Silk is one of the most luxurious fabrics that often become family air-looms being passed down from generation to generation. To ensure their maximum life span, it is imperative that your silk garments are cared for properly maintaining minimum damage and disintegration over time. Care is perhaps the most important factor in regards to the long term durability and lifespan of a silk clothing item.
While it is easy to fall in love with the feel and look of silk, we can often feel dissuaded by its need for special care and dry cleaning. The good news is, you can actually wash many types of silk fabrics at home if you follow the proper guidelines to avoid damaging them over time.
We'll walk you through all the steps necessary for hand washing your silks bellow, but before we get started it is important to note that there are some extra sensitive silk fabrics that maintain best appearance and quality over time if dry cleaned only.
The following should always be dry cleaned for best results:
-Dupioni (always dry clean)
-Satin Back Crepe
-Beaded and Printed silks
-Most novelty silk fabrics
The main reason dry cleaning is recommended for these particular fabrics is due to their lustrous, shiny characteristic. Washing these silk fabrics by hand or with a washing machine may cause them to lose their luster and texture.
In the case of silk fabrics that feature beading, trims and other decorative features, dry cleaning is perhaps the best choice to avoid damaging these ornamental features.
Printed silk or silk featuring very bright or dark colors would also work best with dry cleaning due to the risk of color fading over time.
If you own silk garments that are lined (especially if the lining features a contrast color) it is recommended that you dry clean these items to avoid the color bleeding through or getting absorbed into the silk fibers.
Washing Instructions for Silk Garments:
If you choose to forego dry cleaning and tackle silk care at home, it is best to wash silk fabrics by hand. Keep in mind that washing silk will change the texture and appearance of the fabric often resulting in a slightly faded color and altered luster. Some people prefer hand washing silks over dry cleaning due to the fact that if done correctly, it adds a soft quality/hand to the fabric.
It is important to note that silk fabric is made of protein fibers. This means that the fibers' structure is composed of protein molecules. For that reason, silk can disintegrate over time due to friction and high temperatures. It is good practice to approach caring for silk the same way you would care for human hair.
Never use chlorine bleach or brighteners on silk fabrics- Chlorine is too harsh for silk fibers to withstand and may often result in immediate damage. For that matter any cleaning agent or product containing alcohol will harm silk items. This includes perfume and lotions that contain alcohol- It is best to let these products dry before putting on a silk garment.
The following silk fabrics can withstand hand washing:
- Crepe de chine
- Sueded Silk
- Fuji Silk
- Various raw silk fabrics
- Mixed content silk fabrics.
For best results, use the following instructions to hand wash silk:
- Use luke warm or cool water for washing. Rinse the garment in cool water.
- Never wash silk in hot water. Heat weakens silk fibers over time.
-If you know that the water in your area contains more minerals resulting in a harder characteristic, you may add a softening agent to the wash. A good water softening agent is borax. Before using other water softening products, check the label (or do a quick online search) to see if they may negatively affect delicate materials.
-Use non-alkaline soap and try to avoid regular detergents. Regular detergents contain harsher ingredients which weaken silk over time. Special detergents for washing delicate fabrics like silks are available on the market- check your local fabric store or try some options available online.
-You may add a drop of hair conditioner or baby shampoo to the rinse for a softer feel. Remember, silk fibers behave very much like human hair and can benefit from gentle conditioning.
-Add some regular distilled white vinegar to the rinse. This will lock in the color and dissolve some of the leftover soap residue which may sometimes cause soap stains when the garment drys.
-Always wash silk garments separately.
-Avoid washing different colors together. Keep the colors separated and rinse in clean water each time especially if you notice the color continues to comes off easily in the wash/rinse.
-It is quite common that some bright colored silks will bleed in the wash. This is normal and is caused by excess dye housed in the fiber molecules. Continue rinsing the garment in clean water until the water appears clean.
-You may add a pinch of salt to the water in the last cool-temperature rinse cycle to set the color. However, avoid dropping the salt directly on the fabric. Add it to the water first and wait for it to dissolve prior to inserting the silk garment.
-Do not leave silk garments in water for too long. Always avoid soaking silk fabrics. A few minutes in water is most recommended.
-When the silk garment is in the water, gently agitate it to clean. Avoid handling the fabric harshly and never ring or twist a silk garment. The best way to remove excess water from the previous wash/rinse is to squeeze it gently.
Machine Washing (only if the care tag/garment allows it):
While hand washing is recommended over machine washing, some silk fabrics may be machine washed. We do however recommend always hand washing just to be on the safe side even if the care tag does allow for machine washing.
If you choose to wash your silk clothing items with a washing machine make sure to only use the delicate or hand wash setting. If your washing machine does not offer a delicate or hand wash setting, wash your silk clothing by hand instead.
Use a mesh bag or pouch to wash your delicate silk fabrics, especially in a top loading washing machine - the agitator is often too harsh for the fragile silk fibers.
As mentioned above, never use bleach, hard detergents or brighteners on your silk clothing. Stick to mild soaps or detergents designed for delicate fabrics only.
Don't forget to always separate your colors and wash silk separately.
