LAUNDRY 101: How to Wash and Care for Silk Clothes

Read the care label. When a label says “Dry Clean,” that is the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning method, but it may not be the only method available—hand washing silk clothing is often an acceptable alternative. “Dry Clean Only,” however, should be strictly adhered to.

Test for color fastness. The rich colors of silk can often bleed, so be sure to test before washing anything: Dip a cotton swab in mild laundry detergent and water, then dab it on a hidden seam to see if any dye comes off on the swab. Bright prints or colors that bleed should be dry-cleaned.

Never spot-treat silk. Rubbing one area of silk can cause lightening in just that spot. For moderate stains, especially ones in the middle of a pattern, wash the entire garment. Dark or unsightly stains should be taken to a dry cleaner.

Hand wash silk clothes in cold water. Fill a clean sink or small tub with lukewarm water and a small amount of liquid laundry detergent. Lightly agitate for three to five minutes and rinse well. If the care label advises machine washing, choose a gentle, cold-water cycle.

Handle with care. After rinsing, gently squeeze out excess water. Never twist or wring out silk garments; doing so can damage the fabric.

Avoid the dryer. Lay wet silk clothing flat onto a clean, absorbent towel and roll it up in the towel to rid excess moisture. Unroll and repeat using a second dry towel, then lay flat on a drying rack or dry towel.

Use a low setting on your iron. And iron while garments are still slightly damp. Hang to dry on a padded hanger.