Silk clothes have been worn for centuries due to their luxurious feel and beautiful finishes. Fibers in clothes each react differently when treated with stain removal products and during cleaning. Always read hang tags and labels before attempting to remove a stain.
Silk fibers are made of protein and will dissolve in chlorine bleach. Even dilute solutions of chlorine bleach will cause permanent yellowing, color loss and weakening of silk. All stain removal products should be tested in an inconspicuous spot. Professional dry cleaning is usually recommended for silk clothes.
But Can't Silk Be Handwashed?
There are washable silk items. To determine if your silk garment or scarf can be washed, crush the silk in your hand and then let it go. If the fabric smooths out quickly, it is high quality silk and can usually be handwashed.
These clothes or accessories are usually unstructured but should be handwashed. Before washing colored silk, test for colorfastness by dampening the fabric on an inside seam. Wait a few minutes and then dap the spot with a white cloth or cotton swab. If the color comes off, the dye will run during washing. Head to the dry cleaners!
For stable silks, use a delicate care detergent and do not wring or squeeze the fabric excessively which can break the threads. Rinse well and dry flat or hang on a padded hanger to drip dry.
Adding 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse water can help silk keep its lovely sheen.
Extremely high temperatures when ironing can scorch silk, wool and other hair fibers. The scorching or yellowing occurs as the fibers begin to burn. Burned fibers cannot be revived.
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