How to Restore Accidentally Washed Silk (Silk Washing and Care Tips)

Did you know that the Chinese invented silk long before paper existed? In fact, the fabric was so important in ancient China that it became a status symbol only the rich or powerful wear.

Even today, producing silk is incredibly costly, rare, and remarkably expensive. So, we typically put extra care into maintaining clothing and household materials made of this delicate material. 

Still, accidents can happen, and you’re reading this post because you accidentally washed silk. It can be a tie, a blouse, or a dress, but it’s a special piece of silk, and you want to save it.

Keep reading, and let’s get you out of this silky tragedy!

Silk Fabric and Machine Washing

Silk is one of the finest clothing materials you can get your hands on. It’s tear and wear-resistant and doesn’t cause allergic reactions to your sensitive skin.

On top of that, genuine silk fibers have a protective protein coating called sericin. This coat helps silk repel dust, mites, molds, fungus, and other contaminants that cause discomfort.

Despite all these qualities, however, is a disadvantage that could make you think twice about buying silk clothing: these fabrics are exceptionally delicate, requiring special care.

For example, some types of silk fabrics can only tolerate dry cleaning. Most will need appropriate water temperature, detergent types, and cleaning methods.

One common issue people experience due to poor silk-cleaning habits is losing the fabric’s color, softness, or shine. Stains and wrinkles are common as well.

How to Fix a Stiffened Silk Fabric?

So you washed your favorite silk outfit by the book. And you’re sure you followed the instructions precisely, but you still got a stiff mess on your hands.

Let’s just say you’re not the only one.

Now, there are several reasons why this could happen to silk. Exposure to heat, detergents with potent chemicals, or incorrect drying methods can result in this rough issue.

So, it’s either you used hot water, used the wrong detergent, or dried the clothes under direct sunlight. But it’s possible you used too much detergent as well.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to remedy a stiffened silk. 

1. Choose a Gentler Detergent

Using detergents with potent chemicals can damage the fibers of the silk. They strip the natural oils from the fabric, causing it to turn rough and stiff.

Choosing a gentle detergent can go a long way toward maintaining these delicate fabrics. So pick silk-safe detergents when washing your silken sheets.

Close-up of a woman using washing detergent and washing machine

You can also make your own detergent solution for your silk garments. A dash of white vinegar, shampoo, and water makes for excellent softening agents for these luxury fabrics.

Here’s a tip: adding ¼ cup of distilled vinegar to the first rinse should help soften the silk.

2. Learn Proper Air Drying for Silk

Of course, picking a mild detergent is just the first step. And if you’re already using one, the problem might be your drying methods.

Don’t just leave your silk hanging under the sun’s glare. In fact, don’t expose silk to direct sunlight at all, as it can damage its delicate fibers.

Instead, lay it flat on a clean surface or hang it in a well-ventilated area. And give it a good shake or two while drying to prevent the fabric from hardening.

You can also pop the sheet in the tumble dryer. Let it tumble dry for a few minutes while on low temperature before giving it another shake, and you’ll notice a world of difference!

How to Restore Shine in Silk Clothing?

Another pesky effect of poor washing habits on your silk items is the loss of color. You might notice your silk pillowcases, pajamas, or silk ties becoming dull or lose their luster.

These sheets losing brilliance can mean you’re cleaning them wrong or exposing them to excessive heat. So, how do you restore their shine?

A mild vinegar bath should help recover a silk’s lost sheen. This sour but popular method will help restore glow and softness to your favorite piece of clothing.

For this technique, you’ll need a clean sink or wash bin, white vinegar, lukewarm water, and a drying rack. Avoid using warm water to prevent heat damage.

Mild Vinegar Bath for Silk Clothing

Here are the steps to giving a mild vinegar bath to your silk:

  1. The first step is to mix ¼ cup of white vinegar with one gallon of lukewarm water in a clean basin or wash bin.
  2. Stir the mixture well before submerging your silk sheet.
  3. Swirl the vinegar water with your silk sheet for a few minutes to ensure the mixture penetrates the fabric.
  4. After soaking the silk, pour the vinegar mixture and rinse the sheet with cool water until the sour smell comes off.
  5. Shake out excess water (don’t twist) and air dry the fabric in a well-ventilated area.

