How to wash silk

Silk is an exquisite and delicate natural fibre. Spun by insects to make cocoons, raw silk is actually incredible strong and durable. It was once used to make parachutes and tyres and is still used in some medical settings to make surgical sutures.

To get the best out of your silk bedding, silk pillowcases and silk clothing you need to treat this wonder fabric carefully and with respect when using it and washing it. Silk bedding has so many benefits on our skin, our hair, our sleep and our wellbeing. See our benefits of silk article and learn about why silk is such a healthy natural fibre to use.

Why is silk so delicate?

Despite its natural strength and durability, silk is particularly sensitive to heat and light. Coloured or dyed silk fabrics have a tendency to fade if continually subjected to sunlight, and heat exposure can cause silk threads to shrink.

This is why particular care is needed when washing, drying, ironing and storing silk.

How do I wash my silk bedding?

The very first thing you need to do before washing your silk pillowcases or silk bedding is to check the care labels. This is a golden rule with most household items needing washing!

Some silk products may only be suited to dry cleaning and will display a DRY CLEAN ONLY warning on the care label. This tends to me more common in clothing than bedding though.

The symbols on a care label will indicate if your silk can be machine washed or if they require hand washing. If machine washing is acceptable, then make sure to use a delicate and mild laundry detergent.

Do not use products containing bleach or chlorine in any circumstances on your silk pillowcases. These will cause colour leeching and may damage the silk fabric.

Use a gentle wash cycle with a cool temperature and a low spin to ensure the fabric is cleaned gently and avoids shrinkage or distortion. Once washed silk must be dried flat using either a drying rack, airer or laid flat on a dry towel.

Never tumble dry your silk items as the heat even from a low setting can cause damage and distortion to the fabric and do not hang out on a washing line in the sun. Silk is fairly quick drying so it can be hung on a padded hanger away from direct sunlight and will likely be dry within an hour.

For more information on caring for your silk pillowcases, see our how to iron silk advice.

Can you hand wash silk?

The answer to this is YES, unless the care label says “DRY CLEAN ONLY”. In which case, avoid getting the silk wet and take it to a professional dry cleaner.

To hand wash your silk pillowcases, fill a clean basin with lukewarm water and add a small amount of mild and gentle detergent. The easiest way to hand wash your silk is to gently swill your items around in the warm water, agitating the fabric, then carefully rinse in clean warm water and leave to dry.

Do not wring or twist the water out of the silk as this may distort the shape of your items. Instead use clean dry towels to carefully dab dry the silk and remove as much water as possible this way so the fibres aren’t damaged.

How do you get stains out of silk?

As dyed silk can be prone to fade and colour leeching getting marks or stains out of it can be a little tricky.

A homemade solution of lemon juice or vinegar and warm water will get most stains out of silk but it is always a good idea to do a colour test before treating a larger or more prominent area.

Before attempting to remove stains it is best to use a white cloth with some of this solution on across a small discreet area first. If the colour of the item is transferred to the cloth then it is best to take the silk item to a professional dry cleaners.

If there is no colour transfer, then gently dab the stain with the solution without rubbing it in. Once the stain has been removed, wash as your normally would and dry carefully.

How often should I wash my silk bedding?

Your silk bedding, your pillowcases especially, are in contact with your skin and hair for approximately a third of the time. When you think about it like this, it makes sense to wash your silk pillowcases regularly to avoid staining them with prolonged exposure to dirt from hair, make up, skin and the environment.

We would recommend washing and changing your silk pillowcases every week to ten days.

Washing your silk pillowcases gently will help prolong the life of your silk bedding and ensure that it continues to care for your skin and hair whilst you sleep.

If you’d like more information on how to iron silk, how silk is made or learn about silk pillowcase benefits please visit our silk FAQ page.

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