How to Hand Wash Silk Without Ruining It

silk garment textile how to hand wash silk

Not many things feel as luxurious as silk clothing does. How can you wear your favorite silk items regularly without having to ship them off to the dry cleaners every week?

Learning how to hand wash silk garments is much easier than you think. This guide will show you how to test your silk items before washing, the best way to hand wash your silk, how to dry, and how to fight off wrinkles.

​Can You ​Wash Silk?

​Most silk clothing items will state they are dry clean only. However, if you know the basics, you can easily hand wash your silk items without ruining them.

While you can hand wash silk, there can be a few exceptions to the rule. Before you start washing, test each of your silk items to make sure they are hand washing compatible.

Related: ​​Cleaning a Wool Rug with Just Baking Soda

silk garment textile how to hand wash silk

​Color Running Test

​First, spot test your silk items to make sure the ​color will not bleed out​ when it is wet. To do this, get a cotton swab or cotton ball and dampen it. Then, lightly blot, not rub, an inside seam area.

If you see any dye on the cotton, you should take this garment to a dry cleaner instead of washing it yourself, as the colors will run when it is wet.

You also want to wash only one silk item at a time, just in case the item passes the swab test but still runs a little in the hand wash. You don’t want colors to be transferred to lighter items.

​Spot Treatment

​Unlike carpet, you ​do not want to spot treat any stains. If you rub in one area of silk, that can cause the fabric to lighten in that one spot.

If you have stains that are light to moderate, they should come out in the wash. For darker stains, you will want to take the item to your dry cleaner.

If your silk garments pass the color test and don’t need a deep stain treatment, you should be fine to hand wash them. Know that not all silk clothes are the same.

To make sure you don’t ruin your clothes, do the previous tests to each garment before you wash.

​How to Hand Wash Silk

​It can be a little worry some learning how to hand wash silk items for the first time. If you follow these steps, you will be giving your silk items the delicate treatment they need.

  • 1
    ​Fill a clean basin or sink with cool water. Do not add your items yet.
  • 2
    ​Add a small amount of a mild ​or natural detergent. You don’t want to use anything with bleach in it.
  • 3
    ​Once the basin is filled, add your item. You want to avoid running water over silk, since this can agitate the fibers and potentially cause damage to your clothes.
  • 4
    ​Fully submerge your silk and let it sit for five to ten minutes.
  • 5
    ​Use your hand to swirl the garment around for three to five minutes.
  • 6
    ​Lift your silk item and gently squeeze out some of the water. ​Just like ​washing wool, you do not want to twist or wring the garment.
  • 7
    ​Empty the basin and add cool clean water.
  • 8
    ​Replace your item in the basin and swish it around for two minutes.
  • 9
    ​Repeat this step again if there are a lot of suds.
  • 10
    ​Empty the basin and lift your item out.
  • 11
    ​Gently squeeze the fabric to get out any excess water. You can also lay the item on a dry towel and roll the towel up to get rid of excess moisture.

​If you don’t want to wash your clothes in the sink, you can purchase a wash basin like ​​The Laundress Wash Tub Basin. This way you aren’t potentially mixing soap and ​chemicals from bathroom sinks​​​ into your fabrics.

Some silk garment labels may say they are machine wash safe. For these items you can wash them in your machine at home. Just make sure you use the gentle cycle.

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Washing small loads, while time consuming, is better overall for your clothes. It keeps a controlled washing environment and lessens the potential for damage to your delicate garments.

Also make sure that you use the cold-water option. To best avoid wrinkles, hang up your silk items to dry as soon as the washer is finished.

​Read our review of the best ​laminate floor vacuum on the market​.

​How to Dry Silk

​D​rying ​silk in the dryer is not an option. The delicate fabric would be ruined even with only a few minutes.

After you have as much moisture out as you can, hang up your silk items. If you don’t have a rack to hang them on, you can lay silk clothing flat on a dry towel.

drying garment textile how to hand wash silk

​Fight off Wrinkles While Drying

​If your need to iron your silk items, first check the label to make sure it is able to be ironed.

Set your iron to the lowest possible setting and make sure your garment is still damp from the wash. If your silk garment is dry, you may want to ​opt for steaming it​.

You do not want to try to spray silk before ironing. This can give it water spots since a spray will not give it an even dampening. You can also try the tried and true shower steaming method.

  • 1
    ​Turn on the shower to a high heat setting.​
  • 2
    ​Turn off the bathroom fan.
  • 3
    ​Hang up your silk garment on a clothes rack in the bathroom.
  • 4
    ​Shut the door so the steam stays trapped.
  • 5
    ​Let the shower run for about ten minutes (save time and water by hopping in the shower)

​Any present wrinkles should be steamed out by the time you are done. For stubborn wrinkles, you can leave it in the bathroom with the shower running for a few more minutes.

Related: ​Your Guide to Cleaning ​Up Your Bathroom

Hanging your item flat on the back of the bathroom door works best. It keeps the hanging item flat against a surface and doesn’t offer much room in the way of swaying.


Now you know how to hand wash silk items. You also know how to care for silk by stain treating, drying, and getting rid of wrinkles. Wear your silk clothes without worrying about running to the dry cleaners.

About the Author Lauren Moldvay

Lauren Moldvay is a freelance writer from Virginia and the mother of one (not always) sweet little girl. She specializes in trying to help others find easier ways to clean, manage the home and save money with DIY projects.

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