What Type of Silk is Washable? Your Essential Guide

As a silk garment owner, you likely have concerns about keeping your luxurious fabrics looking their best. Can you really wash silk without ruining it?

The good news is, yes you can! With the right techniques and care, silk can be safely washed and enjoyed for years to come.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about washing the different types of silk fabrics.

You’ll learn foolproof methods for cleaning your silks properly and avoiding damage. Let’s get started!

hand wash care for beige silk items

Getting to Know Silk Fabric

Silk has a smooth, delicate texture that requires special care. Here are some key things to know:

  • Silk comes from silkworm cocoons and is valued for its softness, shine, and drape.
  • Traditional silk is very fragile and will weaken and discolor when washed.
  • “Washable silk” has been specially treated to make it more durable and colorfast when laundered. This is not the same as regular silk.

The washability of silk depends on the exact material:

Types of Silk

  • Mulberry silk – Very fine and soft. Washable only if specifically treated.
  • Tussah silk – Coarser, textured silk. Washable if treated for water resistance.
  • Charmeuse silk – Smooth and lustrous. May be washable if treated.
  • Chiffon silk – Lightweight and semi-sheer. Usually too delicate to wash.
collection of silk fabrics on table

Now let’s look closer at which silks can handle washing.

Types of Silk and Washability

The key factor that makes silk washable is a special treatment or finish applied to the fabric. Here are some examples:

  • Everlane Washable Silk – Uses an exclusive 100% silk treated to preserve its look after washing.
  • Washable Silk Blouse – May be made of charmeuse or habotai silk with a washable finish.
  • Washable Silk Shirt – Often pure silk or a blend with synthetics, like polyester, for better washability.
  • Washable Silk Pajamas – Frequently a blend of silk and spandex, with an applied washable finish.

These fabrics withstand washing due to protective finishes or blended synthetic fibers. But how do they compare to untreated silk?

Is Real Silk Washable?

When it comes to 100% raw silk, the answer is generally no. Here’s why:

  • The fibers are too delicate and prone to damage when agitated.
  • Natural silk dyes will bleed and cause discoloration.
  • Untreated silk may shrink, typically around 1-3% when washed.
silk fabric stain removed

However, there are a few exceptions.

Some thicker, more textured raw silks may handle gentle hand-washing if done carefully. But extreme care is needed to prevent rips, tears, or snags.

The bottom line: Real silk must be labeled “washable” to confidently launder without ruining it!

Washing Silk Without Damage

Now that you know which silks are washable, let’s look at the proper technique for washing them:

Before Washing

  • Read the care label! Follow any special instructions.
  • Close zippers, hooks, and buttons. Fasteners can snag on other clothes.
  • Use a mesh bag for delicate items to prevent stretching.
  • Pre-treat any stains with a gentle soap or spray.
visible stain on silk textile
blot removal technique on silk

Washing Steps

  • Fill a basin with cool water. Lukewarm is ok for heavier silks, but avoid hot water that could damage the fibers.
  • Use a gentle, mild liquid detergent, never any bleach or fabric softener. Detergents for delicates or silks are best.
  • Gently swish the garment in the water to clean it. Don’t twist, wring, or scrub aggressively.
  • Drain the dirty wash water and refill with clean cool water to rinse. Rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of detergent. Residual soap can weaken fibers.
  • Avoid putting silk in the dryer! The heat damages silk. Simply lay flat on a towel or hang to air dry instead. Reshape the garment while still damp.
filling basin with water
hand laundering beige silk cloth
gentle hand rubbing of beige silk
gently patting silk with towel to dry

Drying Tips

  • Roll in a towel to gently squeeze out excess water. Don’t wring!
  • Smooth out the fabric while still damp.
  • Lay flat on a drying rack or hang carefully.
  • Allow to air dry fully before wearing or storing.
silk garment drying with absorbent towel
towel wrap for drying silk material
laying wet silk out for air drying

Following these guidelines will keep your washable silks looking fresh and new for many wears. Next, let’s talk about dealing with water and silk.

Dealing with Water and Silk

We know silk and water need to be handled with care. Here’s what to expect:

  • Untreated silk will water spot if exposed to moisture. Treat spots immediately.
  • Some dyes will run when wet, especially darker colors. Wash similar colors together.
  • Washable silk is engineered to limit water absorption. But moisture can still cause problems if left sitting.
  • Blot spills quickly and allow to fully dry to prevent water marks.

