One of the most commonly asked questions we come across concerns caring for your silk pillowcase or silk scarf. Can you wash it, and if so, by machine or must it be by hand? What about drying it? What happens to silk when you wash it?

Here at Calidad Home, we have done our homework when it comes to caring for silk. We’ve consulted the suppliers of our 22 momme mulberry silk - and we’ve learned by trial and error. Now that we’ve been selling silk pillowcases for several years, we’ve been able to learn from customer experiences as well as our own. So what has this told us about washing silk?

How to wash a silk pillowcase

True or False - What happens to silk when you wash it?

There is lots of advice around when it comes to cleaning and caring for silk. So who, and what, do you believe? Here are some of the most common things we’ve heard about silk. Are they myths or truths? You’ll need to read on to find out…

Silk must be washed by hand - False

Contrary to popular belief, silk does not necessarily need to be washed by hand. This can, however, depend on the product. A delicate garment made from thin silk fabric may require hand washing, for example.

Who says silk cannot be washed? Our pure silk pillowcases are made from 22 momme, long strand mulberry silk This means the silk fabric used is thick and strong. As this is the case, a Calidad Home silk pillowcase can be machine washed.

If you do choose to wash one of our silk pillowcases by machine, make sure you set the temperature to 30 degrees or less, and avoid prolonged cycles or those with fast spin cycles. Use a mild detergent. As for drying, we’ll move onto that next.

hand washing silk

Silk cannot be tumble dried - True

Silk cannot be tumble dried

This one’s true - we would never recommend tumble drying silk, because heat can cause silk shrinkage. If you tumble dry your silk pillowcase, you could well find out later on that it will no longer fit over your pillow.

You should dry silk away from heat sources - including the sun as well as radiators - for the same reason. Silk is best dried flat on the type of airer designed for this purpose. Hanging it on a washing line or a clothes hanger may stretch the fibres, making the piece misshapen. Exposure to UV light may also cause discolouration.

Silk needs washing more often than cotton - False

silk is hypoallergenic

You’d be forgiven for assuming that silk requires more frequent washing than cotton, as it appears to be a finer, more delicate material. However this is not the case. Silk naturally repels dirt and moisture, meaning it absorbs less.

So you can actually get away with washing silk less often. Another trick we like to use is to flip the pillow every night. Even if you used your silk pillow for a fortnight between washes, doing this means that each side is only exposed to your skin and hair for one week instead of two.

Silk is also naturally hypoallergenic. Overall, it’s a cleaner material than most other natural or manmade fabrics. This means it actually needs washing less often, rather than more.

Silk cannot be washed with detergent - False

Partly true and partly false in this case. We recommend using only mild detergents. In the case of Persil, for example, the company themselves say the best choice is their Silk and Wool detergent.

Woolite by Reckitt is another option, as is Dreft from Proctor and Gamble (the brand also behind Ariel) or Ecover’s Wool and Silk laundry liquid. Most supermarkets also offer their own brands. If in doubt, look for a detergent marked as suitable for delicates and read the label carefully.

Never, ever use a detergent containing any kind of bleach or chlorine. Those designed for whites, for example, may contain such substances.

Silk should be spot cleaned - False

We don’t recommend spot cleaning of silk bedding, as it can make that area lighter in colour than the rest of your pillowcase. Another reason is that if you’re trying to remove a stain, you may agitate the fabric - and therefore its delicate fibres - more than you mean to.

Silk should always be treated with the utmost care. Never scrub, wring or twist anything made from silk, as it can cause permanent damage to the fibres that make up the fabric. If you do need to spot clean silk, it’s best to wash the entire piece, following the usual instructions.

If disaster does strike - and you’re all out of a washing detergent suitable for delicates - you can hand wash the silk (if the care label says it’s suitable for this) using a gentle product such as baby shampoo or a non alkaline soap.

If you don’t want to take just our word for it, check out these articles from Martha Stewart and Good Housekeeping on how to wash silk safely.

And finally, a quick disclaimer - If you own a silk garment, do always follow the manufacturer’s specific instructions. That way you should be covered if something does happen to the item during the cleaning process.

August 24, 2021 — Michelle Smith