How to Wash Silk Clothing and Sheets at Home

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Yes, you can have nice things—and keep them nice with less effort than you think.

Silk is undoubtedly a beautiful, luxurious fabric, but it has a reputation for being tough to care for. If you’re hesitating to buy certain clothing or bedding because you don’t know how to wash silk clothing, we’ve got good news for you: Many 100% silk items can be washed at home. You’ll just need to review the laundry symbols and special care instructions on the label first. We asked silk care experts for their tips on how to wash silk, including the best laundry detergent to use and how to keep your silk items looking new. Turns out, learning how to launder silk isn’t nearly as intimidating as most of us imagine. You’ll discover that silk is actually quite simple to care for and requires only a bit of attention.

So, just what are the delicate care requirements for your silk clothing? We have some answers.

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What to do before you wash silk

Important: Always read the instructions on an item’s care label before washing it.

As you read the instructions on an item's care label carefully before washing it, you will be able to tell exactly what is required. For instance, if you know how to wash dry-cleaning only clothes at home, you might assume that you can follow those same steps for silk items. However, it's important not to wash dry-clean-only silk.

Silk is very delicate and it's a good idea to test your garment for colorfastness before washing it. You can do this by wetting a light-colored cloth or cotton swab and dabbing the inside seam of the garment. If the color bleeds onto the cloth or swab, then the garment should probably be professionally cleaned because it may not be colorfast.

Silk items should be separated from the rest of the laundry and washed on their own. This includes silk sheets as well as clothing. Silk clothing can also be washed with other delicates such as lace and wool but not with jeans which are too abrasive and can damage the silk.

There are three ways to clean silk clothes and sheets: Dry Cleaning, Machine Washing, or Hand Washing

Dry cleaning is a reasonable choice for some types of silk items, but it is significantly more expensive than machine washing. Plus dry cleaning can contribute to global warming and pollution so if you can help it, go with a machine or hand washing instead!  If you must dry clean try to find an eco-friendly or green dry cleaner establishment in your area.  

Machine Washing Silk

When washing silk items by machine, you should separate them from all other laundry and wash on the lowest temperature water setting. This is necessary to protect the delicate silk fibers which can be easily snagged or damaged when in with rougher fabrics.  Always consider using a mesh laundry bag when washing silks and delicates.  And always opt for the delicate cycle.

For machine washing, you should use cool water on the lowest setting possible for delicates. A cold water setting will still get your silk clean without fear of damage or shrinkage.  If your washer has an agitator in the center, make sure to use mesh laundry bags to protect your silk pieces.  

You should use a detergent made for silk and fabric enhancers to protect the bright colors of silk clothing. You can also add white vinegar on top of your regular detergent to help deodorize the items. If your silk item has some staining you can add a little detergent to the spot prior to washing but you will once again want to carefully test the spot prior to washing.  You can add a little bit of laundry detergent to the water before placing it in the washer. There are some unscented vinegar laundry products on the market that you may consider if you choose to add a deodorizing additive.  

Hand Washing Silk

The best way to hand wash silk is in a large sink or bathtub filled with cool water and white vinegar or a silk laundry detergent. White vinegar will not cause any color changes when used on silk. You can also try one of the unscented vinegar laundry detergents on the market.

Let the silk item soak for a few minutes in cool water and gently wash.. Rinse it in cold water and press the excess water out of it before hanging to dry.  The best way to remove the excess water is by rolling your garment up and gently pressing the water out.  This will help to eliminate wrinkles and stretching.

Silk Air Drying Instructions

Hang your silk items on a padded hanger or lay them flat to dry. Silk can be heavy when wet so flat drying is best when possible.  You can also try a padded nonslip hanger if space is an issue.  

You can lay your silk items out on a towel before hanging them up to dry. Silk dries quickly so you need not worry about having it sit too long.

Machine Drying Silk

When machine drying your silk items, you should use a low heat setting on your machine or line-dry. Synthetic dryer balls in the dryer can also be used to dry silk without causing damage.  Please first refer to the label on your clothing for drying instructions.

