Silk is inherently one of the most luxe natural fibers. From airy summer looks to elegant formal ensembles, it shines in everything from ties and dresses to pajamas. Silk blends can take on different forms when paired with other natural fibers, such as wool. But whether your favorite silk pieces are structured or draped, caring for them requires some specific know-how. Don't launder your silk until you've reviewed our expert care guide, below.
General silk care
Like all natural fibers, silk can last for many years if it’s cared for properly. One of the first things you should do before hanging a fresh silk piece in your closet is test for color fastness. This will prepare you for how likely your piece is to release dye from its fibers, informing the care process as a whole.
Testing for color fastness
Lay your silk piece on a clean towel. Mix a drop of mild laundry detergent and room temperature water in a cup. Dab the mixture onto a hidden seam using a cotton swab. If any dye comes off, this piece will be strictly dry-clean only. This is an especially crucial step for bright colors.
In some cases, “dry-clean only” labels aren’t quite as strict—but when you’re caring for silk, a dry-cleaning tag should be adhered to, or you’ll risk ruining your garments and accessories. While we’re big fans of DIY cleaning whenever possible, a professional cleaning can help ensure this temperamental fabric isn’t damaged.
How to remove stains from silk
Here’s where things get a little bit counterintuitive. We typically use spot treatments to avoid full-garment washing and therefore lengthen a garment’s lifespan. In the case of silk, however, spot-treating is not such a good thing. Rubbing one area of a silk garment can create an unsightly faded spot. Instead, for stains of all kinds, wash the entire garment following the care-label (or see our gentle cleaning recipe, below). More intense stains should be whisked away to the cleaners, stat.
Tip: If you’ve got a stain and your silk garment isn’t dry-clean only, mix up this mild cleaning solution at home:
2 cups water | 2 Tbsp. lemon juice or white vinegar
How to wash silk by hand
Silk that isn’t restricted to dry-cleaning can be laundered by hand in cold water. A few drops of gentle liquid detergent can be added and worked into a sudsy mix. Place your silk pieces inside, agitate, and swish for three to five minutes, and then rinse completely.
Tip: If you’re short on time, you can also use the washing machine. Choose a gentle cycle and cold-water setting to prevent any damage to the fibers.
How to dry silk
Wet silk becomes vulnerable to warping and damage, so handle it with care. Once clean, rinse detergent and gently squeeze out some of the remaining water. Avoid twisting or wringing silk, as this can cause substantial damage. Also, back away from the dryer! Lay pieces on a clean, absorbent towel and roll up to remove moisture. Unroll, place in a fresh, dry towel, and repeat. Once the water has been removed, you can place your silk pieces flat on a drying rack or over a towel to air-dry.
How to iron silk
Got wrinkles? That’s normal. Natural fibers are prone to wrinkling. Smooth out your silk by ironing it on a low setting while the garment is still a bit damp. You can place a piece of pressing cloth or a towel between the iron and the silk until you’ve found the right temperature to avoid burning your fabric.
How to properly store silk
Laundering silk isn’t the only thing that determines its longevity. Storage plays an important role here, too.
Hang silk items in your closet on textured or velvet-coated hangers. This will prevent items from slipping off and crumpling to the floor. Use a wide bar for gently hanging silk pants.
When packing items away for the season, know that moths will snack on natural fibers if left uncovered. Clean clothes before storing and place them in breathable canvas garment bags.
Need help with the rest of your wardrobe? The Caring for Clothing Guide is here.