how do you wash silk clothes

How Do You Wash Silk Clothes

Silk, derived from natural fibers, is celebrated for its luxurious texture and brilliant sheen. It’s a delicate fabric used in a myriad of garments such as silk blouses, dresses, camisoles, and even bed sheets. Caring for silk requires a gentle touch to maintain its beauty and prevent fabric damage. With the right approach, you can ensure your silk garments last for years. But how do you wash silk clothes without fading, shrinking, or pilling.

Always wash silk in cold water, either by hand with a mild detergent or on a machine’s delicate setting, protecting with a mesh bag. Avoid harsh chemicals, fabric softeners, and tumble drying. For optimal preservation, consider professional dry cleaning and air drying away from direct sunlight.

So let’s take a close look at these methods in detail.

Hand Washing Silk Clothes with Mild Detergent

Hand washing is the preferred method for many when it comes to silk care. It’s gentle on the fabric and helps prevent unnecessary wear.

  1. Preparation: Fill a basin with cold water. Cold water is crucial as it prevents color bleeding and fabric shrinkage.
  2. Add Detergent: Use a mild detergent specifically designed for delicate fabrics. Avoid regular detergents as they might be too harsh for silk.
  3. Submerge the Garment: Place the silk item in the water, ensuring it’s fully submerged.
  4. Agitate Gently: Move the silk item around in the water, gently pressing it. Avoid twisting and wringing as it can cause fabric damage.
  5. Rinse: Empty the basin and refill it with cold water. Rinse the garment multiple times until all detergent is out.
  6. Drying: Lay the garment flat on a drying rack, away from direct sunlight to prevent color fading. Silk should always be air dried.

Machine Washing Silk Clothes Using Delicate Wash Setting

If you’re short on time or dealing with silk bed sheets, machine washing can be an alternative, provided you take precautions.

  1. Preparation: Place silk items inside a lingerie bag or laundry mesh bag to protect them during the wash cycle.
  2. Laundry Tips: Set the washing machine on the delicate wash setting and use cold water to prevent color bleeding.
  3. Detergent and Additives: Use a mild detergent and avoid bleach alternatives. If you’re dealing with hard water, use distilled water or add white vinegar to soften it. Avoid fabric softener as it can damage silk’s natural fibers.
  4. Drying: Always air dry silk by placing it on a drying rack. Never use a tumble dryer, even on the ‘tumble dry low’ setting, as the heat can cause shrinkage.

Dry Cleaning Silk Clothes

For silk dresses, blouses, or scarves that come with specific silk care instructions recommending dry cleaning, it’s best to heed that advice.

  1. Choose a Reputable Dry Cleaner: Not all dry cleaners are experienced with silk. Ensure they have a track record of handling delicate fabrics.
  2. Stain Removal: If your silk item has stains, inform the dry cleaner beforehand so they can spot clean it.
  3. Moth Prevention and Storage Recommendations: After dry cleaning, store silk garments in a cool, dry place. Consider using moth prevention methods and avoid direct sunlight exposure.
  4. Wrinkle Prevention: Ask the dry cleaner about wrinkle prevention methods. If you need to iron silk at home, always use a steam iron on a low heat setting.


What temperature should you use to wash silk clothes?

Cold water is the ideal choice for washing silk garments. Exposure to warm or hot water can compromise the integrity of the silk, leading to issues such as color bleeding or fabric shrinkage. If you’re unsure, always check the fabric care labels on your silk clothing.

Can you use regular detergent to wash silk clothes?

Regular detergents might contain harsh chemicals that can weaken silk’s natural fibers. Mild detergents, specifically formulated for delicate fabrics, are the safest bet. When dealing with silk scarves or silk bed sheets, it’s especially important to choose the right detergent to preserve the fabric’s softness and luster.

Can you use fabric softener on silk clothes?

While fabric softeners aim to leave fabrics feeling soft and smooth, they aren’t suitable for silk. The chemicals in fabric softeners can interfere with silk’s natural properties. If you want to maintain the softness of items like silk blouses or camisoles, a gentle rinse with distilled or soft water can help maintain the fabric’s natural feel.

Can you dry silk clothes in the dryer?

Exposing silk to the heat and agitation of a dryer can lead to fabric damage. Items like silk dresses or camisoles are best air dried, hanging them to dry or placing them on a drying rack. Ensure they’re kept away from direct sunlight, as prolonged sunlight exposure can lead to color fading.

How do you remove stains from silk clothes?

For fresh stains, immediate spot cleaning with a mild solution can be effective. Avoid rubbing the fabric too hard. If the stain persists or if you’re dealing with older stains, consider seeking professional help, especially for valuable items like silk dresses.

Can you iron silk clothes?

While ironing silk is possible, one should tread carefully. Silk is prone to scorching, so always ensure your iron is on a low heat setting. It’s beneficial to use a thin cloth between the iron and the silk garment to prevent direct contact. Steaming is another alternative, offering a gentler approach to wrinkle removal.

How often should you wash silk clothes?

Silk doesn’t retain odors or dirt as much as some other fabrics, so washing after every use isn’t necessary. Garments such as silk camisoles or items that are frequently in direct contact with the skin might require more frequent cleaning. On the other hand, items like silk scarves or occasional wear silk blouses can be washed less often. Always consider factors like perspiration, perfume exposure, or lint and silk interactions when deciding on washing frequency.

Laundry and Storage Tips For Silk

  • Presoaking: If your silk clothes are significantly soiled, a short presoak in cold water with a mild detergent can help.
  • Agitation: Silk doesn’t respond well to aggressive agitation. If hand washing, be gentle, and if using a machine, ensure it’s set to a gentle cycle.
  • Fabric Pilling: With time, some silk items might show signs of pilling. Using a lingerie bag during washing can help reduce this.
  • Storage Recommendations: Store silk garments in a cool, dry place. For items like silk scarves, avoid direct sunlight exposure which can fade colors. Moth prevention methods can also be beneficial.
  • Drying Tips: Hang silk items to dry, but avoid direct sunlight. If using a drying rack, ensure adequate space between garments to allow proper air circulation.
  • Water Quality: If you live in an area with hard water, consider using distilled water for rinsing or adding white vinegar to the wash water to soften it. Soft water is less harsh on silk and can help maintain its shine.
  • Lint and Silk: Silk can attract lint. Using dryer sheets or washing silk separately from lint-producing fabrics can help.
  • Twisting and Wringing: These actions can distort the shape of silk garments. Instead, press water out gently using a towel.
  • Silk Care Essentials: Always check fabric care labels on your garments. They provide essential information tailored to the specific garment’s needs.


Silk, with its natural and delicate fibers, requires special care during cleaning. Whether you’re hand washing, machine washing, or opting for professional dry cleaning, always be gentle to prevent fabric damage. By following the above methods and being mindful of laundry tips, you can enjoy the beauty and luxury of silk for years to come.