Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

How to Wash Silk Using a Hand-Wash, or Machine-Wash Method

how to wash silk using machine or handwash custom graphic

Silk is often described as one of the most beautiful materials in textiles. The smooth and soft feel, the sophisticated look, and its consistent use in high fashion and other luxury products make it a very coveted fabric. However, the high cost of silk isn't entirely attributed to these things, but rather owed to the fact that the material is expensive to produce as well. The strength and durability of the fabric further ensures that the demand for silk isn't losing speed any time soon. 

With that said, however, while it is a fabric that probably won't wear out as quickly as others, it still has its weaknesses: sunlight, heat, and water damage are the bane of silk's existence. On that note, if you look at the washing label for any silk product, it will mention dry-cleaning, mild heat (if any at all) for pressing, and absolutely no sunlight when drying. The difference is, while the sunlight rule is something you want to stick to, the other details are mentioned as precaution; therefore, you can still hand or machine wash silks safely and efficiently.

Let’s take a look at how to apply each of these methods to wash silk without damaging the material.

How to Hand-Wash Silk 

assorted coloured silk clothes being hand washed in soapy water in a basin


It's always a good idea to follow the instructions as far as possible on a wash care label, but if you have no choice, you can use a workaround like what we will discuss here. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Fill Tub With Water

As mentioned earlier, regardless of the wash label, you can, in fact, wash silk at home. To do this, begin by filling a tub or basin with some cold water. Ensure that there is enough water in the tub to completely submerge the garment.

Add Detergent

At this point, you'll want to get your hands on the gentlest detergent you can find. It is recommended to use a detergent that is actually designed for silk fabrics since a harsh detergent can actually do more damage than good. Once the detergent has been added to the water, ensure it is mixed into the water well. Follow the instructions on the label to learn the amount of detergent to add per item or gallon.


Now we must allow the detergent to do its job. Take the silken fabric, and place it into the tub or basin; push it under the water so that it is completely wet and sinks to the bottom. Once wet, allow the silk to sit in the water for about 3-5 minutes. This gives the detergent enough time to act on the dirt and stains.


Here is where the actual wash begins. Very gently, take the fabric and thrust it around in the water. This agitation of the fabric moves the water through it, pulling any dirt or residue out of it. The whole point of this is to simulate the cycle of a washing machine, without being as harsh on the fabric as the machine would.


Remove the cloth from the tub, and drain out the soapy water. From there, begin rinsing the cloth under fresh, cold water again. Ensure that you are running the water across the entire surface of the material so that no residue is left behind. Once you no longer see the suds from the detergent, you may stop.


A gentle, but effective way to start the drying process off is by using a towel to soak up much of the water in the fabric. Roll the towel out flat on a table and lay your silk on top of it; now, roll the towel up with the silk inside it. Once it has been completely rolled up, unroll it. If needed, roll the silk one more time (use a dry towel if the current one has gotten too wet). Under no circumstance should you try squeezing or wringing out the silk because it can severely damage the material.


Now that you've removed much of the water from the silk, you can afford to hang it to dry. Remember, hanging silk while the fabric is soaking or dripping wet can cause the material to stretch out of shape from the weight of the water. The best way to hang silk is to drape it over a clothes rack, or fasten it to a clothesline with pegs. If you choose to do this outdoors, ensure that the fabric is not in direct sunlight, or else the fibres will get damaged in the process.

How to Machine-Wash Silk

assorted silk clothes on a surface with a warning not to wring

Before you begin, ensure that the wash care label on the garment states that you can machine wash it. Some types of garments may be too delicate to withstand a washing machine cycle; therefore, it's a good idea to double-check these things before you proceed to wash the item.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Load the Washing Machine

Now that you've confirmed that the garment can be machine-washed, place it in the wash drum. As much as possible, try to wash silk alone, or along with other delicate materials. Avoid adding clothing with buttons or hooks as that can do a lot of damage to the silk. Even heavier fabrics should not be in the same wash since their moving around in the wash could beat against the silk and damage it.

Choose the Right Cycle

Before doing anything further, double-check that the machine has been set to its most delicate or gentle wash. Along with this, check that the spin-cycle is the shortest so that you are not exposing the silk to too much stress.

Add Detergent

Here, the same rules apply as the hand-washing technique - use a gentle detergent or one that is specifically made for silk. The importance of paying more attention to the type of detergent used for a particular fabric is often underestimated; you want to make sure that the product is cleaning the material and not causing damage instead. Once added, begin the wash, and let it finish.


Again, just as earlier, you must towel-dry the cloth before hanging it up. Once the wash is done, place the silk onto a highly absorbent towel that is laid out flat, and begin rolling the towel up with the silk inside it. Unroll the towel, and remove the silk. This should have gotten rid of most of the water.


Finally, hang up the silk article to allow it to air-dry. As mentioned earlier, avoid letting direct sunlight reach the fabric as this could fade the colour, and permanently stretch the fibres.

While washing silk by hand or in a washing machine isn’t always the most favourable option over dry cleaning, if done correctly, keeping the dos and don’ts in mind, you can clean the material just as efficiently as your local dry cleaner can! All you need to do is learn how to wash silk by following the instructions above for surprisingly great results!

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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