Fresh from the Wash: Laundering and Caring for Silk Garments

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By Roxy L. Rowton

As the urge beckons you to sweep away the cold weather from your closet and reset the wardrobe for warmth, don’t overlook one of spring’s most comfortable, luxurious and natural textiles: silk.

Prized for its texture and luster, silk is often viewed as a delicate cloth reserved for special occasions. A silk garment is frequently limited to times when a fancy dress or fabulous something is required. Few get to experience the comfort and beauty of silk regularly.

Although most silk aficionados will leave laundering to professionals, simple silk garments can be safely laundered at home, while maintaining their beauty.

Hand- or Machine-Washing Silk

It’s important to understand silk shrinks during laundering if it hasn’t been pre-washed. It’s also important to remember that silk is a natural textile, so wash and wear will bring about changes, such as subtle pebbling and fading.

Hand-washing is generally considered gentlest and safest. However, silk can be laundered in the washing machine. Use cool to cold water and a mild detergent, select the delicate cycle and place garments in a mesh laundry bag.

Handle wet silk with care, as it’s most delicate when wet. Only wash or immerse silk in water for a few minutes.

Do not use bleach, which is harsh. During the rinse cycle, add a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to dissolve detergent residue.

Do not wring silk garments. Simply wrap them in a dry towel to remove excess water. Lay the items flat on a rack or hang them to dry. Keep them away from direct sunlight.

Steaming or Ironing Silk Clothing

Most silk garments will be wrinkled after washing. They may be steamed or ironed, but because silk is a protein like human hair, high heat will damage it, so flip dry silk garments inside out and iron on a low heat setting from the reverse side. Do not spray silk while ironing, as this can leave water marks.

Hanging and Storing Silk

Hang silk garments on a padded hanger to prevent slippage and marks. When storing, keep clean garments in a breathable, cloth bag. Moths are attracted to protein-based fibers, so add a natural moth repellant to the bag.

Proper laundering and storing will ensure your silk garments maintain their beauty season after season. Go ahead – enjoy your silk throughout all the warmer days of the year!

Wardrobe and style consultant Roxy L. Rowton ([email protected]) spends much of her workweek in the closet or the fitting room helping women look and feel their best. She has two-plus decades in the fashion, apparel and beauty industries.

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