specifically for silk fabrics.
  • Choose low agitation settings.
  • Consider turning the saree inside out to protect embellishments.
  • Air dry instead of machine drying! Heat will damage silk.
delicate cycle for silk in washing machine

I really only recommend machine washing for solid color, lightly embellished, or everyday silk sarees.

My nicer Kanchipuram and heavily embroidered silks always get hand-washed or dry-cleaned.

This article details the steps to wash silk wedding dresses safely and effectively.

Drying and Ironing Silk Sarees

Proper drying and ironing are key to bringing your silk sarees back to a wrinkle-free finish.

Drying Tips

  • Lay flat on a towel or mesh drying rack outside of direct sunlight.
  • You may hang to dry as well, but be cautious of clips or hangers snagging delicate fabric.
  • Allow the saree to fully air dry before ironing. Partially damp silk can water stain when heated.

Ironing Tips

  • Use a dry iron on a silk-appropriate heat setting. Too high of heat can scorch silk.
  • Place a thin cotton cloth between the saree and the iron. This prevents shine loss.
  • Iron the saree on the reverse side first before turning it over.
  • Iron pleats and embellished sections very carefully to avoid crushing or flattening.

Dry Cleaning Silk Sarees at Home

While professional dry cleaning is ideal for very delicate silks, home dry cleaning is gentler than fully washing. You’ll need a few supplies:

  • Mild, solvent-free dry cleaning spray or foam
  • Soft brushes for working solution into fabric
  • Mesh wash bags
  • Absorbent towels

Then, follow my home dry cleaning steps:

  1. Unfold the saree and check for any stains or heavily soiled areas first. Use a small brush and cleaning solution to gently spot-clean these areas.
  2. Place the saree in a mesh bag. Hang or lay flat.
  3. Apply the dry cleaning solution to the entire saree surface using a spraying bottle. Use a brush to make sure the solution penetrates into the embroidered areas.
  4. Allow to sit for 10 minutes so the solution can fully work into dirt and oils.
  5. Use a towel to blot excess solution and soak it up from the saree. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing.
  6. Rinse with cool water and blot dry similar to hand washing instructions.
  7. Air dry fully before wearing again.

This helps freshen up a silk saree between deeper cleanings!

elegant silk saree textile

Caring for Special Silk Sarees

Kanchipuram, zari, beaded, and other ornate silk sarees deserve extra special care:

  • Minimal water exposure – Protect embellishments by opting for home dry cleaning instead of full washing.
  • Extra delicate handling – Avoid tension or pulling on delicate stitching and beads that may loosen or break.
  • Proper storage – After any washing, ensure sarees are completely dry before storing so residual moisture doesn’t damage fabric and embellishments.
  • Professional help – Take them for professional dry cleaning 1-2 times per year. This will deep clean the fabrics while protecting the embellishments.

Long-Term Care and Storage

To keep your silk sarees in optimal condition for years to come, be mindful of how you store them.

Recommended Storage Methods

Storage MethodWhen to Use
Archival tissue paperDelicate silks like Kanchipuram & embroidered
Acid-free cardboard boxLong-term storage or multiple sarees
Breathable fabric bagShort-term or travel storage
Cedar closet or chestHelps deter moths and repel moisture

Avoiding Deterioration

  • Avoid plastic bags or unbreathable storage. Use archival tissue or acid-free boxes/paper when storing.
  • Never pack wet or damp sarees – allow them to fully air dry first.
  • Fold delicately to avoid creases and wrinkles.
  • Store flat if possible rather than hanging. Hanging can stretch out the shoulders.
  • Keep in a cool, dry place away from direct light, heat, moisture sources, and bugs!
  • Periodically take out and unfold sarees to allow the fabrics to breathe.
  • Rotate your silk sarees – Don’t wear the same one every time! Rotate your collection to evenly distribute wear.
  • Watch for weakened fabric – Look for thinning, tearing, and other deterioration from storage or age. These are signs it may be time to retire the saree.
  • Consider specialized cleaning 1-2 times per year – Investing in professional dry cleaning or treatment will prolong the life of cherished silk sarees.

Find out the best approach to wash silk scarves and keep them luxurious.

traditional silk saree material


I hope these detailed tips give you the knowledge and confidence to properly care for your precious silk sarees.

Although it takes a gentle touch, washing and storing silk sarees correctly will help preserve them for many years to come.

With the right techniques, you can maintain their vibrant colors, delicate textures, and beautiful embellishments.

Remember to assess the type of silk and embellishments first, handle with care, and avoid excess moisture, heat, and agitation. Implement my storage best practices as well.

Your silk sarees are timeless heirlooms that deserve special attention. With my help, you can confidently care for these elegant garments and keep them looking fabulous for generations!

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