Silk is just fabulous! Super light and beautiful and as "green" as a wind farm. For travel, you can stuff a dozen silk outfits in your carry-on to appear in style, whatever the occasion. Yet many people shun away from it. Many avoid silk because of the prohibitive cost of dry cleaning. When you know how easy it is to care for your silk items, you would own more, wear them more often, and travel with elegance!
Hand wash your silk. This is the best way to care for your silk. Dry cleaning is not only expensive, but can be risky if the dry cleaners don't understand the proper care for silk. Think about it. Silk was worn for a thousand years before dry cleaning came into the picture. Hand wash your silk in detergents specifically made for delicate fabrics. You may use Woolite or Ivory soap. Some use hair shampoo. Many people like a mild detergent, as it doesn't require scrubbing to "float" away the dirt. Whatever you use, make sure it doesn't contain enzymes that may harm your silk. Use only a small amount of detergent as silk resists dirt. Pre-wash a small test piece if you want to play safe. If you still prefer machine washing, make sure your washing machine is clean and safe for silk. Put your silk items in a mesh bag. Use a small amount of very mild detergent, and set on cold wash and gentle cycle. Keep the spin cycle as short as possible. Never use the dryer for your silk as the lack of humidity and the friction can damage it.
Stay with the same water temperature throughout the wash. You may dissolve the detergent/soap in cool or lukewarm water whichever you prefer. Like most natural fabrics, silk does not enjoy abrupt changes in water temperature but it reacts well to warm water so use this when you can. Know that silk comes in different qualities. Better quality silk tends to look better and last longer when hand washed. Soak silk in detergent for only a brief time. Don't press, wring, or scrub.
Use vinegar in the rinse water. Just add a few tablespoons of white vinegar. This will help your silk keep its sheen and color and will keep it from getting brittle. After the vinegar rinse, wash the silk in water. The vinegar solution can also remove recent stains and prevent yellowing of white silk. As well, a capful of hydrogen peroxide and or a few drops of ammonia added to the wash will help keep white silk bright. With your silk, leave the bleach alone.
Use a towel to dry. This absorbs the excess moisture. You may dry it flat on the towel or roll the silk item up in the towel and gently press the water out. Again, don't wring. Reshape the garment and hang to dry. Some silk may also be put for a brief delicate spin and hang to dry but be very careful. Fortunately, silk dries quickly so you can wash it in a hotel room and if really necessary, use the hair dryer for a final blow.
Shelter away from sun or any heat source. Silk fibers weaken when exposed to the sun. Also, weavers of good silk often use natural dyes, which easily fade in the sun.
Iron on the reverse side of the fabric while it is still lightly damp. Make sure you set your iron appropriately for silk. If the item has dried, dampen it with water from a spray bottle before ironing. Don't use steam as this could leave water marks on your silk.
Store silk in material that breathes. You may use a cotton pillowcase. Avoid plastic as it traps moisture and causes yellowing and mildew. To keep moths and other bugs away, use cedar chips or mothballs.
There you are. Hand washing, rinsing with vinegar, drying away from sun or any heat source, ironing on the reverse when it is still damp, and storing in material that provides air circulation are all that silk really need to stay looking good for years.