There's a lot to love about the uniquely smooth feel and shiny appearance of silk. But the delicate material can be tricky to clean and care for.
So how do you wash silk? This article will walk you through the steps.
Read on to learn how to wash silk pillowcases, sheets, robes, pajamas and other garments the right way.
What to Know About Washing Silk
Silk is made of fibroin, a soluble protein produced by insects. The fabric most often used to create bedding and clothing is woven from fibroin sourced from the cocoons of mulberry worms.
Silk is naturally smooth with a subtle sheen. It's also inherently breathable and moisture-wicking, meaning it won't trap heat and draws sweat away from your skin.
All that said, this textile is a bit more delicate than other natural fabrics like cotton and linen. You'll need to be extra careful when caring for silk, including washing, drying, de-wrinkling and treating it for stains.
What's the difference between Sateen vs. Satin vs. Silk? Read our blog to find out.
How to Wash Silk in a Washing Machine
Some people say silk can never be machine-washed, but in some cases, it actually can. Just be sure to check the care label before getting started.
Here's how to clean silk in a washing machine:
1. Separate your silk items from heavy pieces like jeans and towels. Washing them with other delicates is fine.
2. Place your silk items in a mesh wash bag to protect them from damage. (This might be called a mesh laundry bag or a delicates bag — you can buy one online.)
3. Add mild (preferably natural) laundry detergent to the empty drum. Adding it before you add the clothes or bedding will allow it to dissolve quickly and efficiently in the water.
4. Load the washing machine with your silk and other delicate items.
5. Select a delicate wash cycle with cold water. Choose a slower spin speed If your washing machine has that option.
6. Start your washing machine.
A slower spin speed may leave your silk pieces slightly damper than a higher speed. When you pull silk out of the washer, use a clean towel to soak up excess moisture.
How to Wash Silk by Hand
How to Wash Silk by Hand
If you're worried about damaging your silk or the care label specifically says not to machine-wash, you can play it safe by hand-washing it.
Here's how to hand-wash silk:
1. Fill a basin with cold or lukewarm water. A sink, bathtub or large plastic bin will work.
2. Mix in a few drops of mild laundry detergent, stirring it in to make sure it dissolves.
3. Submerge the silk item within the soapy solution.
4. Allow it to soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Agitate the silk item by hand, gently shaking it back and forth while it's still submerged.
6. Rinse the item with clean, cold water, either in your sink faucet or in another basin.
7. Instead of wringing out the item by twisting it, use a clean towel to soak up excess water.
See our blog for tips and guidance on How to Wash and Properly Care for Bedding.
How to Dry Silk
Silk is a very delicate material and you should generally never tumble-dry it in a dryer. Even on low heat, the warmth can make the fabric shrink, pucker or become otherwise damaged.
Instead, air-dry your silk pieces. You can lay them flat or hang them to dry. Just don't hang them outside in direct sunlight.
How to Remove Stains from Silk
Have you noticed a small stain on your silk garment or bedding item? You can spot-treat the material with a drop or two of mild detergent. Gently rub in the soap with clean fingers and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Then "rinse" the spot by dabbing it with a clean, damp cloth.
How to Wash Silk: Best Practices
Follow these tips when caring for silk to avoid damage and keep the material in tip-top shape.
Always Read the Care Label
Before washing a silk item, always read the care label. If it doesn't have one, check the brand's website for recommended care instructions. Some silk might be machine-washable, while other items may call for hand-washing or even dry-cleaning.
Check for Colorfastness
Colorfastness means a dyed fabric is resistant to fading or bleeding in the wash. You can check for this by dabbing a small area of your silk item with a damp white cloth to see if any color transfers onto it.
Use a Mild Detergent
Always use a mild detergent when washing silk. You might be able to find a silk-specific laundry soap, but otherwise, a natural, gentle detergent will do.
Never Use Bleach
You should never wash silk with chlorine bleach, even if the garment or bedding is white. The harsh substance can damage the fabric's natural fibers.
You shouldn’t tumble-dry silk in a dryer, as the heat can damage the material.
Don't Dry in Direct Sunlight
Avoid drying silk in direct sunlight, as the sun can fade the fabric. If you hang it to dry, do it indoors — or just lay it flat.
Steam to Remove Wrinkles
Since silk is so delicate, it's good to avoid ironing. Like drying the fabric in the dryer, the heat could damage it. Use a steamer to remove wrinkles instead.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Wash Silk
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about how to wash silk sheets, pillowcases, pajamas, clothes and other delicate items.
Can silk be washed in a washing machine?
It depends. Many brands bill their silk items as "washable silk," which generally means it's machine-washable. But other pieces may call for hand-washing or dry-cleaning only, so be sure to check the care label before getting started.
Can you wash 100% silk?
Yes, you can wash 100% silk products. Some items might be machine-washable, while you should wash others by hand. It's always best to follow the brand's care instructions to avoid damage.
Can I put silk in the dryer?
Generally speaking, no. You shouldn't put silk in the dryer because the heat can damage the material. It's best to air-dry silk, whether you hang it up or lay it flat.
Will silk shrink when washed?
Similar to other natural textiles like cotton and linen, silk can shrink when it’s washed. But learning how to wash silk and dry it properly (without heat and away from direct sunlight) can help you avoid shrinking.
Is silk ruined if it gets wet?
No, silk won't be ruined if it gets wet. However, it's important to properly care for the material by following the brand's recommendations for laundering. If it gets wet accidentally or from washing, you can air-dry silk bedding and clothing.
Explore the high-quality silk products and naturally sourced bedding essentials from Parachute today!
Loh K & Tan W. Silk Fabric. (2015). Advances in Silk Science and Technology.