Washing Silk with Baking Soda: Practical Care Guide

As a lover of fine fabrics like silk, I understand the common concern about using baking soda as a cleaning agent.

Silk has a reputation for being a very delicate material that requires special care.

However, with the right techniques, baking soda can be a safe, effective, and affordable way to wash your silk items at home.

In this guide, I’ll walk through everything you need to know about using baking soda to wash silk fabrics.

I’ll explain how baking soda works on silk, provide a step-by-step washing guide, give tips for stain removal, and discuss when professional dry cleaning is advisable.

Read on to learn how this pantry staple can help you safely wash and care for your silk clothing and accessories.

baking soda wash for silk fabrics

The Delicate Nature of Silk

Before we dive into washing methods, let’s quickly review silk’s unique properties:

  • Silk is a natural protein fiber, created by silkworms. This gives it a shimmery, luxurious texture.
  • The fibers have an elongated triangular shape that refracts light well. This contributes to silk’s beautiful luster.
  • Silk fabrics are extremely smooth and finely woven. This means dirt and oil cling easily.
  • Silk is very absorbent and holds dye exceptionally well. Colors stay rich and vibrant.
  • However, silk stains easily since it absorbs liquids readily.
  • Silk becomes weaker when wet, so vigorous scrubbing or wringing can damage threads.
  • Silk fabrics degrade under high heat and direct sunlight over time.

As you can see, silk requires gentle care to preserve its delicate texture and vivid colors. Now let’s look at how baking soda fits into the equation.

showcasing beige silk on table

Baking Soda and Silk: A Safe Combination?

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a mild alkaline used primarily as a leavening agent in baking.

In laundry applications, it works as a detergent booster and natural whitener. Let’s analyze how its key properties affect silk:

  • Alkaline pH (around 7-8) helps break down dirt and oils without being too harsh for protein fibers like silk or wool. It’s less alkaline than laundry detergent.
  • Natural deodorizing and disinfectant abilities help sanitize fabrics without chemicals.
  • Mild abrasive texture helps lift stains without vigorous scrubbing or agitation.
  • Bleaching properties derived from the sodium are gentle enough for silk when used properly.

The consensus from textile experts is that baking soda is safe for washing silk when used with care.

The keys are using a conservative dosage, washing in cool water, and avoiding excessive rubbing or wringing.

Step-By-Step Guide: Washing Silk with Baking Soda

Armed with the knowledge of how baking soda interacts with silk, let’s go through the washing process step-by-step:

Supplies Needed:

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • Mild liquid laundry detergent for delicate fabrics
  • Large basin or sink for hand-washing
  • Soft washcloth or sponge

Hand-Washing Silk with Baking Soda

  1. Check garment care label: Confirm ‘hand-wash’ or ‘delicate’ instructions.
  2. Pretreat any stains: See stain removal guide in the ‘Stain Removal from Silk’ section.
  3. Fill a basin with cool water: Use lukewarm water at most – never hot!
  4. Add a small amount of detergent: 1/2 tablespoon liquid detergent is plenty.
  5. Add baking soda: Start with just 1 tablespoon for mild cleaning.
  6. Agitate and soak garment: Swish gently to dissolve the baking soda. Soak for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Drain basin; refill with cool water: Drain soaks up dirt; fresh water rinses it away.
  8. Rinse the garment thoroughly: Don’t wring or twist; gently press the water out.
  9. Lay flat or hang to dry: Shape the garment; dry out of direct sunlight.
washing silk with baking soda mix
filling basin with water
hand washing beige silk in basin
beige silk care hand washing
air drying wet silk garment

The keys are using a light hand when agitating, keeping the water cool, and avoiding wringing or twisting the fabric.

For heavier soiling or laundry loads, you can use up to 1/2 cup baking soda. Just monitor the garment closely and stop if you see any damage to the fibers.

Special Considerations for Silk Garments

Beyond basic washing methods, baking soda can also help restore and preserve your silks through these unique techniques:

Revive Shine with Baking Soda

  • Make a paste by mixing 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water.
  • Gently rub the paste onto dull silk with a soft cloth.
  • Let set for 5 minutes, then rinse with cool water and air dry. The mild abrasive buffs the fibers for refreshed luster.
washing beige silk garment in water

Keep White Silks Bright

  • Add 1 tablespoon baking soda along with detergent to safely lift stains and prevent yellowing.
  • Soak in baking soda solution for up to 15 minutes before washing as usual.
  • Sunlight damages silk over time, so wash whites regularly to delay yellowing.

