How to Wash Silk and Keep It Beautiful

Published March 3, 2021
woman touching elegant silk

Learn how to wash silk by hand and in the washing machine. Find out how to tell if you can wash silk and how to cure rough silk after washing.

Can You Wash Silk?

To wash or to not wash silk is the ultimate question. Some silk is washable. Some silk is not washable. You'll discover if you can wash silk by looking at the symbols on your laundry care tag. The tag tells you if the garment can be washed, how to clean it, and even the different temperatures you can use. Typically, on your silk clothing, you're going to see dry-clean only, hand wash only, or washer safe. If your silk is washable, then it's time to learn how.

Silk Clothes Label

Detergent for Silk

Before diving headfirst into hand washing or machine washing your favorite silk PJs, it's crucial to discuss detergents for silk. Silk is a delicate fabric. Therefore, when washing silk clothing or pillowcases, look for a detergent that specifies it's silk safe. These detergents have a low pH and do not change the texture and look of the silk. Just a few brands designed for silk include Woolite Extra Delicates, Persil Silk and Wool, and Tide for Delicates.

How to Wash Silk by Hand

Now it's time for the fun part: handwashing silk. Since silk is such a delicate fabric, hand washing is the preferred method to using the washing machine. For handwashing, you need to grab:

  • Detergent

  • White cloth

  • Large towel

Handwashing Silk

Step-by-Step Instructions for Handwashing Silk

With your supplies at the ready, it's time to get to washing your silk.

  1. Pre-treat any stains on your silk ties or garments before washing.

  2. Fill your sink or tub with the water temperature recommended on the garment. Generally, this is cold or cool water.

  3. Add a few drops of the detergent of your choice and stir.

  4. Take a white cloth and wet it.

  5. Press it against the garment to see if any of the color comes off. If it does, opt for dry cleaning or wash this item alone.

  6. Turn the garment inside out.

  7. Soak the garment in the water for up to 30 minutes.

  8. Agitate the garment in the water by plunging it up and down.

  9. Drain the soapy water.

  10. Fill the tub or sink several times with clean water. Agitate the garment to remove all the detergent.

  11. Once the soap is all gone, lay a towel out flat. (You don't want to wring out silk).

  12. Place the garment on the towel.

  13. Fold the towel over the garment to soak up the excess water. You can gently roll the garment in the towel to remove more water.

  14. Put it on a drying rack or lay flat to dry. (Avoid putting your silk in direct sunlight.)

How to Wash Silk in the Washer

Washing your clothes in the washer takes some care. Just remember that everything you do needs to be delicate. Before machine washing, you need:

  • Garment bag for delicates

  • Delicate laundry detergent

  • White cloth

Silk fabrics in laundry bag

Steps for How to Machine Wash Silk

Before putting your garments in the washer, remember to test for colorfastness with a white cloth. If your scarf or shirt color comes off, take it to a dry cleaner to be on the safe side.

  1. Put your silks in the bag designed for delicates.

  2. Place the bag in the washer alone.

  3. Add the proper amount of detergent for your load.

  4. Set your washer to a delicate or gentle cycle, shortest spin, and recommended temperature water for fabric. If in doubt, use cold.

  5. Once the cycle is complete, use a towel to soak up excess moisture if necessary.

  6. Hang the garment to dry.

Since silks are delicate fabrics, you want to skip the dry.

How to Wash a Silk Pillowcase and Sheets

Silk pillowcases and bedsheets can add an extra level of cleaning since these can get trapped germs, especially during cold and flu season. For silk pillowcases and bedsheets, it's always best to wash them by hand. For the most part, you can follow the guidelines for cleaning silk by hand. However, for extra sanitizing, add ¼ cup of white vinegar to the first rinse. While white vinegar doesn't kill germs as well as bleach or hydrogen peroxide, it's gentle enough not to destroy silk and kill most germs. Additionally, allowing them to air dry for a day or two ensures the remaining germs are obliterated.

Softening Rough Silk After Washing

Air drying can make silk a bit crispy. Use these tips to soften it up.

  • Gently run an iron over it on the "silk" setting while still slightly damp to soften it up.

  • When it comes to detergents, less is more. Too much or the wrong detergent can make silk rough. Be sure to use a non-alkaline detergent.

  • Adding ¼ cup of vinegar to the first rinse helps to work as a natural fabric softener.

red silk bedding hanging outside

How to Wash Silk Perfectly

Not all silk can be washed, but it's essential to do it correctly when it can. Since you have all the know-how, it's time to start cleaning your favorite silk PJs.

How to Wash Silk and Keep It Beautiful