Washing Silk Naturally: Eco-Friendly Methods for Silk Care

As someone who loves fine fabrics like silk, I’m always looking for gentler, eco-friendly ways to care for my delicate items.

Harsh detergents and careless washing can easily damage silk, shortening its lifespan. 

That’s why I rely on natural cleaning methods to keep my silks looking their best while also staying green.

In this article, I’ll share my top tips for safely and sustainably washing silk at home.

From handwashing to natural detergents, you’ll learn how to clean silk without compromising its quality or the environment. Let’s dive into the wonderful world of natural silk care!

silk fabric care with vinegar wash

Key Characteristics of Silk

Before we get our hands wet, let’s briefly go over what makes silk so special:

  • Luxurious, soft, and lightweight fabric with a natural sheen. Made from silkworm cocoons and highly prized for its beauty.
  • Extremely delicate and prone to damage from rough handling, harsh detergents, and excess heat.
  • Fibers can easily lose their shape, resulting in a limp, lifeless fabric over time.

Clearly, silk requires gentle care and handling to maintain its natural elegance and drape.

By following eco-friendly washing methods, we can enjoy silk’s sublime texture for years to come.

Preparing to Wash Silk

To start, make sure that your fabric is actually 100% pure silk. Check the fabric tag, as blends like silk-cotton can typically withstand more vigorous washing. I also recommend:

  • Checking for colorfastness by wetting a small, hidden area of the fabric. Make sure the colors don’t bleed before washing.
  • Examining your silk item for stains, wear, and tear before washing. This allows you to pre-treat any problem areas.
  • Emptying all pockets so zippers, buttons, etc don’t damage the silk during washing.
  • Using mesh laundry bags for delicates to prevent stretching and tearing.
silk fabric stain removed

By taking a few simple precautions, you can avoid potential pitfalls down the line. Now let’s explore some eco-friendly washing techniques perfect for silk.

Natural Washing Techniques for Silk

Hand Washing with Gentle Cleansers

My tried and true method for silk is good old-fashioned hand washing.

All you need is cool or lukewarm water and a gentle, plant-based liquid detergent. I recommend detergents with natural ingredients like:

  • Castile soap
  • Vegetable-based surfactants
  • Plant oils like olive oil or coconut oil
  • Essential oils like lavender or eucalyptus

I highly recommend Heritage Park Laundry Detergent (link to Amazon) for its eco-friendly and skin-friendly properties. Its natural, plant-based formula is effective on stains while being gentle on fabrics and the environment.

heritage park silk detergent silk clothes cleaning

Avoid harsh detergents with sulfates, enzymes, and brighteners that can cause damage. Here’s my hand washing routine for silk:

  • Fill sink or basin with lukewarm water and diluted natural detergent. Agitate the solution to activate cleaning agents.
  • Submerge the item in water, gently squeezing and swirling to dislodge dirt and stains. Never rub silk aggressively!
  • Allow the item to soak if heavily soiled. Rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove all detergent residue.
  • Roll the item in a towel to gently press out moisture. Always line dry silk out of direct sunlight.
filling basin with water
hand washing beige silk in basin
washing beige silk garment in water
hand washing process for beige silk
gently patting silk with towel to dry
silk garment drying with absorbent towel
towel wrap for drying silk material
wet silk fabric drying naturally

With this gentle hand washing technique, you can keep silk looking renewed without risk of damage. It takes a bit more time than machine washing, but it’s worth it for quality results.

Vinegar Rinses for Silk

For me, the benefits of vinegar for silk care simply can’t be beaten. The acidic formula of white distilled vinegar naturally:

  • Removes soap residue that makes the fabric feel stiff and lifeless
  • Brightens colors and restores sheen
  • Softens fibers and prevents yellowing
  • Neutralizes odors and helps repel moths!

I simply add 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup of white vinegar to a sink of cool water and soak my silk items after washing.

After a good soak, I drain the vinegar solution and rinse thoroughly before drying as usual. It’s an easy eco-friendly booster that takes silk care to the next level!

vinegar wash for silk fabrics

Shampooing Silk

It may sound odd, but a small amount of mild, sulfate-free shampoo can also safely cleanse silk.

Many high-end silk producers actually recommend shampoo for washing fine silk items like scarves, ties, and lingerie.

Look for moisturizing shampoos made for chemically treated or baby-fine hair. Lather some diluted shampoo thoroughly with your hands and gently wash as you would hand wash.

