Before you invest in a silk pillowcase or any other kind of silk that requires washing, you may well be wondering - can you machine wash silk? Or put it into the tumble dryer? What happens if you put silk in the washing machine: will it be ruined?

The good news is that washing silk in a washing machine is entirely possible and we wash all our own silk pillowcases for a family of four in this way! Hence this complete guide to washing silk. By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll know all the answers to these questions and more.

Let’s get started in answering the most frequently asked questions about how to wash and dry silk. Beginning of course with the relationship between your silk pillowcase and your washing machine.

How to wash and dry silk at home

So - can you put silk in the washing machine? Yes, absolutely. We wash our own household silk in this way and it’s just as beautiful and long-lasting as we’d expect it to be!

wash silk in the washing machine

How to wash silk in the washing machine

Temperature and programme

The key is to take care when selecting the water temperature and programme. You want a temperature no higher than 30 degrees celsius. A gentle cycle is ideal, without a high speed spin. If you have a programme for delicates on your machine, then that’s the best option.

use a silk washing liquid


It’s always good practice to use a laundry detergent for delicate fabrics.

Turning inside out

Turn your silk pillowcase or garment inside out for the best results. This protects the side that you’ll see from tumbling around in the machine. Keeping it looking good for longer. This can also help to preserve dark or bright colours, such as a tie dye or black pillowcase.

How to dry silk

So what about the dryer? Can you put your silk items into the dryer after they’ve been washed on a gentle 30 degree cycle in the machine?

Why you shouldn’t put silk in the dryer

The ideal answer is no. Don’t dry your silk garments or pillowcases in a tumble dryer. This is because exposure to high levels of heat may shrink the silk fibres. Leaving you with a silk pillowcase that no longer fits over your pillow.

Another reason not to tumble dry silk is that it can come out very creased. If you don’t mind ironing that might seem OK. But actually you’re exposing your silk to heat yet again.

When you can put silk in the dryer

We don’t live in a perfect world, though. If you’re short on time, you may be able to dry your silk in the machine. Just use the lowest temperature setting and don’t set the timer for too long. Once it’s dry, remove it right away.

how to dry silk

The best way to dry silk

The ideal way to dry a silk pillowcase is to lay it out flat. A clothes airer that lets you do this is best. This means air will get underneath, drying it more quickly than if you laid it out on a flat surface such as a table.

Can you hang silk on the washing line? You can, but remember that sunshine and wind will gradually cause wear and tear. If you do, hang the pillowcase inside out as when washing.

If your silk pillowcase has bright or dark colours, then that’s even more reason to keep it out of direct sunlight.

hand washing silk can be better

Washing and drying silk summary

It’s fine to wash your silk, inside-out, in the machine on a gentle 30 degrees (or less) cycle. Though ideal, hand-washing is time consuming, and can also result in the item taking longer to dry. Dry cleaning is not recommended for silk.


Do you really need to tumble dry it? If the answer is yes, then go ahead - on the most gentle cycle possible. Just be aware that this could, over time, shorten the life of your silk. Especially if you end up ironing it afterwards because it’s creased. Wind and sunlight can also affect the finish of your silk.


Ideally, wash your silk by hand or on a gentle cycle with a water temperature no higher than 30 degrees. Then dry it flat, using a clothes airer designed for this purpose.

Can you machine wash silk | FAQs

Can you dry clean silk?

You can dry clean silk if the care label on your silk item indicates that it’s suitable for dry cleaning. Otherwise it’s best avoided. This is because silk that’s been dry cleaned may shrink, resulting in a smaller or out-of-shape garment, sheet or pillowcase. Pure, natural silk is usually unsuitable for dry cleaning.

Can you hand wash silk?

Silk can be washed by hand, and if you have the time this is the best way to clean it. Use lukewarm water and wash one item at a time. You should also use a gentle detergent suitable for delicate fabrics. Make sure you rinse thoroughly (but gently) until no trace of detergent remains.

Can silk be washed at home?

Yes, silk can be washed at home. You can handwash silk, or pop it in the washing machine. If it’s a pillowcase, turn it inside out first and set the machine to a gentle cycle with a temperature of 30 degrees celsius or less.

Does silk shrink when washed?

Natural silk fibres will shrink if they’re subjected to too much heat. If your silk is washed, dried or ironed at a high temperature, then it is likely to shrink. The longer the silk soaks or is dried, the higher the chance of it shrinking. The same applies when it’s ironed.    

Can you wash silk in the washing machine?

You can indeed wash silk in the washing machine. Set the machine for a gentle 30 degree cycle. Turn the silk pillowcase or garment inside out first if you can. Tumble drying is best avoided, however, unless absolutely necessary. Air drying your silk flat is best, and reduces the need for ironing.

Can you wash silk that says dry clean only?

Silk is actually unlikely to be labelled as dry clean only, as the process can cause silk to shrink. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, though, as you’ll have no comeback if you don’t and damage is the result. If silk is labelled as dry clean only, then it may be made from synthetics rather than real silk.

So there you have the guide to washing your silk pillowcases. now you should be able to keep your pillowcases looking like new for years to come.

October 01, 2022 — Michelle Fletcher Smith