How to Wash Silk Clothing

Silk clothing is surprisingly tough, but it needs a little extra attention in the wash. Learn more about caring for silk in this informative article.

Updated 16 August 2022


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

How to Wash Silk Clothing

How To Wash Silk

Silk clothing is for special occasions – it’s elegant, light, and feels good against the skin. But silk requires special cleaning too – you can’t just shove a delicate silk scarf or shirt into the washing machine with the rest of your clothing! There are a number of dos and don’ts when it comes to washing silk.

To avoid causing your damage or discolouration of your garment:

  • Don’t spray perfumes or hairspray on your silk garment.

  • Don’t use detergents that contain enzymes or bleach.

  • Don’t tumble dry or line-dry silk in direct sunlight. This will damage and discolour the fabric.

To maintain the condition of your silk garment:

  • Do handle silk gently. Too much rubbing or agitation of the fibres in the wash will cause damage.

  • Do take silk that is not colour-fast to a dry cleaning professional.

  • Do wash silk in cool water. Hot water will damage and shrink the natural fibres.

Can you hand wash silk?

Yes, in fact it’s a pretty simple process. Here’s our easy guide for how to hand wash silk:

  1. 1

    Check the care label on your garment. If it is ‘dry clean only’, do not attempt to wash it by hand.

  2. 2

    Pre-treat any stains on the garment. Use a specialist stain remover according to the instructions on the label, or by blotting a diluted solution of white vinegar and water onto the stain.

  3. 3

    Briefly soak the garment in a detergent and cool-water solution. Be sure to select a detergent designed for hand-washing silk, follow the instructions on the label and soak for a maximum of 5 minutes.

  4. 4

    Place the garment in a weak solution of water and white vinegar to rinse it and remove any residual detergent.

  5. 5

    Place in a bucket containing water and a small amount of conditioner (according to the instructions on the label).

  6. 6

    Rinse through with clean cold water to finish the washing process.

  7. 7

    Lightly squeeze the excess water from the garment. Do not wring it, as this will damage the fibres.

  8. 8

    Place the garment flat on a towel and roll it up to remove as much moisture as possible.

  9. 9

    Finally, let the garment dry flat on a clean, dry towel.

Can you wash silk in the machine?

It is possible to wash your silk in the machine, but it should be washed separately to your other clothes and you should be very careful to handle gently:

  1. 1

    Put the garment in an empty pillowcase or laundry bag before you place it in the drum of the machine, as this will help to protect it from any damage.

  2. 2

    Use a detergent specifically designed for silk. Avoid mainstream detergents that contain enzymes and other additives like bleach that can damage silk. Be sure to follow the dosage instructions on the label.

  3. 3

    Choose a delicate cycle with only a small amount of agitation. This will probably include a soak and will not take as long as regular cycles.

  4. 4

    Make sure the temperature of the water is set at 30 degrees. Any hotter and you risk shrinking or damaging your garment.

If you’re in any doubt about how to wash or remove stains from a silk garment, take it to the dry cleaners: cleaning professionals know exactly how to clean silk and should be able to advise you on how to proceed. When cleaning silk at home, only use a product that’s specifically designed for silk or wool.

  • Check the garment’s care label and colour fastness before washing at home (take to a specialist cleaner if ‘dry clean only’ and if a spot test reveals colour bleed).

  • Pre-treat stains with a gentle stain remover like diluted white vinegar (avoid bleach at all costs!).

  • Choose a method for washing the silk that best suits your garment: hand-wash all but the most robust of silk items; these can gently be washed in the machine.

  • Avoid excess agitation, hot water, and mainstream detergents.

  • Dry by laying the garment flat on a clean towel, out of direct sunlight.

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