Some silks should be dry cleaned but most can be handwashed. Dry cleaning gets more expensive every day, and the smell of perc (the dry cleaning fluid) in our clothes is not our favorite fragrance. And worst of all, silk begins to look dingy and dull after just a few trips to the dry cleaners. Many silks look better and last longer when hand washed.
But beware, many inexpensive and poorly woven silks may fade, become stiff, change texture or lose their sheen when hand washed. Try a test piece in a series of launderings before spending a lot of time and effort in any project.
When you hand wash a ready-to-wear silk garment, make a wash test on an inconspicuous part of the garment, the inside back of a hem, for example.
Place the silk in a sink or tub full of lukewarm water and mild soap. We like Euculan Woolwash, some people swear by Woolite, some people like Orvus Quilt Soap (available at some Quilt stores as well as many Equestrian Saddle and Tack shops!) and some even use their favorite shampoo. Whatever you use, follow the package directions. Rub the silk fabric for a few minutes in the soapy solution and drain. Rinse in clear, cool water until all the soap is gone (don't wring, silk becomes weaker when wet!). Fold the garment flat and roll up in a towel (like a cinnamon roll) to remove excess water overnight. Remove from the towel and iron dry with a medium-low setting.
You can dry silk Noil in the dryer, but it shrinks more.
Routine hand washing
Soak the garment in lukewarm water and a mild soap solution (see pre-shrinking, above). Rinse in clear, cool water until all the soap is gone. then fill the sink again and add a quarter cup of white vinegar to the final rinse. Vinegar neutralizes any remaining soap, and allows it to rinse out completely restoring the fabric's natural sheen, it can make a dramatic difference. Give the fabric a final rinse in clear, cool water to remove the vinegar smell. Roll up in a towel to remove moisture, then dry flat on a towel or on a padded hanger. Iron with a low-medium temp iron while still slightly damp.
Why Silk shrinks
Silk fiber is a protein, like your hair, and it does not itself shrink. The way the individual fibers are twisted together when weaving is what causes silk to shrink. Highly twisted yarns and loose weaves cause shrinking when water releases twisting energy in the fibers. It's a bit like twisting a rubber band then reducing the length, seeing it bunch up. Silk bunches up the same way. Ready to wear silk garments shrink because manufacturers don't go to the trouble of washing the fabric first. Imagine that.
Launder washable silks in lukewarm water with a mild detergent or an inexpensive liquid dishwashing detergent. Shampoo also can be used in a pinch, but it's quite expensive and contains conditioners silk fabrics don't need. If necessary, use heavy-duty detergent sparingly on heavily soiled inner neckbands and cuffs only--the builders in these could harm the silk if used consistently. Add a little fabric softener to the wash water, if desired, to control static electricity. It won't damage the silk.
Silk is a strong fiber but can be weakened by perspiration, deodorants and sunlight. Silk is absorbent so it dyes easily, but some dye colors tend to bleed and fade in water and during stain removal procedures. According to dry cleaners, red, green, blue and purple dyes are especially prone to problems. Sunlight or even artificial light will fade silk items and turn white silk garments yellow.
Care Tips for Washable Silk
Wash silk garments separately as dyes may bleed. The dyes used on some silk are subject to color loss and dye bleeding. This may occur in normal wear or during stain removal.
Perspiration will degrade silk, and perfumes and deodorants will affect the fabric color. Chafing, splitting, and shredding occur in normal wear, especially in lightweight or tight fitting garments.
Air dry the garment away from sunlight until damp dry. Use a padded or plastic hanger to distribute the weight of the wet garment. Please lay flat and dry in the shade.
While damp, press the silk item from the wrong side with a dry iron at a warm (silk) setting. A steam iron at a low setting may be used, being sure the iron doesn't "spit," which would cause water spots. Iron the fabric dry. Use a press cloth when doing touchups on the right side of the garment.
For long-time storage, silk should be sealed against light, air and insects. Please store with a moth repellent.
Use garment shields to prevent permanent stains from perspiration. Chloride salts found in perspiration and deodorants can weaken silk fibers and, depending on the fabric construction, cause splitting at the underarms as well as staining. Perspiration can damage certain dyes.
Use care in dressing and grooming to avoid staining silk items. Silk fabric is easily damaged by alcohol-based products such as hair spray and perfumes, and chemical products such as nail polish remover. Apply perfume and hair spray before putting on a silk garment as the mist from such products may cause stains.
If you spill something on your silk garment, don't put water on the spotted area. Water may set the stain or cause a permanent ring. Take the item - even a washable silk item - to a dry cleaner as soon as possible. Tell the cleaner what you spilled, where the stain is and how long it has been there. These factors are important because the stain's type and age determine garment handling and spotting procedures.
Machine Washing Silk:
Insert item in a net bag and set machine for a 'delicate wash'.
Don't use presoak products or chlorine bleach; both will damage silk.
Chlorine bleach should never be used on silk.
Do not spin dry.
Chlorine bleach should never be used on silk.
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