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How to Take Care of Silk: the Right Way and the Easy Way

By Iris Ma |

To be honest, every time a customer asks me “how to take care of silk”, I struggle a little bit. As a silk retailer, of course I want to give the “right” answer, which can be found everywhere on the Internet.

However, as someone who obsessed with silk in the last decade, who has worn over a dozen different types of silk in all seasons, and most importantly, someone busy with work and life (who isn’t), I really don’t have the time to follow all the guidelines when I wash my silk. But I still shamelessly want to have them in my life. So here’s what I know: the right way and the easy way.

The Right Way

For those who have time and patience (hats off to you), here’s how I was taught to take care of silk:

  • Soak. Soak silk only for a few minutes, in cold or lukewarm water, with a mild detergent designed for delicate material. I personally use Forevernew Gentle Wash Powder, but there are many more detergents in the market.
  • Rinse. Do not rub silk; instead, gently squeeze and rinse.
  • Dry. Put silk flat on a hanging drying basket, because using a hanger would stretch the fabric. Avoid sun.
  • Steam. Turn the clothing inside out, and use a steamer to steam the inside of the fabric. Remember to turn the setting to low.
  • Store. Usually a padded hanger would do, even though I’ve heard arguments saying silk should always be folded and put in a drawer to avoid being stretched.
  • Use: do not let any sharp object come near your silk. Avoid stains as it’s hard to clean it off.

Now! The Easy Way! (Why am I so excited)

Again this is very personal. If you ruined your $2,000 silk dress following the guidance below, I can’t take responsibilities (on the other hand, if you have a $2,000 silk dress, you should probably give it to a dry cleaner).

I have tried everything with silk. I put it in a washer. I put it in a dryer (gasp). I stained it, I ripped it. I accidentally cut it.

  • Wash: put your silk in a mesh washer bag. Put it in the washing machine. Use gentle detergent (see above). Set to gentle cycle.
  • Dry: hang to dry. Avoid sun.
  • Steam: use a steamer. Set to low if you can.
  • Store: use hanger or fold and put it in a drawer.
  • Wear: wear normally. If it gets stained, then it gets stained. If it gets ripped a little, then it gets ripped. Life happens.

Now the big question: how did my silk clothes survive this treatment?

  • Silk, regardless of how well you treat it, will eventually stiffens and loses its shine. If yours doesn’t, it’s probably polyester.
  • If you do it the right way, this happens slowly. If you do it the easy way, this happens more quickly.

How do different types of silk perform?

  • Silk charmeuse (yes that smooth and shiny material we all love) loses its shine the fastest. It is also easily scratched.
  • Also on the black list is silk georgette. It is usually too thin to survive the washing machine.
  • Knitted silk: can have some tiny fuzz balls after machine wash, but if you put it in a garment bag it remains in good condition for a long time.
  • However, silk crepe, especially the type over 20 momme, is very strong and versatile. It would stiffen up a little after the washing machine cycle, but then would remain that way. My silk crepe blouses are with me for over 8 years.
  • Silk dupioni. This beloved material has a tree bark like surface texture, which means even if you scratch it, you can’t tell. It is usually thicker too and performs well with washing machine wash.
  • Sand washed silk charmeuse and silk crepe: they are wonderful! Sand wash takes away some shine but leaves the material softer. Washing machine approved.

Here’s a little philosophy I use to justify my laziness: a piece of clothing is not yours until you’ve worn it and left your personal mark on it. Remember the scratch marks on your favourite boots, which only increased their charisma? Silk is the same.

And what happened to my silk charmeuse blouse that I accidentally put into the dryer?

Not much. It came out warm and softer than before. Lost some shine. Maybe it shrunk a little, but I didn’t notice.

Life goes on.

Shop silk here and let us know if you have questions.

By Iris Ma


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