How to Wash Silk in a Washing Machine: A Step-by-Step Guide

Silk is one of the most exquisite and delicate fabrics out there.

Though dry cleaners usually handle silk garments, you may find yourself needing to wash a silk blouse, dress, or accessory at home.

With the right techniques, you can use your washing machine to clean silk without damaging the fabric.

In this article, I’ll walk through my proven process for washing silk step-by-step. You’ll learn:

  • How to prep your silk for the washing machine
  • The best washing machine settings for silk
  • Which detergents are gentle enough for silk
  • Proper washing, drying, and ironing methods
  • Troubleshooting for common silk-washing mistakes
  • Tips to extend the life of your silk clothing

Follow my advice below, and you can wash your silk confidence!

washing machine method for red silk

Pre-Washing Preparations

Before placing your silk in the washing machine, there are a few key steps to take:

Check Garment Labels

Always consult the care label on your silk item first. 

While many silks can be gently washed at home, some have strict “Dry Clean Only” instructions that should be followed to prevent damage.

Silk garments marked “Dry Clean Only” often have:

  • Delicate embellishments that may catch, pull, or tear in a washing machine.
  • A heavyweight structure that requires professional pressing.
  • Detailed beading, sequins, or other decor that could be ruined if submerged in water.

If the label says dry clean only, I recommend taking it to the pros instead of attempting to wash it yourself.

Understand “Washable Silk”

If your silk garment has a “Machine Washable” label, rejoice! This means the manufacturer has pre-treated the fabric so it can withstand gentle home washing without losing its sheen or shape.

Many washable silks are blended with sturdy fibers like cotton or polyester. This gives them more durability while retaining their luxurious drape and feel.

Pre-Treat Stains

Check over your silk garment for any obvious stains, spills, or soiled areas. Pretreat these spots with a mild detergent or stain remover made specifically for delicates.

Test any stain-removal product on an inconspicuous part of the garment first to ensure it’s colorfast. I recommend Woolite Delicates detergent – its formula is safe for silk.

Avoid harsh chemicals like bleach that could damage the fibers.

silk apparel hand wash in basin

Selecting the Right Washing Machine Settings

Choosing the proper machine settings is crucial for keeping silk intact during washing. Here are my top tips:

Use the Gentlest Cycle

Set your washing machine to the most delicate, lowest agitation cycle. This is often labeled as “Delicates.”

The gentle action will get the silk clean without causing excess friction or stress on the fibers. Vigorous agitation can stretch, tear, or felt delicate silks.

delicate cycle for silk in washing machine

Low Water Temperature

Wash silk in cool water to prevent shrinking, warping, and bleeding of dyes. I recommend choosing a cold or lukewarm water setting below 30°C.

Hot water can shock and damage silk fibers. Save the hot washes for your sturdy cottons!

machine wash silk using delicate program setting

Skip the Dryer

Never put silk in the dryer! The intense tumbling and heat destroy the structure of silk, leaving it limp, shrunken, and lifeless.

Always line dry silk pieces flat to maintain their shape and texture. More on proper silk drying methods in Section VI.

Choosing the Correct Detergent

The right kind of laundry detergent makes all the difference when machine-washing delicate fabrics like silk:

Use Extra-Gentle Cleansers

Look for a detergent specially formulated for delicates, silks, and fine fabrics. These are free of chemicals and additives that could harm the silk fibers.

Some top options are:

detergent silk fabrics heritage park use

Avoid Harsh Detergents

Do not use regular laundry detergent on your silks – it will strip the fibers! Standard detergents contain degreasers, optical brighteners, synthetic dyes, and strong perfumes. 

These can damage the delicate protein fibers in silk over time.

I also don’t recommend hand washing silk with regular dish soap or shampoo. Only use cleansers specifically created for delicates.

Softener is Optional

Fabric softener is not required when washing silk. But if you want an extra-soft feel, look for a delicate-safe softener without dyes or perfumes. Test on a hidden area first.

The Washing Process

Now we’re ready to run the washing machine! Follow my simple step-by-step process below:

1. Sort by Color and Fabric Type

Group your silk garments by color so dyes don’t bleed onto lighter items. Also, separate pure silk pieces from silk blends – the more delicate silks may need extra care.

2. Fasten Any Closures

Button, zip, or hook any closures so these areas don’t get tugged or stretched during washing. Turn items inside out too.

3. Use a Mesh Bag

Place your silk garments into a mesh wash bag and secure the bag closed. This provides an extra gentle cushion during the wash cycle.

washing machine silk care with mesh bag

4. Add the Detergent

Use only 1-2 tablespoons of your delicates detergent for a medium load. Overage can leave behind soap residue.

5. Select the Proper Wash Settings

Set your machine to the gentlest, coolest cycle. No need to select a long wash time – 10-15 minutes is plenty for silks.

