Will Silk Shrink in the Wash?

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Silk is a beautiful, yet delicate clothing fabric.
Silk is a beautiful, yet delicate clothing fabric.

Silk is a protein fiber that is commonly used in clothing. Many appreciate silk because of its soft and shiny texture. However, silk is a very delicate material. Special care should be taken when cleaning a silk garment, so that it doesn’t shrink or become damaged.

Shrinking Silk

Silk can shrink if it is pre-washed for more than approximately five minutes. Letting a silk garment sit in water for a long time before washing causes its fibers to tighten and twist, thus producing a shrinking effect. Silk that is washed in hot water will also shrink. A silk garment will also reduce in size if it dried in a hot dryer.

Washing by Hand

Washing by hand is considered the safest way to clean a silk garment, unless it is specifically marked as “Dry Clean Only”. Let the silk article soak for 2 or 3 minutes in lukewarm water. Use a mild soap for cleaning and never use detergent as this could damage the material. Swirl the garment around in the soapy water. Gently rinse the garment in cold water. Add a few teaspoons of vinegar to the rinse water to remove soap. Put hair conditioner in the last tub of cold water to give it a soft feel.

Machine Washing

Though washing by hand is the recommended way to wash silk, some may prefer to use the washing machine. In this case, always use the “Delicate” cycle and the quickest spin cycle offered. Do not use a detergent with brighteners or bleach, instead use a mild soap, like Woolite. The silk item may also be placed in a mesh bag for extra protection.

Drying Tips

When rinsing and drying silk, never wring or twist the garment. This will cause the silk garment to lose its form. Instead, roll the garment evenly in a clean towel. Then, place the silk garment on a hanger to dry. Avoid placing the garment in direct sunlight, as this can cause the material to damage or yellow. If in a hurry, a silk garment can be placed in the dryer, but only on a heat-less air fluff setting. Iron a silk garment on a “Silk” setting, and always turn the garment inside out first.

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