How To Care For Your Delicate Silk Clothing

Thin as gossamer yet worth its weight in gold, silk is a natural fabric with a vibrant trading history around the globe and a cult-like following for centuries. Boasting a velvety smooth feel, lustrous sheen, and high durability, silk's long been the favorite textile of worldwide monarchs and is considered the embodiment of ultra-luxury, per Lalouette. Aesthetics aside, silk is a unique fabric that keeps you cool during the heatwave and toasty in the winter. However, due to the high demand for silk and decreasing availability of silkworms, silk clothing is usually priced at the higher end of the spectrum.

While silk is highly durable, it's one of the most delicate fabrics and is easily vulnerable to damage from heat and light, Rinse warns. For this reason, handling delicate silk clothing necessitates more care and elbow grease than with more forgiving fabrics like cotton. If you're the lucky owner of a prized material like silk, here are some tips on proper silk care to avoid damage and extend its shelf life.

Tips on washing silk clothing at home

Before washing your silk garment, test it for color fastness to determine if the fabric retains its colors if washed or treated with chemicals, says the owner of Champion Cleaners, David Whitehurst (via Martha Stewart). One way to do this is to dampen a white cloth or a Q-tip and rub it on the inside seam of the garment. If any color comes off, the garment is not colorfast and should be best left to a professional cleaner. Although you can technically put your delicate silk garment in a washer on a gentle wash setting, it's better to hand wash it in cool or cold water using a gentle detergent devoid of harsh ingredients. 

If you do decide to put your silk item into the washing machine, check the label to see if it can be machine washed. Many silk garments are for dry cleaning only, while some should be hand-washed. If you are washing your silk garment with heavy items like jeans, which you shouldn't, remember to put your silk item in a delicate bag to avoid abrasive damage, per Alas Silk. You should never let your silk clothing come into contact with bleach, whether it's chlorine-based, oxygen-based, or diluted. Silk fibers will dissolve in bleach and sustain permanent color fade from the harsh formula. Instead, soak your silk garment in a silk wash or any detergent specially designed for silk fabrics to preserve its qualities and increase its shelf life.

How to dry and iron silk

When it's time for drying, avoid drying your silk garment in a tumble dryer or on a radiator lest it shrinks due to excessive heat. Instead, let it hang to dry. However, make sure your silk garment is kept away from direct sunlight, which can weaken the silk fibers and make its color look faded, per Love Your Clothes.

If your silk garment needs ironing, remove all excess water from it and begin ironing it when it's slightly damp, per Tefal. If your garment is already dry, spritz water over it to dampen it. Before you iron your garment, you'll need to take a few precautions to make sure that it doesn't get damaged. First, you'll turn your garment inside out; this prevents wear on the clothing. Then, flatten it and spread a cloth over the area you'll be ironing. Once you get all the kinks and creases ironed out, you're free to rock your outfit or put it away for next time. It may seem like a more detailed routine, but silk is one of the most delicate and expensive materials in apparel production, so it requires extra care when it comes to laundering and drying.