There’s nothing quite like silk. Soft, lightweight, flows over the body. It is a woven textile that is produced by the larvae of insects, and, as a result, is not so easy to clean. You can’t just throw it in a washing machine and call it day.
Dropping your silk garments off at the dry cleaner’s is always the preferred method of removing stains and sweat patches. But when the experts are not readily available (COVID times, right?), it just might be time to partake in a little DIY. This begs the pertinent question: How does one wash silk at home? To help with the answer, we turn to fashion designers and silk lovers Michelle Smith and Lia Kes to offer some insight.
“I gravitate toward silk, because it is effortlessly sensual and so comfortable,” says Smith, who founded her eponymous ready-to-wear label in 2020 after leaving the celeb-favorite brand Milly (which she also founded) a year prior. Sharing the same sentiment is Kes, whose sustainable line, KES, has received buzz among industry insiders for its 100 percent silk slips and undergarments. “Silk is an exquisite, delicate fabric derived from nature,” she says. “We take pride in our organically dyed silks.”
Regularly working with silk, both New York–based designers clearly know a thing or two about treating spots on shirts and dirt on dresses. Ahead, we break down their advice.
Divide and Conquer
Divvying up your laundry according to color and material should always be practiced, but it is even more crucial when silk is involved. If anything, it is best to wash garments by hand, one at a time. “When washing silk for the first time, the dye may bleed, so it is essential to wash items separately,” says Kes.
Cold Water, Always
Dyes will fade after a wash, regardless of material. There is no avoiding that. “The fading reflects the true beauty of dyeing and working with natural materials,” says Kes. To lessen discoloring, however, stay clear of the left knob or handle on your sink. “Printed silk can bleed in hot water,” stresses Smith. “Always use cold water.”
Avoid Harsh Detergents
Silk is a delicate textile and should be treated with kid gloves. This means that heavy-duty detergents meant for cotton or synthetic fibers just simply won’t do. “To increase the longevity of your silk garments, we recommend handwashing them in cold water with a quarter teaspoon of gentle organic detergent and fabric softener for no more than five minutes,” offers Kes. There is also a number of cleaning products specially made for washing silk at home (see below).
If your blouse or slip has a distinct mark (here’s looking at you, red wine drinkers), simply spray your solution over the problem area and—read: gently—rub it with a sponge until the stain is removed.
Machine Dryers Are a Hard No
Putting silk in a dryer will undoubtedly change the shape, size, and texture of the garment, so avoid the machine at all costs. Once you finish with the hand-wash, rinse again in cold water and, as Kes says, “Carefully squeeze the garment of any excess water and shake it to remove any creases and even out the surface.” Then, as Smith says, “Lay flat to dry.”
Detergents for Washing Silk
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