Did you know you don’t have to hand wash silk?
Silk is like wool – it’s a natural, protein based fabric that is surprisingly resilient and long lasting. It is often categorised as hand wash or dry-clean only, but now that that washing machines have evolved to handle low-temperature, gentle cycles you can safely machine wash all of Patra’s silks.
The things most likely to ruin your delicate fabrics are strong chemical detergents, which can be found in both biological and non-bio detergents, as well as bleach, whiteners and fabric softeners – so here’s our guide to the best way to keep silk in tip-top condition.
Washing powders and tablets
Every day there seems to be a new detergent on the market, and they’re typically grouped into biological and non-biological.
Biological and colour-protecting detergents contain enzymes that help to get your wash really clean. Regrettably these enzymes degrade the structure of both wool and silk fibres so these detergents should be avoided. Unfortunately, some of the most popular non-bios aren’t silk or wool-safe either. These can contain harsh chemicals such as bleaches or optical whiteners which similarly damage the silk fibres or leave residues reducing your garments sumptuous feel and natural lustre.
Always look for silk or wool-safe detergents carrying the Woolmark endorsement. Persil Silk and Wool, Ecover Delicate, Woolite Extra Delicates Care are good examples, and can usually be used both for hand washing and in the machine.
Don’t worry about having to wash all your silk separately from your other washing just because it needs a special detergent. As long as you’ve separated your colours from your whites and the rest of the load isn’t heavily soiled, the silk and wool-safe detergent at a 30°C temperature on a gentle cycle will be fine for them too.
How to wash and dry your silk fabrics
The mechanics of washing silk clothes are pretty simple, and will become second nature with time. In fact, follow these rules for all your fabrics and they’ll last longer.
* Choose a low-temperature, gentle cycle, and use the time-reduction setting if your washing machine offers it.
* Turn your garments inside out to protect the outer surface that people see.
* Don’t soak individual areas or apply detergents directly to stains prior to machine washing or during hand washing.
* Do separate out your strong colours from your whites and neutrals
* Wash your silks inside a pillowcase to protect them from damage during a machine wash from fastenings and detergent balls.
* Make sure if you’re hand washing you don’t apply washing powder directly to the garment but dissolve it in water first
* Don’t tumble-dry – use a gentle, low speed spin cycle and if they’re still wet, roll up in a clean towel to press out excess water and then air-dry
* Don’t dry clothes on or next to radiators or other sources of heat, as the fabric may yellow. Keep out of direct sunlight too.
If you do choose to use non–silk/wool detergents, perhaps to save a much loved garment, use it in moderation, over a short cycle time and with an extra rinse before returning back to a silk friendly detergent. A possible option would be to try one of the milder biological detergents such as Dreft Automatic
If you find your silk is yellowing or the colours have faded you can try pre-soaking in water with a tablespoon of white vinegar. Remember that part of silk’s beauty is that it is not brilliantly white, and will gradually return to its light, natural cream colour.
If you’ve still got problems with stains, try dry cleaning, but make sure you advise your dry cleaner that it is silk and therefore a delicate item.
The finishing process
It’s best to iron your silks while they’re still slightly damp. When ironing silk, use a low setting and iron on the reverse to be on the safe s ide! If, like mine, your iron sometimes spits water or even lime scale, it’s a good idea to lay a clean, damp tea towel over your precious silks and iron them through that!
To store silk garments for long periods of time, avoid airtight plastic containers. It may keep moths at bay, but residual moisture – and silk is a very absorbent fibre – can cause mildew. It’s much better to store silk in cotton pillowcases.