So can you actually get real silk wet? With the right precautions, yes. But prolonged exposure to moisture requires special handling…

Machine Washing Silk

Delicate silks will fare best with hand washing. But what about tougher textured silks like shantung or raw tussah? Here are some machine-washing tips:

  • Use a mesh bag. Helps prevent snags, pulling, and excess agitation.
  • Choose a gentle cycle with cool water and low spin speed. No hot!
  • Minimal detergent, no bleach, softener, or additives.
  • Line dry immediately after, do not put in the dryer!
laundry mesh bag silk washing in machine
washing machine silk care with mesh bag
delicate cycle for silk in washing machine

With these precautions, some heavy washable silk fabrics may survive the gentle cycle. But machine washing risks more damage, so handle it with extreme care.

For lightweight silk, always hand wash instead. The motion of a washing machine can destroy delicate fabrics. Now let’s look at proper drying methods.

Drying and Caring for Washable Silk

Drying is an important step to keep silk feeling soft and smooth. Here’s how to do it right:

  • Lay flat on a non-absorbent surface like a towel or drying rack.
  • Smooth out wrinkles and straighten seams while still damp.
  • Move silk occasionally while drying to prevent water spots.
  • Once almost dry, hang to finish drying. A straight hang will keep the silk’s shape.
  • Do not hang sweaters – lay flat to prevent stretching.

Proper drying is the secret to wrinkle-free results and long-lasting silk! Now let’s discuss how to select the highest quality washable silk.

Choosing the Best Washable Silk

With all the different silk options, how do you recognize quality washable silk? Here’s what to look for:

Key Factors

  • 100% silk content or a high silk percentage for best feel.
  • A trusted brand with expertise in silk fabrics and treatments.
  • Soft hand-feel without overly slick or plasticky textures.
  • Vibrant, colorfast dyes that won’t bleed or fade.
  • Durable construction like French or flat-felled seams.
  • Weight and weave suited to the garment design and structure.
elegant beige silk fabric on wooden table

Best Fabrics

Some recommended high-quality washable silks include:

  • Everlane washable silk – Exclusive 100% silk that feels luxurious after washing.
  • Lily silk – Proprietary woven Habotai silk that can be machine washed.
  • Silk blends with synthetics like polyester for better shape retention and durability.

Investing in the best materials will allow you to truly enjoy the benefits of washable silk for many years of wear.

Discover the do’s and don’ts in my article on washing silk with other fabrics.

Common Misconceptions and FAQs

Let’s clear up some frequent questions people have about washing silk:

Does Washable Silk Feel Different from Real Silk?

Yes, washable silk often feels different than real silk. The silk fibers are typically blended with polyester or other synthetics to make the fabric more durable. This changes the texture.

Pure silk has a luxuriously soft, smooth feel and fluid drape. The synthetic fibers in washable silk blends add stiffness and “body” to the fabric.

While it may look like silk, washable silk tends to be a bit rough to the touch in comparison.

However, the feel can vary depending on the exact blend.

Some washable silk fabrics come closer to mimicking the supple hand feel of real silk. But in general, expect washable silk to feel more synthetic than the real thing.

showcasing beige silk on table

Can Washable Silk Go In The Dryer?

No! Even on a low-heat delicate setting, the tumbling motion and heat of a dryer can damage silk. Always air dry instead.

Does Washable Silk Shrink?

Washable silk has been chemically treated (by the manufacturer) so that the fibers hold their shape better when washed.

But the treatment can’t completely prevent shrinkage. Expect washable silk to shrink slightly, around 3-5%.

What Makes Silk Not Washable?

Silk is a delicate, natural fiber that can be sensitive to washing. The molecules align in one direction, and high agitation from washing can cause them to break and become fuzzy. 

That’s why traditional silk garments are often labeled “dry clean only.”

This helpful article breaks down the myths about cleaning silk marked as dry clean only at home.

silk fabric hand wash using basin


Caring for your silk properly doesn’t have to be difficult.

With the right information on fiber types, washing methods, and proper drying techniques, you can keep your silk garments looking beautiful.

The key is to identify if you have a true washable silk or a more high-maintenance fiber.

Take precautions like hand washing, air drying, and prompt stain removal. Understand the limitations of silks that can’t get repeatedly wet.

I hope you found this guide to be a helpful resource. The world of washable silk is now open to you. Time to get out there and make your favorite garments shine!

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