How to Remove Stains From Silk

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Stained silk presents a serious cleaning challenge.
Stained silk presents a serious cleaning challenge. (Image: Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

Most silks are elegant and delicate fabrics requiring special care and cleaning. Some stains cannot be removed from silk, but prompt treatment with the right methods improves the odds. Use proven home remedies or commercially available silk treatment products to get rid of stains. Always follow the garment's label instructions regarding cleaning: You can hand-wash some silk, but other varieties are dry-clean only. Do not use heat of any kind when cleaning silk, since this will set any stains more deeply.

Things You'll Need

  • Clean white lint-free cloths
  • Cornstarch or talcum powder
  • Glycerin
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Meat tenderizer
  • Ammonia
  • Liquid dish detergent
  • Commercial spot treatment product for silk

Remove any spilled material from silk immediately to prevent it from setting. Remove food or sauce by scraping it off with a clean knife. Blot liquids on silk with a clean cloth dampened with cold water. Treat remaining oil or grease spots by sprinkling with cornstarch or talcum powder and gently patting it into the spot. Leave the powder on overnight to absorb the grease. Brush off the powder; repeat if necessary.

Sponge lukewarm water onto coffee and tea stains. Gently rub commercially available glycerin into the stain. Leave the glycerin on the stain for a half-hour, then rinse the garment thoroughly in warm water.

Add 1 tsp. of salt to 1 cup of cold water; dab a clean washcloth into the salt mixture and gently dab on blood stains. Rinse with cold water and repeat if needed. If the salt treatment doesn't work, make a paste with meat tenderizer and just enough water to moisten it. Work the paste into the stain with your fingers; follow with a cold-water rinse.

Remove perspiration and makeup stains from silk using diluted ammonia. For perspiration stains, use equal parts cool water and ammonia on a clean cloth to dab at the stain. For makeup, mix one part ammonia to three parts water and apply with a clean cloth. Increase the ammonia proportion if needed, to a maximum concentration of equal parts ammonia and water. Follow all ammonia applications with repeated rinsing in cold water.

Treat wine stains by sprinkling a little cornstarch on the stain to absorb the wine. Brush off the powder. Using a clean cloth, apply a commercial spot-removal product designed for silk directly to the spot. Follow with cool-water rinses.

Apply a commercial spot-removal product designed specially for silk fabrics for all other stains. Apply as directed on the label and follow up with hand-washing in a gentle liquid detergent and rinsing in cool water.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always test stain removal treatments on an inconspicuous portion of the silk garment before applying it to the stain. Dab a small amount of the treatment to an inner seam or hem where it will not show; allow it to set for a few moments to make sure it does not discolor the silk.
  • The Consumer Science Department at Ohio State University recommends that you do not use chlorine bleach on silk fabrics -- it may yellow the silk and weaken the fibers.

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