How to Dry Silk Clothing Items After Washing:
-Never dry silk in direct sunlight- this not only fades the color but it also causes damage to the sensitive protein fibers.
-Roll silk clothing in a towel or water absorbent rag to extract excess water.
-Don't twist silk clothing to remove water. This not only weakens the fibers but it will also form traces of lines and wrinkles that are difficult to remove when the item drys. Twisting sensitive silk fabrics may also result in unnecessary stretching, as well as loss of structure and shape.
-Hang to dry. Silk usually does not lose its structure from hanging. However, this is on a garment-to-garment basis, so always check the care tag first.
-Do not hang silk garments on wooden racks or wooden hangers. This can often stain the fabric due to the various finishes applied to wood.
-When drying, silk garments should be placed away from a direct heat source. Never put silk directly on a radiator or right next to a heating unit. Keep in mind that excessive heat weakens silk fibers over time.
-Avoid the clothes dryer as much as you can. Silk is very sensitive to heat causing the protein fibers to weaken over time. In some cases, silk garments may actually shrink in the dryer. If you don't have an option to hang your silk clothing, you may dry them in a clothes dryer but make sure it is set to the Air Fluff option.
How To Iron Silk Clothing:
The best time to iron your silk clothing items is when they are slightly damp. Set the iron at the silk or delicate setting which will provide a cooler temperature, and always use a protective cloth in the ironing process.
Avoid spraying or wetting the fabric locally as this may result in staining or the formation of white rings on the surface of the fabric.
If your silk garment features decorative elements like beading, sequins and trimming you should avoid ironing all together. These fabrics are best left to the dry cleaner and if cleaned properly, should not require pressing.
Avoid using direct steam from a steamer in close proximity to the surface of the silk fabric. Most often, silk wrinkles release on their own either during wear or by hanging the garment for a period of time (usually overnight).
You may use the old bathroom-steam trick by hanging the silk garment in the bathroom during a shower or while hot water is running. The subtle steam and humidity is enough to relax the silk fibers and release most wrinkles.
Generally, the best way to avoid wrinkles in your silk garments is by following the correct drying process. If the garment is hanged properly after washing, it usually releases wrinkles slowly in the drying process.
Spot Cleaning Silk Clothing:
Silk fabrics can be a bit tricky to spot clean. Their ability to be spot cleaned efficiently depends mainly on the type of silk fabric/weave it is. Quite often, spot cleaning alone can leave rings or water stains on more sensitive silk fabrics especially those with a higher luster and sheen.
The safest way is to spot clean a tough stain with cool water and a gentle soap, after which you should proceed with regular hand washing to avoid localized water stains. As reiterated above, never use bleach to spot clean silk fabrics.
Avoid using stain-removal pens and harsh solutions as this may damage the silk or leave permanent discoloration on the spot surface.
If the simple water and mild soap option does not work, consult with your dry cleaners for the safest stain-removal option. It is better not to take the risk at home. A dry cleaner will most likely have more knowledge and experience regarding this topic, including access to appropriate industrial products not familiar to us.
Tips For Storing, Travel and Long-Term Care of Silk Fabric:
Keep silk garments in a cool (room temperature), dry environment to protect the fabric's sensitive protein fibers. When traveling, you may pack silk like you would any other garment either by folding or leaving it on a travel hanger. If you are attempting to save space, don't roll the garment too tightly as this may pull on the sensitive silk fibers and damage them in the process. When you get to your destination, make sure to take the silk garment out of your luggage promptly and hang it overnight to release wrinkles. As an even more efficient option, use the bathroom-steam trick for a faster, smoother result.
Silk Dry Cleaning Options: The Eco-friendly Green Way.
As mentioned above, dry cleaning is recommended for cleaning most silk fabrics. These days, many people steer away from dry cleaning not only due to the cost but also the effects of dry cleaning chemicals on the environment. The main agent used by traditional dry cleaners is tetrachloroethylene. This most commonly used solvent has raised questions in recent years as its level of toxicity is enough to have an environmental impact. Hydrocarbons are a bit milder but also used as dry cleaning solvents in about 10-15 % percent of dry cleaning. Although hydrocarbons are weaker than tetrachloroethylene, they are considered pollutants.
If you own silk garments that require dry cleaning yet you are concerned with the environmental effects of traditional dry cleaning, we suggest choosing Eco-friendly, green dry cleaners. They use much safer cleaning solutions like silicone-based agents and carbon dioxide (CO2). Environmentally conscious dry cleaning facilities are available in most cities and becoming more wide-spread with every passing year. CO2 also offers less fabric shrinkage than traditional cleaning solutions. When dry cleaning silk garments, always make sure that the dry cleaner you choose to work with is experienced with cleaning silk fabrics.
For more information green dry cleaning you may refer to the Environment Protection Agency's website at https://www.epa.gov.
If you are looking for Eco-friendly dry cleaners in your area, enter your zip code and check the directory at: http://www.nodryclean.com/
To learn more about dry cleaning with Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and other green solvents, please refer to: https://www.greenamerica.org/green-living/green-dry-cleaning
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