 If you did not line-dry your items, hang them on a drying rack that will allow air to circulate all around the fabric. This will help avoid unsightly “fuzzies” or pilling on your silk.

If the label on your silk says that it's okay to put your item in the dryer, It is a good idea to add a fabric softener sheet to your dryer as a precautionary measure against static electricity. 

After washing and drying your silk garments, you should hang them up for about an hour to allow the wrinkles to fall out before wearing or storing them.

Washing Silk Sheets

No matter what kind of washing method you use, it is best to wash your silk sheets by themselves since they can snag on other fabrics in the load. You of course can also hand wash and line dry them unless the label directs otherwise.  

Ironing Tips for Silk

The best idea is to allow them to hang for about an hour after they are done drying. The wrinkles will fall out on their own and it will give the fabric time to cool down before you try to press it with heat.

If you must iron silk, use a lower setting than normal and do not linger in one spot for too long. If possible, iron your silk from the inside and you may consider using a pressing cloth.

There's a new ironing product on the market called Nori Press.  This new steam iron with its unique design not only has a setting for silk but also has a fabric facial that will help to steam out any wrinkles on your precious silk items and simultaneously freshen them.  Nori is an absolute must-have if you own silk clothing and want to take care of it without a lot of fuss.  

Moths and Silk

One thing to note is that moths hate vinegar which you can add to your wash and so if you wash your silk clothes or sheets with this solution you can help deter them. You can also make a vinegar solution to spray iin your closet.  One of the easiest solutions is the use of cedar balls, hangers, spray, etc.  There are a myriad of cedar products that you can tuck and spray throughout your closet to keep those pesky moths away.  .

You can avoid moths by hanging your clothes and storing them in a tightly sealed container. If you bring out your silks very infrequently and they start getting eaten away, it is best to take them to be professionally cleaned or if that is not possible, clean them yourself using the methods above.

If you notice moth damage, follow the directions above to hand wash or machine washing and drying your silk items. If you choose to machine wash or dry your silk garments, use a mild detergent and add a fabric softener sheet to your dryer. Always follow the label instructions for your silk.  

I hope you found these tips helpful and enjoy the silk clothes and sheets that you choose to wear and sleep in!

Additional FAQs about Washing & Cleaning Silk

Can You Machine Wash Silk Sheets?

The answer is yes, you can machine wash silk sheets. However, there are some important steps to remember. First, make sure you read the labels carefully.

Some manufacturers specifically state that their products are meant to be washed in cold water while others say nothing about whether they can be washed in warm or cold water.

In addition, many companies offer different types of silk sheets such as satin, microfiber, etc., each requiring slightly different laundering techniques.

For example, satin sheets require more gentle washes and delicate cycles whereas microfiber may withstand a more normal cycle. It is always better to err on the side of caution and check the manufacturer's recommendations.

Can you wash silk sheets with your clothes?

You should never put silk sheets into the same load as regular cotton or polyester/cotton blend sheets. This is due to the fact that silk tends to require more gentle treatment than cotton or polyester. You can place your sheets into large mesh laundry bags to help maintain their newness.  

What type of soap works well with handwashing silk?

Many people believe that all kinds of soap work fine with silk. While this is true, you want to look for something that does not contain harsh chemicals. For instance, The Laundress, Slip Wash, Woolite Delicates liquid Castile soap are all great for washable silks because they contain no synthetic ingredients. Try to stay away from scented detergents that can cause fading.  

Is it safe to wash silk lingerie?

While silk underwear is generally considered safe to wash, you still want to exercise caution. This is because silk can be sensitive to heat and moisture. Read the labels and proceed.

If you do decide to hand wash your silk lingerie soak in lukewarm water with 1 tablespoon of baking soda per cup of water.  There are also the laundry detergents previously mentioned that are made specifically for silks.  The Laundress, Slip Silk, Woolite Delicates.

Do I Need To Machine Dry My Silks After Washing Them?

