Washing Silk with Other Fabrics: A Comprehensive Guide

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

While its beauty is undeniable, keeping silk looking its best requires some special care, especially when it comes to laundry.

Washing silk improperly can lead to damage, color bleeding, and loss of the fabric’s signature luster.

In this complete guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about washing your silk items alongside other fabrics.

With the right approach, you can safely wash your silks without compromise. Let’s dive in!

collection of silk fabrics on table

Key Considerations Before Washing Silk with Other Fabrics

Before tossing your silk blouses in with the rest of the laundry, there are a few key factors to keep in mind:

  • Color bleeding – Silk tends to bleed dye easily. Washing it with fabrics of contrasting colors can lead to dye transfer issues.
  • Fabric weight – The delicate nature of silk means it can snag on heavier fabrics like denim or towels.
  • Texture – Smooth fabrics like silk are more prone to catching on textured fabrics. Items like cotton terrycloth can damage silk’s surface.
  • Care labels – Always check the clothing label for specific washing instructions. This will indicate if an item can be machine washed and which fabrics it can safely be combined with.

When in doubt, washing silk separately is the safest bet. But there are occasions when washing silk with other fabrics is okay if done carefully. Let’s discuss.

Do You Have to Wash Silk Separately?

Washing silk by itself is ideal to prevent damage; however, in some cases, combining it with other fabrics is permissible:

  • Silk can be safely washed with lightweight fabrics of similar colors and textures, like fine cottons and rayons. The fabrics won’t tug or bleed onto the silk.
  • Dark silks are often colorfast enough to wash with other darks, especially if the fabrics have similar finishes.
  • Sturdy silks like dupioni or raw silk can be combined with fabrics like wool and linen that have comparable weights.
  • Prints and patterns on silk tend to hold dye better than solid colors. Printed silk items may be able to mix with patterned fabrics without issue.
elegant beige silk fabric on wooden table

Here is a table summarizing when silk should be washed alone versus when it can be combined with other fabrics:

Wash Silk AloneOkay to Wash Silk With Other Fabrics
Bright, saturated colorsMuted, dark colors
Delicate lingerie silksSturdy silks like shantung, dupioni
Lightweight silksMedium to heavy weight fabrics
Items prone to snaggingSnag-resistant fabrics like cotton jersey
Vintage or fragile silkNewer, durable silk
Silk requiring dry clean onlySilks labeled machine washable
Sheer fabricsOpaque, tightly woven fabrics
Silk with embellishmentsPlain, unadorned silk
Visibly damaged silkSilk in excellent condition
Large silk items like dressesSmaller items like scarves

The main rule of thumb is to wash silk alone when it’s highly susceptible to damage or bleeding.

Sturdier silks can be safely combined with fabrics of similar weights and colors, using the proper precautions.

When in doubt, washing silk separately avoids any risks of snagging, bleeding, or excess wear.

What Should Silk Clothes Be Washed With?

Here are some safe fabric companions for washing silk:

  • Lightweight cottons – Voile, poplin, chambray.
  • Rayon and viscose – Similar in weight to silk.
  • Fine wools – Cashmere, merino. Check labels first.
  • Linen – A sturdy fiber that won’t snag silk if washed gently.
  • Silk blends – Silk mixed with synthetics or cotton can be washed together.
  • Patterned/dark cottons – For printed/dark silks.
basin method for hand washing silk

When sorting laundry, group the above fabrics together with your silk items for washing. Avoid washing silk alongside:

  • Denim and canvas – Too heavy, risk of snagging.
  • Terrycloth or looped fabrics – Can catch silk’s smooth surface.
  • Brightly colored fabrics – Risk of bleeding, especially onto light silk.
  • Lace and embellished fabrics – Ornate fabrics may damage delicate silk.

Learn which silk fabrics you can clean at home in my guide on washable silk types.

The Best Cleaning Agents for Silk

The right detergent makes a difference in keeping silk’s sheen and elasticity intact during washing. Look for:

  • Ultra-mild liquid detergents – Choose an option specifically formulated for delicates or silk. Avoid detergents with added bleach or brighteners.
  • Soap flakes – Delicate soap flakes help preserve silk’s fibers. Make sure they are unscented.
  • Mild shampoo – A small amount of hair shampoo diluted in water works as a gentle silk wash solution.
  • Specialty silk washes – Brands like The Laundress offer detergents designed specifically for silks.

