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An In-Depth Look at How to Care for Your Silk

How to for Care for Your Silk

Hesitating to shell out the cash to buy something silk because you’re afraid it’s too delicate and impossible to wash? Don’t worry, you don’t need a private laundry service or a dry cleaning expense account to take great care of silk!  Like all good things, there’s a little bit of effort involved, but silk is easy to take care of as long as you know what to do (and what not to do).

Selecting Your Detergent

This is at the top for a reason!  You absolutely need to use the right detergent when washing silk: while most silk care instructions just say to use “a gentle detergent”, you may not actually know what “a gentle detergent” means.  It does not mean a detergent with no scents or dyes.  An unscented, hypoallergenic, all-purpose detergent will destroy silk just as badly as a normal, blue, scented detergent if it contains the wrong ingredients.

The detergent you use must not have protease, enzymes, alcohol, bleach, or any alkalines in it: these will dissolve silk and any other protein based natural fabric, such as wool.  When clothing directions say to use a gentle detergent, they mean a detergent without those ingredients.  

In general, this means you need to avoid any detergent that boasts of its stain fighting prowess: these are generally designed to remove proteins, which means they’re also designed to murder your silk.  This isn’t a guarantee that the detergent won’t hurt your silk, though. For example: nearly every laundry pod made will damage silk thanks to a chemical used in the pod’s coating

So, what can you do?  Well, the easiest option is actually to just use baby shampoo.  The only issue with using baby shampoo is you can’t put it into a washing machine - hand wash only.  

For machine washing, the best option is to pick a dedicated detergent for delicate items: Woolite was the standard bearer for years, but there are many other newer detergents that work just as well along with a ton of silk specific detergents.  

Make sure that the detergent you use says it’s safe for silk, and always remember to spot test first to make sure your chosen detergent won’t damage your silk!

Storing Your Silk to Avoid Wrinkles

The very qualities that make silk wonderfully smooth also make it wrinkle easily if it isn’t stored properly.  The best way to store it? Just hang it up in a closet: this will stop it from wrinkling and will actually get rid of minor wrinkles all on its own!  Also, the darker the closet the better. All natural fabrics will break down a little bit in direct sunlight, and silk is no exception.

Now, the choice of hanger is also pretty important.  For example, a lot of wooden hangers are treated with dyes and finishes that can leech out and discolor your clothing, and if you place the ultra smooth and slippery silk onto a slippery plastic hanger, your things are going to end up on the floor.  How do you deal with it? Use a no-slip, non-wooden hanger.

Ironing Out the Tough Wrinkles

If you happened to store your silk on the floor for a few days (or months), you might have some seriously stubborn wrinkles.  It’s ok, you can iron silk, but you need to be a little careful: the key is to use the lowest setting on your iron. The setting is often, helpfully enough, called “Silk”.  

Turn your silk item inside out, get it a tiny bit damp, and iron it gently but quickly. Wrinkle free!  If you want to get more dedicated to silk, or are worried about making a mistake while ironing, you can also either use a steamer or hang your silk items from a hanger inside the bathroom while you take a hot shower.  

Do I Need to Dry Clean This?

There are three ways you can clean your silk: Dry Cleaning, Hand Washing, and Machine Washing.  That’s also the order of how gentle they are. Different silk items have different care requirements, so you need to do a little thinking when you decide how to wash your silks.  Most silk items are generally fine to hand wash or machine wash with the proper detergent (all MYK items are fine for hand washing or machine washing), but there are times you really should dry clean.

The first thing you need to do is check the label: if your item says “Dry Clean Only” then you really should obey it.  If it just says “Dry Clean”, then you actually might have some leeway, as that’s just a recommendation.

First, spot test your silk: use a little water and see what happens.   If the color runs, then you should dry clean it. This is more common when the silk has dark, patterned designs or certain natural dyes.  If the spot test is clean, then your next step is to think about the design of the item: the more complex and delicate the design, the better an idea it is to dry clean.  

Lastly, the more stained the item it is, the better an idea it is to dry clean - minor stains can come out easily enough, but big stains can be hard to remove without dry cleaning.

My Silk Doesn’t Require Dry Cleaning, How Should I Wash It?   

Congratulations on not having to dry clean!  You have two options: you can hand wash your silk, or you can machine wash it.  Hand washing requires a little more effort, but will preserve your silk’s smoothness longer, while machine washing is way easier, but can, over a longer period, damage your silk.

I Want to Keep My Silk Beautiful Forever, How Do I Hand Wash it?

Hand washing is actually quick and easy: get a container (even the sink will work just fine), add a little water and detergent, then soak your silk for a minute or two.  Move the silk around a little bit, then leave it to sit another couple of minutes, remove it, and rinse. If you want to go that extra mile, add a little bit of hair conditioner to some water and use that to do your final rinse.

I Live Dangerously, Machine Washing Forever!

Machine washing isn’t actually that bad, but it’s definitely the harshest washing method.  Make sure you wash it on cold and use the lowest, most gentle setting – this will usually be called “delicate”.  In addition, if you’ve got a top loading machine, or just want to be a little more careful, give your silk extra protection by putting it into a washing bag.

OK, How Do I Dry This Thing?

Well, first off, don’t use a machine: drying machines, even on the lowest setting, produce heat, and you don’t want to heat silk.  Instead, start by putting your silk on a towel, fold the towel, and gently press out most of the water.

To finish, just put it on a hanger over your tub or shower for an hour or two: silk dries quickly.  Most importantly, don’t sun dry it! Like we said earlier, the sun can fade and damage natural fabrics.   

I Have a Stain, What Do I Do?

Most stains can be removed quite easily: mix up a simple stain remover by combining 2 cups of water with 2 cups of lemon juice or white vinegar.  Put a little bit onto the stain, rub it gently, and then wash like normal.

Oil stains are going to be a bit trickier, and it’s very important to act quickly.  First, scrape away the oil that hasn’t yet soaked in with a towel, then quickly get some talcum powder and pour it onto the oil mark.  Leave it overnight, then gently brush the talcum powder away and wash your silk item.

On a side note, don’t try spot treating silk: you’ll end up with a water stain.  It’s best to simply wash the entire thing when you’ve got a stain.

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