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How to Care for Vintage Silk Scarves

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How to Care for Vintage Silk Scarves

Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Structured vintage silk clothing should be taken to a professional cleaner, but most scarves can be washed by hand to restore their classic beauty.

Do not use soap for washing silk because the alkalines will damage the fabric. Use a mild detergent and cool water to hand wash. Do not use a washer because excessive agitation may damage the fibers.

Even during hand-washing, avoid excessive rubbing because it can break the fibers and dull the finish. Gently squeeze the suds aroudn the scarf in cool or lukewarm water. Rinse carefully in water of the same temperature, then remove excess moisture by patting the scarf between dry towels. Do not wrinkle the silk any more than necessary.

If you have a white scarf that needs some whitening, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Bleach, Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach) and cool water. Follow the package directions as to how much product per gallon of water. Completely submerge the scarf and allow it to soak for at least eight hours. Check the color. If it is white again, wash as recommended. If it is still yellowed, mix a fresh solution and repeat.

Do not hang silks in the sun or place them near any source of heat, but do dry them as quickly as possible. Rapid drying in front of an electric fan prevents formation of watermarks and helps retain the glossy finish.

If you have mishandled washable silk, it can lose its sheen and become dull. You can restore some of the shine by following these steps. The fabric will improve but will never be quite the same.

In a large sink or bucket, add one-fourth cup of white distilled vinegar to each gallon of lukewarm water. Mix well. Completely submerge the scarf and swish around to completely soak the dress. Remove from the vinegar water and rinse several times in clean water. Do not wring!

Spread the scarf on a heavy clean white towel and roll up to absorb the water. Repeat with clean towels until much of the water is absorbed. Hang to air dry using a plastic hanger - no wood that can stain. Do not hang over direct heat or in the sun.

Iron the scarf on the wrong side while still damp using a very low heat.

Silk should be damp when pressed. Use a warm - never hot - iron and press on the wrong side using a piece of clean white cloth between the silk and the iron.

Specific questions? Just ask here.

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