Can you think of anything worse than dropping your lipstick down your silk blouse? Or spilling coffee on a silk tie? What about removing silk clothes from the wash only to find they’ve shrunk to half their size? This delicate material is the source of many a clothing catastrophe, but it doesn't have to be. In fact, cleaning silk isn’t all that difficult.
Key points to cleaning silk
Cleaning silk doesn’t have to be risky – just keep these key points in mind.
Check colourfastness first. You don’t want your silk threads to lose their colour. Find out if the dye will stay put by dapping a small area of the clothing with a damp white cloth (making sure it is clean first). If colour comes away then visit the dry cleaners.
Wash silk gently. You’ll want a non-biological detergent for delicate fabrics. Persil Non-Bio Liquid Detergent is a good option – there’s even a clue in the name!
Don’t tumble dry silk. The heat is likely to shrink or damage it.
Avoid using bleach. Cleaning silk with a harsh chemical like this can easily damage the natural fibres.
How to wash silk by hand
Hand washing is generally a safe method for cleaning silk as long as the garment isn’t marked as ‘dry clean only’. Check the garment care tag to be sure, then follow these steps:
Make sure that your silk item is colourfast and is safe to be hand washed.
Fill a sink with lukewarm water and add a dose of Persil Non-Bio Liquid Detergent, following the instructions on the product label.
Add the silk garments to the water and let it soak for five minutes.
Drain and refill the sink with fresh cold water, and add Comfort Pure fabric softener. Again, follow the dosage instructions on the product label.
Soak the silk for another minute, then rinse the item under cold water until all the detergent and fabric softener has been washed away.
Gently squeeze the garment to press the water out. Do not wring silk as this could cause the fabric to stretch and cause damage to the shape of your clothing.
Lay the silk on a flat towel and roll it up to remove excess water. Then lay it flat on a towel to dry. Do not use a tumble dryer as the heat can cause silk to shrink.
How to clean silk in the washing machine
Not got the time (or patience) for handwashing? Some silk is safe to be machine washed so have a look at the label and give it a try if it is safe to do so.
Make sure that the silk item is colourfast and machine-washable. If the care label says your silk garment is hand wash or dry clean only then don’t use the machine.
Place the silk in the washing machine on its own or with similar colours and fabrics – do not add any heavy items, particularly those with fastenings, as these could damage the silk during the rough and tumble of the wash cycle.
Add a dose of gentle non-bio detergent according to the instructions on the packet.
Set the washing machine to a ‘delicate’ cycle, with a cool water temperature.
Once the washing cycle has finished, place the silk on a clean, flat towel to dry naturally.
Getting stains out of silk
If you’ve discovered a stain on your previously flawless, glossy silk, it might feel like a lost cause. Don’t lose hope just yet: there are a few silk stain remover tricks you can try.
Treat the stain as soon as possible – a dried stain will be much more difficult to remove.
Gently blot the marked area with a paper towel or clean cotton wool to draw out as much of the stain as possible.
Make a gentle silk stain remover out of a couple of tablespoons of either white vinegar or lemon juice, mixed with a couple of tablespoons of lukewarm water.
Test the solution on a small, inconspicuous area of the silk first, before dabbing the stain with it using a clean, white cloth. Do not rub the stain.
Wash the silk as usual, according to the instructions on the garment care tag.
With these tips, cleaning silk next time you have a laundry emergency shouldn’t be difficult. Just remember to treat the fabric gently and you won’t have to worry about coffee stains, shrunken blouses, or greasy lipstick residue ever again.