How do I care for my silk?

In handwashing silk there is an important advantage; it will refreshen and rejuvenate the fabric. The silk fibers have a natural coating which reacts favorably to warm water washing and actually gives the fabric a natural sizing and better drape. The dry cleaning process does not allow this natural phenomenon to occur.

Based on this (and similar) advice, I have always washed my silk fabrics/garments whenever possible. Prewashing a small test piece first, however, is always the safest way to go. Then prewash the whole piece if the test results are satisfactory.

On the other hand, although I wash almost all my silk, I never wash it in the washing machine because I want to avoid abrasion from the agitator and other garments. I usually hand wash it, using hair shampoo followed by a vinegar rinse. I then put it into the washer for a brief spin cycle, which I prefer to using towels to absorb the excess moisture. I hang it to air dry and iron while still slightly damp.

Have fun,

Catherine Wildermuth
Austin, TX

AVOID detergents, which often contain enzymes and brighteners which can attack silk and dyes. Instead, use a product designed especially for silk, or in a pinch, use woolite or shampoo - although the moisturizing components can dampen the silken sheen. The best method is to dissolve the detergents in a water bath, into which the textiles are then placed.

* Washing machine — Silk can safely be cleaned in the woolen-cycle of your washing machine (water temp. 30°C). Alway separate your colors and use a very short spin cycle.

* Vinegar rinse — A capful of white vinegar will protect your silk and its color. A brittle texture and a matt finish are indicators of alkali damage, which can be minimized through rinsing with the vinegar solution.

* Drying — Wet silk may yellow on a radiator or in direct sunlight. In the clothes dryer, your silk will suffer from the friction and the extreme lack of humidity. Avoid both of these methods. Spun silk is best hung to dry, and bourette silk should be shaped and dried on a flat surface. Avoid direct sunlight.