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How To Care For Silk

Since our Winter wool care guide caught a lot of attention, we thought we’d make the concept into a series. This time, we’ll explore how to clean and care for silk – a task that may seem more daunting than it actually is.

Few fabrics feel as luxurious as silk, its soft and light touch makes it perfect for breezy summer days. But how do you care for silk to make it last? Good quality silk is often quite pricey, so for the investment to be worth it, you need to care for your silk items with lots of love – and some insight on what the fabric requires.

How silk is made

Did you know that silk actually derives from larvae, more commonly known as the silkworm? The silk is spun in a cocoon aimed to protect the caterpillar from external threats such as dust mites and fungal, which is why silk is a natural repellent of both of these, making it hypoallergenic. Therefore, silk is very agreeable with people who suffer from allergies and have sensitive skin.

There are many different types of silk, but the most popular one is the Mulberry silk. Pure white in colour and with individual long fibres, Mulberry silk is more restrained than other types of silk. Wild silk and Habotai silk are, for instance, less consistent in colour and texture and have more of a shiny appearance like many would picture silk. Mulberry silk is more like fine linen with a beautiful matte lustre. Another difference is that Mulberry silk is 100% natural, odourless and is farmed through a production called sericulture. This process allows extracting the silk from the cocoon after the moth has left it – a much more ethical approach as processes of other types of silk will extract the threads before the silkworm has left the cocoon, causing them not to survive. Sericulture, or silk farming, is the cultivation of silkworms to produce silk. While mass productions of silk use commercial species of silkworms, Bombyx mori is the most widely used silkworm.

Silk is not only aesthetically pleasing, it actually has a number of benefits. Its breathable properties make silk a natural temperature regulator, which is one of the reasons silk is used as sleeping wear or bedding sets.

How to care for silk

As always, read the care label carefully to see what is suggested for your specific garment and principally proceed from those recommendations. You will notice most silk items require professional care but can at times also be cleaned at home if you carry out the delicate process correctly. However, if you feel like your skill level is not high enough or your silk item too valuable, we are more than happy to help you! Our special wet cleaning machines have individual cycles for each type of fabric or garment type, including silk. Book a collection online and your silk items will be in safe, reliable hands.

How to wash silk in a washing machine:

  • Turn the items inside out and put them in a mesh bag to protect them in the machine. When the cycle is done, quickly take all items out and hang to dry to reduce wrinkles.
  • Use the most delicate cold washing cycle, preferably 30°C – silk fibres are no fans of heat – with a mild detergent, and remember to put the spin on low. If your washing machine has a ‘hand wash cycle’, this should do the job.

How to hand wash silk:

  • Before starting this process, you should do a colour run test. Tap a damp, white cloth on the silk to measure the colour fastness. Note that the water might have changed colour slightly once you’re done: if that’s the case, don’t worry, that is not unusual when hand washing silk. You won’t notice any fade or change in colour as it’s just the yarn releasing colour from the silk.
  • Hand wash in lukewarm water with a mild detergent. Tangent GC’s Delicate Detergent with orange oil treats the cell structure of natural fabrics gently. It’s specially adapted to be used on such materials as silk, wool, mohair, down and cashmere. It does not irritate and is ideal for hand-washing. Soak for approximately five minutes and then switch to rinse the silk garment in a separate bowl of cool water.
  • Do not wring the silk after hand washing, instead, lay the item flat and press the water out with a clean, soft towel.

How to dry silk:

  • Silk dries very quickly, so the tumble dryer is not needed nor recommended as this could damage the fibres of the fabric.
  • When hanging it out to dry, avoid keeping your silk in direct sunlight as it can fade the fibres. Note that this rule also applies when storing silk items, preferably store your silk items in a dark, dry wardrobe.
  • Dry silk garments on a clothes hanger, as clothes pegs can mark the silk. Make sure to position the item properly on the hanger to prevent stretching.
  • If the care label suggests the garment can be ironed, use a low temperature setting and iron the silk from damp. However, should the care label not contain the ironing symbol, do not iron it.

Common mistakes when washing silk:

  • If you get a stain, never spot treat it on silk fabric as the colour can easily fade and become lighter on that area. Dark or unsightly stains should preferably be taken to professional cleaners.
  • Any products that consist of chlorine bleach should never be used on silk as this can lead to permanent discolouration.

Where to look for quality, sustainable silk

Bedding:

With a mission to ensure the most peaceful sleep experience as well as keeping your skin looking sharp, Gingerlily’s Mulberry silk bedding collections are both luxurious and healthy. While cotton and polyester material absorbs moisture from the skin throughout the night, silk maintains moisture which is necessary for keeping your skin vibrant and healthy. Silk is, in contrast to other fabrics, produced with very little chemical exposure and is a far more natural bedding choice.

Clothing:

It's no secret that Stella McCartney really loves the planet. The label introduced a vegan and synthetic – yet ethically sourced – type of silk known as spider silk into their collections in 2017. The silk is made by their partner Bolt Threads, a biotechnology company in California and Stella herself said that through this innovative fabric, “the dots are being connected between fashion, sustainability and tech innovation”. 

Loungewear and sleep essentials:

The Ethical Silk Company produces, as its name suggests, ethically made silk items using fairtrade tailoring and a natural type of silk known as Mulberry silk. Beginning with pillowcases and baby cot sheets, they’ve now expanded their product range with lots of beautiful silk items such as robs and luxury loungewear. Have a browse and explore their gorgeous collections.

Just like BLANC, they have a full-hearted commitment to sustainability and social responsibility, so you can feel at ease when shopping their products knowing that the entire process is ethically correct. From the fabric dyes, which has a significantly low impact, to the staff, who work in an environment following ethical labour standards.

Now that you’re a silk care pro, you no longer need to avoid wearing your best silk items because of the fear of damaging them. We wish you a silky smooth summer!


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