6. Lay Flat to Dry

When the cycle finishes, gently remove items and lay flat on a towel to dry. Refer to drying guidelines in the next section.

Repeat this process each time you need to freshen up your silks. It’s gentle enough for frequent washing of your silk blouses, scarves, and undergarments.

drying silk fabric hanging flat

Post-Washing Care

To finish off the washing process, here’s how to dry and finish your silks with care:

  • Lay flat to dry: Never wring, hang, or tumble dry silk! Lay each piece flat on a thick, clean towel and allow to fully air dry. This prevents stretching and retains the shape. Rotate periodically.
  • Iron while slightly damp: On the coolest setting, gently press silk while still slightly damp to prevent creasing. Use an up-and-down motion rather than pushing along the fabric. Test your iron on an inconspicuous area first.
  • Steam instead of iron: For added wrinkle-smoothing without direct contact, hold a garment steamer above the silk and mist until the wrinkles are released. This is great for delicate silk blouses!
  • Store folded or hanging: Once fully dry, store silk folded in a drawer or hanging loosely on a padded hanger. Never bunch silk tightly which can stretch fibers.
smoothing blue silk with iron

Troubleshooting Common Silk Washing Issues

Even when following the proper technique, silk can still be persnickety! Here are my solutions to frequent silk-washing issues:

Your 100% silk piece appears shrunken, stiff, or warped after washing.Try reshaping the item gently by steaming or ironing. Wash separately next time on an even gentler cycle and line dry immediately.
A water stain or ring has set into the silk fabric.Dampen the stained area and rub a tiny bit of mild soap or wool detergent into it. Rinse under cool water and repeat until it lifts. Avoid scrubbing too hard.
Your silk smells musty and mildewed after washing.To remove odors, fill a spray bottle with equal parts distilled white vinegar and water. Lightly mist onto the silk and let air dry fully in sunlight. The vinegar smell will fade.
Silk has snags, pulls, and lost beads/sequins after washing.Unfortunately, once a silk fabric starts to fray or develops snags, it can be difficult to repair at home. Handle the garment very gently going forward by turning inside out, using a mesh bag, and washing on an ultra-delicate cycle.

Find out if your silks are safe in my post about whether silk gets ruined in the washing machine.

Maintenance and Longevity of Silk Garments

With proper care between washes, your silk pieces can stay stunning for many years. Here are my top tips:

  • Only wash when truly needed – silk often looks freshest by steaming instead!
  • Spot clean stains gently using a delicates-safe soap and a small brush. Avoid vigorous rubbing.
  • Wipe spills quickly with plain cold water and blot thoroughly so the moisture doesn’t set in.
  • Store silk folded neatly or on padded hangers in cool, dark places. Sunlight can fade bright silk shades over time.
  • Dry clean silk coats, formalwear, and very heavyweight fabrics. The pros have specialty machinery to handle delicates.
  • Check for pilling, snags, or weak seams regularly and repair right away to avoid bigger damage.

By mastering how to wash silk in your washing machine, you’ll keep your favorite silk pieces feeling and looking their absolute best for years of stylish wear.

Just remember to treat them gently and they’ll continue treating you well!

Keep your sleeping comforts pristine with my advice on washing silk pillowcases.

manual wash of silk clothing in basin

Can I Use Bleach or Other Whitening Agents When Washing My Silk?

No, you should never use bleach, optical brighteners, or other harsh whitening chemicals when washing silk.

These agents will damage the fibers and cause yellowing over time. For best results, use an ultra-mild, bleach-free detergent formulated specifically for delicates and silks.

Oxygen-based cleaners are gentler alternatives if you need to brighten whites. But test first in an inconspicuous area.

What Temperature Should I Select If My Washing Machine Only Has Hot/Warm/Cold Settings?

If your washing machine lacks a true “cold” setting, opt for the coolest available option, preferably not exceeding 30°C, for silk.

Aim for a max temperature of around 30°C and double-check the care tag instructions. Avoid the hot setting at all costs – hot water can shrink and warp delicate silk fabrics quickly.

You may also consider washing by hand if possible to better control the temperature. Use cool to lukewarm water in a sink or basin.


I hope this complete guide gives you the confidence to wash your own silk at home.

While it does require more care than sturdy fabrics, machine-washing silk is possible with the proper techniques.

Here’s a quick recap of the key steps to the safest silk washing:

  • Inspect garment labels and pre-treat any stains
  • Use a delicates-specific detergent in cool water
  • Choose the gentlest wash cycle and temperature
  • Never wring, twist, or tumble-dry silk
  • Lay flat immediately after washing
  • Iron or steam while slightly damp if needed
  • Store properly and repair snags early

By following my instructions, your precious silk blouses, dresses, and accessories will stay luxuriously soft and lustrous. Happy washing! Let me know if you have any other questions.

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