How to care for silk
Care for silk garments with ease
Legend has it that Princess Xi Ling Shi was the first to spin a cocoon of silk, which had dropped into her cup of tea. From there China started to produce silk fabrics from the silk worm and had a monopoly on it for 3000 years. At the beginning silk fabrics were only worn by the Emperor and his family, but as techniques to farm silk worms and to produce silk improved, the material became more common. Learning to care for silk, a prized commodity became an art as it expanded to the rest of the world as the Chinese started to export silk to Persia and the Middle East.
2nd Take has put together tips on how to care for silk as well as care tips for many other materials:
Silk is one of the oldest textile and one of the strongest natural fibers. Its repute is that of a luxury, exclusive, graceful and elegant fabric and it stands for versatility and comfort.
Some of its great attributes are:
- Silk garments are very moisture absorbent
- Silk robes, silk shirts and Silk blouses keep you cool in summer and warm in winter
- Silk is a beautiful fabric to wear, as it keeps its shape and flows luxuriously over the body
- Silk can easily be dyed
- Silk products are not too difficult to keep clean when a few simple rules are followed
Here are some tips on how to care for silk garments to ensure that they stay in shape and keep you looking great:
Most soaps are harmful to silk. Always use a non-alkaline, gentle soap or an olive oil bar soap etc.
We only recommend dry cleaning for poorly dyed fabrics or silk fabrics with delicate fine prints.
There is a common believe that silk should only be dry cleaned but fact is that almost all silks are hand washable! Silk, a natural protein fibre, will not technically “shrink” when washed. What happens is that loosely interwoven fibres tighten up and “shrink” the fabric, especially at the first wash.
Sericin, the natural glue holding the silkworm cocoons together, is not totally removed during the manufacturing process and washing will affect texture and sheen of the fabric.
- Care for silk by always washing it in cold to luke warm water and add a pinch of borax or ammonia, if the water is hard. Only use a mild soap
- Dunk the garment for a few minutes in the water, rub and drain.
- Rinse in clear cool water until all the soap is gone.
- Immerse in fresh water and add a quarter cup of white vinegar. Vinegar neutralizes any remaining soap and restores the fabric’s natural sheen. It also helps to avoid damage from the alkali in the soap.
- Rinse the fabric in clear cool water to get rid of the vinegar smell.
- Avoid soaking silk as this may fade the dye.
- If you have any doubt about the colour fastness of your fabric, test washing on a less visible, small part of the garment. If the colour runs or fades, take it to the dry cleaner.
- Silk that is in direct contact with the skin should be washed frequently. The chloride salts and acids of perspiration can weaken and rot the silk, when not removed quickly.
Did you find our tips on how to wash silk and care for silk helpful?
Treating Stains on silk
Add a cupful of hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of ammonia to the water. Recent perspiration stains can be dabbed with a solution of a tablespoon of ammonia dissolved in half cup of water. Older perspiration stains might be removed with a similar vinegar solution. Perspiration stains are difficult to remove and might stay.
Brush surface dirt out of the fabric.
Care for silk and have garments that last and look new and beautiful.
Never dry your silk in direct sunlight, as colour might fade and white silk can turn yellow. Don’t hang the garment, but spread it to dry on a flat surface.
Ironing and Steaming silk
Ideally you iron silks when damp and never when completely dry. Especially hand-woven silk fabrics don’t need more than a light ironing on low heat or a silk or rayon setting. High heat will damage the silk fabric. If a shine develops, iron inside out or use a cloth or towel between the iron and the silk. When ironing, don’t use steam as it might leave watermarks. If you don’t care for silk well, you will end up with unsightly silk garments.
You can try steaming your garment with a steamer, but if the fabric is very fine, the steam might cause it to crinkle and crease.
If your silk garment dries stiffly after washing and ironing this might be due to the sericin residue. The more you wear and wash it, the less “stiff” it will dry. To avoid this stiffness, shake the garment out several times during the drying process, starting when it is still damp. You can also pop it for a moment in the dryer, on very low heat to move the fibres against each other. Gently smacking the garment against a round edge of a table will restore softness.
- Store silk garments in cotton wraps or other breathing material and avoid plastic covers, as they might trap moisture and can cause discolouration and mildew.
- Try to use cloves or sandalwood to keep the moths away.
Avoid direct contact with wool
Did you find our clothing tips on how to care for silk useful?
If you are in need of further clothing care tips, click here.