How to wash a silk shirt

How to wash a silk shirt at home

Silk, a new found love. Wearable all year round. Durable, long lasting, drapes well, dressed up or down. Sounds so simple, fuss free. That’s what I thought.

Until I read the cleaning label.

‘dry clean’

2 words, so much horror.

Today, I present to you, how I’ve been avoiding the dry cleaners!

Is Silk really dry clean only?

Quality silk pieces costs a fair bit. Add dry cleaning bills in… are my silk pieces destined to stay in the wardrobe forever? Then I thought, wait, before dry cleaning came about, how did people clean their silk garments? Silk after all, was invented before dry cleaning.

That led me to think that perhaps, I should explore how to care for and wash silk items at home. After all, I don’t think my bank account agrees with frequent dry cleaning bills.

Can you hand wash silk when it says dry clean only?

Personally, I have done so. But that’s me. I live dangerously. HA!

I believe that the garment’s fabric care label isn’t always to be adhered to strictly. Manufacturers are required to list just one way to clean a garment.

If the garment fabric care label says:

Dry Clean: It’s a recommendation, but feel free to try other gentle cleaning methods

Dry Clean Only: A warning that no other cleaning methods should be used, as the garment may deteriorate.

Although, I have accidentally hand washed some ‘dry clean only’ items, accidentally – several times. They came out fine though. NOT to say that I’d advise taking this risk.

If you have any expensive silk pieces, please do just spend a bit more on dry cleaning.

Process of Handwashing Silk

Now that we have sorted the fabric care label bit, lets talk about gentle hand washing at home.

There are a couple of steps to caring for silk at home, pre washing, washing, post washing which will be split into several detailed posts.

Prewashing: Test for colourfastness, colour bleeding, treating stains

Washing: handwash, machine wash, restoring silk’s sheen

Post washing: drying, removing wrinkles (ironing, steaming), storage

Here’s today’s model, my silk shirt!

How to wash a silk shirt
100% pure silk shirt

Pre-Washing or Before you wash

This is where we check for colour fastness or colour bleed, especially if it’s a new silk piece.

Its also where we treat stains, if you’re clumsy like I am.

Here’s a separate detailed post, on stain treatment.

How to test for colourfastness

Silk, fades, sometimes the colour of silk garments bleeds and may stain other clothing. Hence, always test new silk pieces or colourfastness before washing.

If it’s a solid coloured garment, you can opt to put it in a basin of cool water and check if the colour runs. if it does, wash it on its own or with like coloured items.

If its patterned or muti-coloured, use a damp clean cloth or damp Q-tip, dap at an inconspicuous area. If it bleeds, you may want to bring it to the dry cleaners, else the entire silk piece might be ruined when the colour runs.

Here’s a sad example of the importance of testing for colourfastness on a silk shirt. The black dye has seeped into the cream whites of the shirt. Woe be me.

This poor victim is my contrast panel silk shirt from Grana. Here’s some before and after pictures.

How to wash silk
original colour of silk shirt, cream white against black
How to handwash silk
Colour bleeding, cream area has turned slightly bluish green

Things to Prepare before washing

  • A basin; if you’re using your sink, make sure its clean!
  • Water – room temperature or lukewarm or cool, nothing above 30°C / 86°F
  • Gentle washing detergent

Detergent notes: Always use a gentle washing detergent specifically designed for washing wools, silks or delicate fabrics. Avoid using any other types of detergent which may shrink or damage the silk fibres. In a pinch, a good alternative is baby shampoo or non-alkaline soap!

How to handwash silk

The safest and gentlest way to care for and clean silk at home. Silk is made up of a protein that’s similar to hair, so lots of tender loving care. No harsh detergents! In fact, never wash with chlorine bleach or regular detergent. It can damage the natural fibers of silk. I use a gentle delicates wash detergent, meant for silk and delicates.

Translation: itty bitty pretty lingerie

How to Hand Wash a Silk Shirt : Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Fill a basin with cool water, add some gentle detergent.
  2. Stir and agitate until you get bubbles!
How to handwash silk
Look at all those frothy bubbles!
  1. Resist temptation to play with bubbles
  2. Submerge, Swish and stir silk garment gently to dislodge any dirt
  3. Soak silk garment for 3 – 5 minutes
  4. Take garment out, pour away the dirty water, rinse in a basin of clean water.
    Note: if there’s colour in the water, its fine!
  5. *add a bit of mild conditioner into a clean basin of water and soak silk garment for 2-3 minutes. Entirely optional, to me, silk is like hair, it feels less ‘dry’ when I do use a bit of conditioner.
  6. Rinse garment
  7. Gently press and squeeze the excess water out of the silk garment. Do not wring!
  8. Spread silk garment on a fluffy towel, roll up to absorb excess water
How to handwash a silk shirt
Roll up the silk shirt in a clean towel
How to handwash a silk shirt
Remember to press the towel as you roll to squeeze the excess water out
  1. Dry on a flat surface, or simply skip the towel and dry flat.
How to handwash a silk shirt
Lay flat on a drying rack, try to smoothen out the fabric to reduce wrinkles. I left mine all scrunched up for another post!
  1. If the silk garment is relatively dry, you may also hang and air dry using a plastic hanger. Avoid wooden hangers as wood may stain silk clothing.
  2. Hang out of direct sunlight! Direct sunlight may cause the silk’s colour to fade and the garment to be damaged.

The beauty of these steps are that they can be replicated for any silk item you may want to handwash. Silk mask, silk pants, silk lingerie, silk blouses, anything!

Congrats on mastering handwashing silk clothing!

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes with washing silk without proper research. Forgetting to check for colourfastness was a painful one. Hopefully, with this article helps you and many others out there and save some heartbreak.

Maybe you’ll now feel confident or at least have the courage to try handwashing your silks at home. To me, handwashing is always the best option when possible. Its better for the environment, my wallet, saves trips to and fro the dry cleaners AND it doesn’t hurt my silk garments!

With that, go forth and wash!