For anyone with silk garments, Heritage Park Laundry Detergent (link to Amazon) is a must-try. It’s gentle on the fabric, yet powerful enough to remove any dirt or stains.

silk fabrics cleaning with heritage park laundry detergent

Steer clear of powder detergents which can leave harsh residues on the fabric. Also avoid soaps containing lanolin, which attract soil over time.

Can You Wash Silk with Cotton Bedding?

Silk pillowcases and bedding can be gently washed with cotton sheets or duvet covers if some precautions are taken:

  • Wash them in mesh laundry bags to prevent snagging from buttons or zippers on other items.
  • Use a low-agitation cycle on the washing machine, like the delicates setting.
  • Avoid overloading the drum; leave space for items to move around freely.
  • Consider washing the silk bedding separately from everyday cotton sheets which are prone to lint and pilling.
  • Never wash silk bedding on harsh cycles like normal or heavy duty. The intense agitation can damage the fibers.

With some adjustments to the load and settings, cotton and silk bedding can be washed together. But when in doubt, opt for separate, silk-friendly loads.

Learn the proper techniques for how to wash silk bedding to keep it luxurious and comfy.

Duration and Temperature: How Long and at What Temperature to Wash Silk with Other Fabrics

When washing your silk garments, use the following guidelines:

  • Wash time: Stick to brief 5-10 minute cycles. Extended washing in hot water can cause silk to lose its shape and luster.
  • Water temperature: Cold water is ideal. For whites and sturdy silks, warm water can be used sparingly.
  • Hot water should be avoided – it can cause silk fibers to stretch and shrink.
  • Adjust wash time based on the other fabrics present. Less time is needed if washing with lightweight cottons versus heavy fabrics like denim.
heritage park detergent for silk hand wash in basin

Following the care instructions is also crucial. If a label says “Dry Clean Only”, washing the silk garment in water is risky. Use your best judgment.

Using a Washing Machine for Silk and Other Fabrics

Washing machines can clean silk safely when used properly:

  • Sort carefully – Group silk with only compatible fabrics (see suggestions above).
  • Wash on the gentle or delicates cycle using cool water for 3-5 minutes. This provides enough agitation to clean while preventing damage.
  • Smaller loads are best since overcrowding can create friction. For silk bedding, wash one set at a time.
  • Use a wash bag designed for delicates to prevent snagging and tearing. Mesh bags allow water flow.
  • If needed, opt for an extra rinse to fully remove detergent residue that can diminish silk’s shine.
laundry mesh bag silk washing in machine
washing machine silk care with mesh bag
delicate cycle for silk in washing machine

With the right precautions, a washing machine allows you to efficiently wash silk along with everyday laundry.

Hand Washing Silk with Other Fabrics

For delicates like lingerie and accessories, hand-washing silk with compatible fabrics has benefits:

  • Fill a sink or tub with cool water and a small amount of mild detergent. Swish items gently for 2-3 minutes. Avoid harsh twisting motions.
  • Support sheer items like slips and camisoles while washing to prevent stretching the fabric.
  • Rinse twice in clean, lukewarm water to fully remove soap. Gently press the water out and wrap items in a towel to dry.
  • Lay flat on a drying rack or mesh garment bag. Reshape while damp as needed.

Hand washing allows close monitoring and limits agitation from machinery. Take care to avoid creasing or overhandling slick fabrics like silk charmeuse or satin when wet.

Drying and Aftercare for Silk

Proper drying and ironing keep silk looking its best:

  • Always lay flat to dry or hang on padded hangers. Avoid wire hangers that can imprint creases onto silk.
  • Iron on low while slightly damp using the silk setting. Ironing when too wet can damage fibers.
  • Use a press cloth – a damp cotton cloth placed over silk while ironing to prevent shine marks.
  • Fold and store silk in breathable, acid-free tissue paper rather than plastic to prevent yellowing.
  • Dry clean heavily soiled silks or older heirloom pieces too fragile for washing.
silk clothes drying in open air
smoothing silk with iron

By following these garment label instructions and washing silks only with appropriate fabrics, you can keep them looking their absolute best.


Silk requires a delicate touch when it comes to washing to maintain its luxurious feel and appearance.

While washing fine silk separately is always the safest option, there are ways to include silk garments and bedding in loads with similar fabrics.

The key is to wash on a gentle, cool cycle in mesh bags and with mild detergent. Then lay flat or hang to dry away from direct heat.

With this thoughtful care, your silk staples will maintain their beauty and vibrancy for many wears to come.

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