Avoid These Products on Silk:

  • Chlorine bleach can damage silk fibers and fade colors. Avoid completely.
  • Borax has an alkaline pH but is too harsh for silk’s delicate structure.
  • Woolite detergent is formulated for wool, not silk; it may strip dyes. Stick to silk-safe detergents.

With the proper precautions, baking soda can keep your silks shiny, softly colored, and sanitary over years of gentle washing. Now let’s talk stain removal.

Stain Removal from Silk

Like many of us, I’ve had my share of silk staining disasters from water marks, food spills, and those dreaded underarm yellow stains.

While baking soda alone often removes fresh stains on silk, sometimes you need to pull out the big guns.

Here are my best tips for lifting stubborn stains from delicate silk fabrics:

Stain TypeIngredientsInstructions
Yellow Perspiration Stains1 part baking soda + 1 part hydrogen peroxideApply paste to underarms, let set for 1 hour before washing. Safely whitens without bleach.
Dingy Collars and Stained Ties2 tbsp baking soda + 1 tbsp distilled white vinegarUse a toothbrush to work paste into stain. Acid-alkaline combo breaks down buildup.
Water Marks on SilkWhite vinegarSponge vinegar onto mark, let sit 1 minute, rinse with cool water. Counteracts alkaline spots.
Oil-Based StainsCorn starch or baking sodaSprinkle on stain to absorb grease, let set overnight, brush away, then wash as usual. Lifts oil.

If baking soda alone doesn’t get rid of a stain completely, try combining it with an acidic agent like vinegar or lemon juice to safely lift discoloration without bleaching or enzymes.

Find out vinegar’s effects on silk in my post about using vinegar for washing silk.

silk cloth stain mark
baking soda method for silk stain removal
silk fabric stain removed

Professional Care: When to Choose Dry Cleaning

While the DIY methods in this guide are effective for most washable silk items, some garments do require professional dry cleaning. Here are my rules of thumb:

  • Heavily beaded, embroidered, or embellished silk often cannot withstand hand washing. The extra weight stresses delicate threads.
  • Antique or highly valuable designer silk pieces are best cared for by a professional to prevent damage.
  • Severely stained or discolored pieces may need stronger solvents to lift all traces of embedded stains.
  • Washable silks that require aggressive stain removal on vulnerable areas like collars and underarms. The professionals have tools for precise application.
  • Any silk item you are not comfortable hand washing due to its delicacy or value. Remember, silk becomes more fragile when wet.

The bottom line is you know your garments best. If you have any doubts about hand washing, err on the side of caution.

But simpler silk blouses, scarves, and basics can be safely washed at home with baking soda solutions.

How Much Baking Soda Should You Use When Hand Washing Silk?

Start with 1 tablespoon baking soda for mild cleaning and up to 2 tablespoons for heavily soiled loads. Too much baking soda can be harsh on silk’s delicate fibers.

Mix baking soda with cool water before adding garments to dissolve it thoroughly. Monitor for any damage during washing.

silk fabric stain treatment with baking soda

Can You Soak Silk in Baking Soda Overnight?

It’s not recommended. Baking soda is gentle but still alkaline, so prolonged soaking can damage silk fibers.

Limit soaking time to 5-10 minutes. For stains, make a baking soda paste and apply directly just 1-2 hours max before washing.

Does Baking Soda Whiten Silk or Remove Dye?

Baking soda alone won’t bleach or remove dyes from silk due to its mild nature. However, using excessive amounts in hot water can potentially cause minor fading over time.

As long as you follow the proper hand washing guidelines, baking soda is safe for colored silks.

Can You Use Baking Soda on Silk Every Time You Wash?

Yes, baking soda is gentle enough that you can use it regularly if needed. But for lightly soiled items, an occasional wash in mild detergent and cool water is sufficient.

Reserve baking soda for periodic deep cleaning or stain removal rather than every single wash load.

I’ve detailed natural silk washing techniques in my latest guide for fabric care.

careful hand wash for beige silk dress

Conclusions

I hope these tips give you the confidence to care for your silk garments at home using baking soda. To recap the key points:

  • Use a mild baking soda solution in cool water for basic washing.
  • Avoid wringing; handle silk gently when wet.
  • Refresh shine and brightness with baking soda pastes and soaks.
  • Target stains with combined baking soda and acid solutions.
  • Seek professional cleaning for heavily soiled, embellished, or antique silks.

With some trial and error, you’ll get fantastic results in safely washing silk with baking soda. Your lovely silks will maintain their color, sheen, and delicate hand for years to come.

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