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How to Wash Silk Clothing [By Hand or in the Washing Machine]

Silk is considered one of the most luxurious fabrics you can buy. But many people hesitate to buy it or wear it because they think it is hard to take care of. So I’m here to bring you some good news. Silk isn’t that hard to care for if you know what you’re doing, which is why you’re about to learn how to wash silk.

When cleaning and caring for silk, hand-washing is preferred. But, silk can be washed in the washing machine as long as you’re careful. In either case, you’ll want to make sure that you use cool or cold water and a gentle detergent, preferably one made for silk. Then, hang the clothing up to dry.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about washing silk, including how to do so safely in the washing machine. That way, you can wear your silk clothing without worrying about how to clean it afterward.

How to Wash Silk Clothing

Can You Wash 100% Silk?

Most silk is a natural fabric made from fibers produced by silkworms. These fibers are very thin and somewhat fragile, and because of this, silk is considered a delicate fabric. But even though it is a delicate fabric, it doesn’t mean that silk can’t be washed.

It does mean that you want to take care with silk and be careful with how you wash it. Check the label for the recommended care instructions and be careful what laundry products you use. You want to prevent any damage to the fabric.

Can You Machine Wash Silk?

Hand-washing silk is preferred, especially if the fabric is embellished. But despite what people think, silk can be washed in the washing machine. But, this is where you need to be extra careful because silk is more likely to become damaged in the washing machine than by hand-washing it.

You need to follow a few big rules when washing silk. The first rule is that you always want to make sure that you put it in a mesh bag designed for washing delicate clothing. Second, make sure you are using cool water to wash the silk. Finally, the washing machine should always be set to the gentle cycle when washing silk.

Does Silk Shrink When Washed?

Since silk is a natural fabric, it is prone to shrinking when washed. The most likely culprits of silk shrinking are to wash it using hot water or dry it in the dryer. The heat combined with water can cause the fibers to relax, which causes shrinking.

But, since silk is made up of more delicate fibers than other natural fabrics, including cotton and linen, it can also shrink just by being exposed to water. This is most likely to happen when silk sits in water for too long, relaxing the fibers. Therefore, it is very important not to let silk “soak” when washing it.

How Do You Wash Silk?

How to hand wash silk

Washing silk the right way is essential for keeping it in the best shape possible. Below are some of the questions you might have about washing silk.

Can You Wash Silk in Hot Water?

Silk should not be washed in hot water (or even warm water) because it can cause damage to the fabric. Washing silk in hot water is one of the leading causes of silk shrinking. Even if you’re hand-washing silk, you should never use hot water.

Can You Wash Silk in Cold Water?

Whether you are hand-washing silk or using the washing machine, cold or cool water is the best temperature to use. Cold or cool water will not cause shrinking as long as you don’t let the fabric sit in the water for an extended period of time.

What Temperature Do You Wash Silk?

Some washing machines have specific water temperature settings instead of generic ones. If this applies to you, then silk should not be washed at temperatures higher than 86 ℉ (30 ℃). Anything higher than that temperature can cause damage to the fabric. For example, if your washing machine has a general temperature dial, just set it to cool or cold water depending on what the care tag for the clothing says.

Can You Bleach Silk?

You should never use bleach on silk, even if the bleach is properly diluted. This applies to both chlorine and oxygen bleach. Bleach is a harsh chemical, and silk fibers are too delicate to use bleach on.

Bleaching silk can cause damage to the fabric. In addition to taking the color out and causing yellowing on white silk, bleach can also dissolve the silk fibers or at least weaken them. If this happens, they will eventually give out over time which will ruin the appearance of your silk clothing.

How To Wash Silk

Now that we’ve gotten all the things that you should and shouldn’t do out of the way let’s learn exactly how to wash silk. Whether you need to hand-wash or wash it in the washing machine, you’ll find the steps below. Just remember, you should always check the care label first and wash it, following those recommendations if possible.

Hand Wash

Can You Wash Silk

Hand-washing silk is the best way to wash it to ensure it isn’t damaged. If the care tag says, “Hand Wash Only” or “Do Not Machine Wash,” then it is a good idea to follow those recommendations, especially if the clothing has embellishments on it.