Rinse multiple times in cool water to remove all traces of shampoo.

While it’s not my personal go-to, shampoo is a handy natural silk wash solution in a pinch. Just be sure to use a formula free of harsh ingredients that can strip away silk’s natural oils.

My guide on silk care with shampoo offers insights into this unique cleaning method.

silk fabric wash with gentle shampoo

What to Avoid When Washing Silk

Now that we’ve covered safe washing methods, let’s go over some common silk-wrecking mistakes to steer clear of:

  • Machine washing or drying silk fabric – always air dry and hand wash silks! The agitation and heat will cause irreversible damage.
  • Hot water – lukewarm at best, but cool or cold water is ideal to prevent dye bleeding and fiber damage.
  • Commercial detergents with brighteners, enzymes, and fragrances. The chemicals are too harsh for silk’s delicate structure.
  • Wringing, twisting, or bunching the fabric – this stretches and deforms the fibers. Roll in a towel instead to gently extract water.
  • Direct sunlight when drying – this fades colors and weakens fibers over time. Dry in shade.
  • Ironing silk garments at high heat – use the lowest setting or steam press delicates to prevent damaging sheen.

By avoiding these hazardous habits, you can keep your silk looking sensational wash after wash. Next, let’s go over some of my favorite natural products for silk.

Best Natural Products for Washing Silk

When it comes to cleansers, look for plant-based liquid detergents free of synthetic additives:

For brightening rinses, I adore using:

  • Distilled white vinegar – Affordable and effective for silk
  • Eucalan Delicate Wash – Contains natural citrus for brightening
  • Kookaburra Wash – Olive oil-based silk wash with lemon juice

These natural solutions help maintain silk’s vibrancy and softness without using harsh chemicals found in commercial cleaners.

While availability varies by location, it’s worth seeking out eco-friendly silk detergents online or at specialty shops.

Learn about this unconventional method in my guide on washing silk with baking soda.

silk fabric assortment displayed on table

Drying and Storing Silk

Once washed, it’s vital to properly dry and store silk items to maintain quality:

  • Lay flat or hang to completely air dry silk out of direct light.
  • Use rust-proof skirt or pants hangers to dry silk garments to prevent water markings.
  • Iron lowest heat setting inside out or use steam to remove wrinkles after drying.
  • Store silk in cool, dark spaces away from sunlight, dirt, and insects.
  • Use breathable garment bags or acid-free tissue paper to prevent creasing and yellowing.
laying wet silk out for air drying
smoothing silk with iron

By carefully drying and storing silk, you can prevent damage like brittleness, shrinkage, and staining between wears.

Advanced Tips for Silk Care

Over time, even gently washed silk can develop tougher stains, dinginess, and odors. Here are some of my tried and true tips for revitalizing silk:

  • For deodorizing, soak silk in equal parts vinegar and water for 30 minutes prior to washing. This helps eliminate odors.
  • To brighten, add some lemon juice during the rinse cycle after washing. Lemon juice naturally bleaches and whitens silk.
  • To prevent yellowing, soak in a bath of cool water with bluing liquid added (1 tsp per gallon water). This neutralizes yellow discoloration.
  • Alternate storing silk hanging or folded every few months to prevent permanent creases from settling in fabric fibers.

With some crafty applications of natural ingredients, you can restore the freshness and beauty of silk over the long run.

Seasonal Silk Care Tips

I also like to adjust my silk washing routine for the changing seasons:

  • In summer, wash heavier silks less frequently and let garments air out to prevent perspiration stains.
  • Come fall and winter, wash more often as needed to remove traces of seasonal products like perfume, hairspray, and lotion that can cling to silk.
  • For priceless silk heirlooms or seldom worn pieces, consider professional dry cleaning once every year or two to deep clean and protect your investment.
  • Wash silk scarves and accessories after each wearing to eliminate oils from hair, face, and hands that gradually break down silk fibers.

By tuning your washing schedule and practices to the seasons, you can optimize your eco-friendly silk care routine.

table set with beige silk fabric


Silk requires a gentle touch, but armed with the right knowledge you can easily keep your silks looking fresh between wears.

By adopting natural washing methods and avoiding harsh chemicals and handling, silk can provide years of enjoyment.

From vinegar rinses to proper storage, eco-friendly practices allow us to cherish silk’s delicate beauty for generations to come.

I hope these natural silk washing tips help breathe new life into your favorite silk blouses, robes, and accessories!

Let me know if you have any other tricks for safely greening your silk care routine.

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