If you've noticed that your white silk pillowcases are gradually developing yellow spots or lines, you might be wondering if it's time to replace them.

On one hand, it could be a great excuse to buy new pillowcases. However, if you'd rather salvage them, there are steps you can take to restore their original look.

What Causes Yellowing of Silk Pillowcases?

Now, yellowing that occurs with silk pillowcases is a natural process and one that could arise from a variety of reasons. Let's look at them:

Body Oils and Sweat

This is the major culprit and one that can be unavoidable. Bodily fluids can turn white pillowcases yellow quickly.

Natural oils and sweat contain proteins and salts that accumulate in the pillowcases, leading to discoloration.

Scientifically, this happens because bile pigments present in body fluids cause a yellow-brown color. These pigments are the breakdown products of the heme group found in hemoglobin in blood and muscles.

The body cannot fully break these products down, so they are excreted through sweat and body oils.

Skincare and Haircare Products

Over time, your skincare and hair care products may start to leave a mark in the guise of "yellow" discoloration or something even more.

This occurs because certain chemical components, oils, or dyes present in these products can stain your pillowcase. That's all the science there is behind this.

Not Caring for Your Silk Pillowcase

Here is where things are often done wrongly. To extend the longevity of your silk pillowcases, you should be ready to give them all the care they need to thrive. Not taking proper care of your pillowcases will only set things back and leave you wondering why your expectations are not met.

Ensure you are not using harsh detergents, as these can weaken the silk fibers, allowing discoloration to take root. While some silk pillowcases tolerate machine washing, hand washing is the better method because it is gentler and more suited for the delicacy of silk pillowcases.

Additionally, avoid drying silk pillowcases in direct sunlight, as sun damage can cause yellowing. Store your pillowcases in a cool, dry place. Storing them in plastic bags or moisture-trapping containers can lead to mildew and mold, resulting in inevitable yellow stains.

5 Steps to Preventing Yellowing of Silk Pillowcases

Yellowing of silk pillowcases doesn't occur without a reason, and there are a couple of steps that can be taken to prevent that discoloration from happening:

1. Regular Washing

Washing your silk pillowcases often will get rid of the buildup of body oils, sweat, and dirt from your silk pillowcases. Getting rid of these substances on time prevents discoloration from occurring. Ideally, wash your silk pillowcases at least once a week.

2. Pre-Treat Stains

Accidents happen, and that's totally fine. When spills like tea or coffee occur on your silk pillowcases, don't just roll them up and toss them aside, saving them for wash day. Pre-treat the stains right away, even if you don't intend to wash the pillowcases immediately. Here's how to go about pre-treating those stains:

First, identify the stain spots. Then, grab a gentle stain remover or a mild cleaning solution and mix a few drops in lukewarm water. Hot water is an absolute no-no as it can damage the silk fibers. Dip a clean white cloth or sponge into the water and gently blot out the stain. Avoid rubbing or applying too much force as that could damage the silk.

For oil-based stains, you can take it up a notch by adding a bit of cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb the oils. Let that sit for a couple of hours, then gently brush it off before proceeding with the cleaning process.

3. Using a Mild Detergent

The recommended detergent for silk fabrics is a mild detergent with a neutral pH. Harsh detergents can shorten the lifespan of your silk pillowcases and diminish their quality.

Yellowing wouldn't be the only issue; harsh detergents typically have higher pH levels, making them alkaline, while silk is acidic. When these interact, a chemical reaction breaks down the molecular structure of the silk.

Over time, the pillowcases start to weaken and lose their integrity. Additionally, they lose their shine, as the detergents can strip away layers, giving them a dull appearance.

4. Hand Washing or Machine Washing Under Gentle Cycle!

When it comes to washing silk pillowcases, there are specific methods that are deemed acceptable. Hand washing is preferred due to its gentle nature. However, even with hand washing, there's a right way to do it.

Avoid wringing, rubbing, scrubbing, or using force when washing silk fabrics, as this can cause damage. If you feel the need for machine washing, make sure to use a gentle cycle and start by placing the silk pillowcase into a laundry mesh bag.

5. Avoid Sunlight

Now, drying is also an incredibly crucial part and one that you should pay attention to. The glare of the sun can be damaging to your silk pillowcases; they just can't withstand it, so it would be best to air dry them away from the direct glare of sunlight.

June 24, 2024 — Michelle Fletcher Smith