Here are the steps you’ll need to follow for washing silk by hand:

  1. Fill a washbasin or sink with cool or cold water, then submerge the silk clothing in the water.
  2. Add a few drops of detergent designed for delicates such as silk, then use your hands to stir the detergent around in the water.
  3. Leave the clothing to soak in the water for about 3 to 5 minutes (this won’t be long enough to cause shrinking if you used the right water temperature.)
  4. Using your hands, gently agitate the fabric by swishing it around in the water. This will help to remove any dirt.
  5. Remove the clothing from the sink or washbasin and run it under cold water to remove the detergent.
  6. Do not squeeze or wring excess water out of the fabric. Instead, lay it flat on a towel, roll the fabric up in the towel and gently press down to remove excess water.

Machine Wash

Can you wash silk in the washing machine

Unless the care tag specifically says to hand-wash the item, it should be safe to wash it in the washing machine. However, you want to be sure to follow the directions exactly to prevent damage.

Follow these steps to machine-wash silk:

  1. Only wash silk by itself or with other delicate clothing items.
  2. Place silk clothing in a mesh laundry bag for delicates to prevent any damage, such as snags.
  3. Add detergent specifically made for silk or another type of delicate laundry detergent. You don’t need much if you’re only washing one or two silk items.
  4. Set the water temperature to cool or cold, depending on what the care label says.
  5. Set the machine to the gentle or delicate cycle, then start the machine.

Can You Put Silk in the Dryer?

Silk should never be put into the dryer to dry, even on a low-heat cycle. The heat from the dryer can cause silk to shrink or become damaged. Instead, silk needs to air dry to stay in good condition.

How To Dry Silk

After hand-washing or machine-washing silk, you will need to remove any excess water before allowing the fabric to dry. You never want to wring out silk because it can damage the fibers. Instead, you’ll want to take a more gentle approach.

To remove excess water from silk, you’ll first want to lay a clean, dry towel out on a flat surface. Next, lay the silk clothing out flat on top of the towel and roll it up so that the clothing is inside it.

Then, gently press down on the towel to remove excess water. The towel helps to absorb the water. Once the clothing is damp and you’ve removed the excess water, hang the silk clothing up to dry in an area away from a heat source and out of direct sunlight.

Best Detergent for Washing Silk

Heritage Park Silk & Wool All-Natural Lavender Mist Scent, pH-Neutral Laundry Detergent - Enzyme-Free, Concentrated Up to 128 loads (64 fl oz)The best detergent to use for washing silk is silk detergent. Silk detergent has ingredients that are safe to use without being too harsh and damaging the fabric. Ideally, you want a detergent free from enzymes, such as Heritage Park Silk and Wool Detergent.

If you only wear silk occasionally and you don’t want to shell out money, you can use a delicate detergent designed for fabrics other than silk. But the problem with doing this is that sometimes these detergents (such as ones specifically made for wool) can contain enzymes that can be too harsh for certain silk fabrics.

You will want to avoid using too much detergent that contains enzymes with silk. Or, you can dilute the detergent with water before using it. However, delicate detergents that aren’t made for silk are still better than mild or heavy-duty detergents.

How To Clean and Care for Silk Clothes

Taking care of silk clothing goes far beyond just washing it the right way. You may also need to know how to remove stains from silk and store it after washing. Don’t worry, I’ve provided this information for you as well.

How To Remove Stains From Silk

You’ve already learned that you should never use bleach on silk. But, you’ll also want to avoid using other harsh stain removers as well. The most effective way to remove stains from silk is to spot treat them before washing.

There are a couple of common household products that you can use to spot treat silk. You can use either white vinegar, mild dish soap, or mild or delicate laundry detergent. However, you’ll want to dilute whatever product you’re using it water first so that it isn’t as harsh.

Next, test the solution on an inconspicuous area of the fabric to make sure that it won’t discolor or damage it. Then, blot the stain using a clean rag dipped in the solution to pre-treat it. Finally, wash the fabric to remove the stain.

How To Care for Silk Clothes

After washing silk, you should know a few more things about how to care for and store it. If you need to iron it, you should always turn it inside first. Then, spray the fabric with water first, then iron it using the low heat setting on the iron.

Silk should always be stored in an area that is cool and dry. Never store silk in a warm area or an area near a window. You’ll also want to store it in a breathable bag if moisture does get on the fabric. Use mothballs or another moth repellant to keep moths away.


One misconception is that silk is hard to care for, but this isn’t necessarily true if you know what you’re doing. Although hand-washing is recommended, you can wash it in the washing machine as long as you use cool water, delicate detergent, and a gentle cycle.

Hopefully, after reading this, you feel more confident about washing your silk clothes. If you do, share it with others who could also use this information and leave a comment. Thanks for reading!