Drying is a crucial part when caring for silk material. And one thing to avoid after a vinegar bath is using wooden hangers or surfaces to prevent color contamination.

How to Unshrink a Silk Garment?

Silk fabrics often have that clean “inelastic” feel, so it’s hard to picture them changing shape or size. However, did you know that these materials are more elastic than cotton?

So, if you’re ever wondering why your velvety sheets shrunk smaller than your cotton shirts, there’s your answer.

The average silk can shrink by 15% on its first wash. But the degree of shrinkage can depend on the type of fabric, washing method, and the environment.

Woman with clothes and detergent in a laundry room

Satin and broadcloth, for instance, will have little to no shrinkage. Looser weaves like Chiffon and Crepe de Chine will shrink considerably.

Unshrinking a Silk Garment

So, you accidentally tossed your favorite square silk scarf into the dryer, and it came out smaller. You’re in luck because it’s easy to reshape and unshrunk.

Here’s how you repair a shrunk silk garment:

  1. First, get a large basin and fill it with lukewarm water.
  2. Next, mix in a couple of spoons of baby shampoo, matching the amount of water.
  3. Soak your shrunken fabric in the mixture for 30 minutes.
  4. Rinse the silk with cool water thoroughly after soaking.
  5. Remove excess water from the cloth before reshaping using a dry towel.

Place the fabric flat on a clean towel and gently stretch it to shape by hand. Then, use heavy objects to keep the silk’s shape in place until it dries.

How to Remove Wrinkles From a Silk Item?

As velvety as they are, silks can still wrinkle if left crumpled and wet for a long time. And these creases can be tough to smoothen, reducing the sheet’s luxurious look and feel. 

Still, it’s not a problem that’s unsolvable.

Repairing silk wrinkles takes additional care, but it’s doable. There are two fantastic ways to smoothen silk, depending on how tough the creases are.

1. Cool Iron

Ironing is a surefire way to repair wrinkled cloth. But with silk, you do it with extra steps to prevent burning the delicate fibers.

  1. Step one, damp the entire surface of the sheet using a spray bottle.
  2. Second, set your iron to the lowest or silk setting.
  3. Before ironing, turn the silk item inside out to protect the outer layer from damage.
  4. Lay the cloth flat on the ironing board and place a thin, clean towel on top.
  5. Iron the silk with the towel on top until you cover all wrinkled areas.

After ironing the entire silk item, turn it right-side out before hanging it to dry. You can repeat the method if you notice any remaining crinkles.

2. Dry Steam

Dry steaming is another excellent wrinkle-removal technique. Plus, you can use the steam from your shower to smoothen the pesky creases.

  1. The first step is to hang your silk item on your bathroom door or towel rack.
  2. But ensure that the fabric isn’t pressing against anything so the steam can circulate all over the cloth.
  3. Close the bathroom’s openings to prevent the steam from escaping. 
  4. Set the shower to hot and run it for around 3 to 5 minutes
  5. Once done, transfer the silk to your closet and let it hang overnight to dry.

Some stubborn wrinkles can remain after steam drying. If this happens, use a handheld steamer, moving it over the creases until they smoothen.

Care Tips for Silk Clothing

Always follow the care labels on the clothes. Manufacturers place these instructions there with the silk fabrics in mind, so you should follow them.

If the label says to avoid hot water, then avoid using hot water. Some pieces of silk may even only require air drying and professional cleaners.

Reading labels is good practice when purchasing anything. And it definitely goes a long way when caring for delicate materials like these velvety fabrics!

Final Thoughts

Silk remains one of the most sought-after fabric materials in the world. People prefer silk-made clothes for their luxurious feel, color, shine, and durability. 

Nevertheless, care and good cleaning habits are essential to maintain these qualities. So remember the tips we discussed above!