It depends on what kind of silk you're washing. Read the label for the best outcome.  Some silks are very light weight and will air dry quickly.. When possible, it's recommended that you hang your silk garment outside to air dry rather than using a conventional drier.

If you must dry your silk items indoors, keep them away from a direct heat source.   

Are There Any Special Care Instructions On Silk Labels?

Most silk garments come with specific cleaning instructions printed right onto the tag. Make sure you follow these directions exactly so you get the maximum benefit out of your purchase.

Here are some common cleaning instructions found on silk tags:

• Do Not Bleach • Use Cold Water Only • No Ironing • Hang Outside to Air Dry • Avoid Direct Sunlight • 

Should I Machine Or Handwash My Silk Items?

Machine washing is usually preferred by consumers who prefer convenience. But handwashing is also perfectly acceptable depending on the product. Most silk products are machine washable; however, there are exceptions. Check the labels carefully before cleaning.

Can I Put A Silk Item Into The Washer And Dryer With Regular Cotton Clothes?

It's probably best to wash your silks separately from other fabrics. Even though they seem similar, silk and cotton differ greatly in terms of texture and absorbency. Plus, many silk items require delicate handling during both the washing and drying processes.

Can you machine wash silk pajamas?

You should never put silk pajama sets into the regular cycle of your washing machine. Read the label and place them in a mesh laundry bag for machine washing.  

What Is The Best Way To Clean Silk Shirts?

The easiest method is to simply toss your shirt into the washing machine along with your normal load of clothes. However, this isn't always an option when dealing with large quantities of shirts. In those cases, you could opt for one of two methods:

1) Ready the label.  If the label says you can machine wash them, place your silks in mesh laundry bags and use the delicate cycle..  

2) If your washer doesnt have a delicate cycle then place your shirts in mesh laundry bags, use cold water and the lowest spin speed for the wash and rinse cycles.  

 Is There Any Special Care For Silk Underwear?

There aren't really any specific cleaning requirements for silk underwear other than what the label recommends. Just like other types of lingerie, silk panties and bras should be laundered separately from non silk items.  Otherwise, you risk ruining the color and shape of the garments.

Do Silk Products Need Different Laundry Detergents Than Other Fabrics?

Most people assume that silk requires different laundering products than other fabrics. Fabrics can be treated differently iin the wash but can still use the same detergent. But there are some general rules that apply to most silks. In each case use your machines laundry detergent dispenser and if there isn't one then dissolve the detergent in the water prior to adding your silks.  Here are our expert opinions about which products work well with silk:

• Woolite® - One of the most popular brands of household laundry detergent, Woolite® works great with silk. It contains no harsh chemicals and doesn't leave residue behind. Plus, it provides excellent luster and shine.

• Tide® - Another common brand of laundry detergent, Tide® also performs very well with silk. Its mild formula makes it safe for sensitive skin. And since it comes in powder form, it dissolves easily.

• Seventh Generation® - A favorite among eco-conscious consumers, Seventh Generation® offers gentle formulas that contain natural ingredients. The company claims that this laundry detergent helps maintain the integrity of silk fibers by preventing shrinkage and fading.

• Ecover® - This environmentally friendly line of laundry detergents uses biodegradable components and plant extracts to create an effective cleaner. They claim that their products help prevent wrinkles and discoloration.

• Downy® - Made with only four simple ingredients, Downy® is one of the safest options available when it comes to laundry detergents. It's made especially for delicate fabrics such as silk.

• Nature Clean™ - With a unique blend of enzymes and oxygenating agents, Nature Clean™ removes stains effectively without harming the environment. According to the company, this laundry detergent leaves clothes feeling fresh and smelling sweet.

• Surf Excel® - An affordable option for those who prefer not to spend too much money, Surf Excel® is formulated specifically for cotton and blends of synthetic fiber. However, its effectiveness isn't limited to these two categories alone. In fact, many customers report that it does a fine job washing all kinds of textiles.

Attention: Use discount code "SHOP10" at checkout to save 10% on The Nori Press!

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