Washable silk clothing: Everything you need to know
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Washable silk clothing: Everything you need to know

Jun 19, 2023

Silk or washable silk? You might not tell the difference unless you're a textile expert or super meticulous when it comes to reading fabric labels. But if you're looking to maximize your time and skip the dry cleaner, this fabric is for you.

Many brands are now introducing washable silk options into their inventory and it is preferable for its soft yet affordable care process. While silk is a luxurious fabric, maintenance can be more costly than the actual garment. Shop TODAY talked to experts to understand why washable silk might be a better option for you and your wallet.

What is washable silk? | Washable vs. non-washable silk | How can I wash washable silk? | Does washable silk shrink? | Best laundry products | Best washable silk clothing | Meet the experts

Washable silk is a type of "silk fabric that has been specifically designed to withstand the washing machine. It is more durable than regular silk as it is made using a special construction technique so it can better handle the harsh movements of the washing machine," says textile expert Frej Lewenhaupt.

To summarize, satin-looking, drapey washable silk is one of the softest textiles in the market and is washing machine-friendly. On the other hand, regular silk is very delicate and must be hand-washed or dry-cleaned.

Like many natural-made materials, silk is made from "natural textiles produced by silkworms, and its fibers are very delicate and fine compared to other textiles. Silk has a nice luster, shine and strength but the delicate treads are more susceptible to damage from friction, heat and certain chemicals," says Lewenhaupt.

On the other hand, washable silk is pre-treated with a chemical and different manufacturers use various techniques to make it washable and color-resistant. Some of those techniques used by manufacturers include a mixture of oil-repellent and anti-fouling chemicals to make the silk washable. "Washable silk can be coated in polyurethane, which helps protect the color of the washable silk," notes designer Suzanne Vinnik. (Polyurethane is a plastic material and is found in many modern uses from footwear, refrigerators, furniture and more. Polyurethane is used in clothing to create a waterproof coating and make it more resistant to damage.)

While most silks are washable, some require extra care. According to Vinnik, one way to test if the silk is washable is to "take a small area of any silk garment and blot the area with a cotton ball and see if the dye doesn't run."

To wash your garment by hand, first place it in a basin with water and mild detergent and let it soak for 15 minutes. "Don't wring it out. Instead, lay it on a white towel, then roll the towel with the garment inside of it. After, lay it down flat to dry," adds Vinnik. You can also use a white velvet or padded hanger to air-dry your garment.

If the care label says machine-washable, Lewenhaupt recommends using "a gentle cycle on your washing machine with cold water and a laundry detergent specially developed to care for delicate materials."

You'll also want to use a garment bag to protect the threads of the fabric when you add it to the washing machine. "Remember not to tumble dry any silk as it will damage the fabric," adds Lewenhaupt.

Whether the material is washable or non-washable, Lewenhaupt recommends laundering these fabrics with cold water. "Silk is a delicate material that is susceptible to shrinking when exposed to excessive heat such as hot water or a hot ironing surface," shares Lewenhaupt.

Whether the material will shrink also depends on the manufacturing techniques applied to the fabric. "Heat can weaken the silk’s fibers, causing them to lose their luster and shrink. Silk must be washed with care and with a nourishing detergent to prevent it from losing its shape or shrinking," adds Lewenhaupt.

Accommodate your large items in these laundry bags featuring a metal zipper that won't easily break. The bags will protect your washable silk and it comes with a protective flap on the zipper area so you can tuck the zipper in before starting the washing machine.

Whether you need to do laundry or pack your items, these bags will do the job. The multipurpose laundry tool will keep your delicate washable silk in place and it comes in several sizes to fit larger items. According to customers, these bags are efficient and won't break down easily after several uses.

Eliminate dirt and grease from your washable silk with this detergent made with plant-derived ingredients. The concentrated formula fights stains and is gentle for sensitive skin. Reviewers say that the detergent works well on clothes and they don't feel itchiness after wearing the garments.

"Love the smell and the fact that it doesn’t include the crazy chemicals in other detergents. Very likely to be my go-to detergent for a long time," share one buyer.

When it comes to air-drying washable silk garments, Vinnik recommends using satin padded hangers. These will avoid any creases and gently hold your clothes. Also, you can hang your delicate lingerie and other luxury pieces that tend to wrinkle easily.

Protect your strands with this silky scrunchie that won't pull your hair. This piece will gently keep your locks in place while you run errands or work out. Also, this is a great hair tie to wear while sleeping since it helps keep your hair frizz-free and soft.

Prone to skin sensitivity? This washable silk shirt has a bit of stretch and is hypoallergenic. Another plus with this blouse is that it'll help maintain your body temperature thanks to the thermoregulating properties on the fabric.

Feel luxurious at home with this silk sleep dress. The design is breathable, soft and very practical for your everyday lounging needs. Customers said this dress fits great and feels super light, which is a plus when you're tossing and turning while snoozing.

Give your pants a break with this washable silk skirt. Quince is known for its breathable and stylish designs and this one will keep your body cool during hotter stretches. Plus, it comes in 10 different colors to mix and match.

"This skirt has a very delicate, beautiful quality to it. It drapes nicely, but I think I’ll exchange it for the dress as the material is just so nice," said one reviewer.

This midi dress will become your favorite piece due to its bra-friendly design. It features a high tank neckline and bias cut which flatters the body. Also, you can expect less heat during warm days due to its thermoregulating composition.

"The dress is beautiful and chic. It is a breeze to wash and iron. It is so versatile," added one customer.

With a buttery feel and delicate hue, this silk cami will upgrade your pants, skirts and denim. The top has a tailored fit and is made with 100% all-natural silk fibers that feel lightweight. And yes, you can put it in the washing machine without any worry. Wear it under a blazer for a sophisticated vibe or keep it casual with a pair of shorts.

If you need a shorter length, this cami is a great option. It features classic spaghetti straps and is made with 100% silk charmeuse that drapes elegantly.

"It’s surprisingly soft and drapes beautifully. Looks very luxe. Also, appreciate the slight crop to compliment all the high-waisted jeans and skirts," shared one buyer.

If you're looking for the right layering piece, this silk jersey is the right one for you. It drapes effortlessly while still hugging your curves. Match this with slacks or high-waisted denim for an elegant flair. This top is made with 100% silk yet it feels soft to the touch. The brand recommends washing this piece with mild detergent.

Forget about chafing and sweating when you wear these breathable pants from Lilysilk. These pants feel luxurious but have that lounge-feel effect when you put them on. The front pockets are roomy, it has a tailored silhouette and the piece features an elastic band on the waist for a comfortable fit. Whether you wear them for work or leisure, you will look professional at all times.

With a silky composition and gentle feel, this button-down shirt is a must-have in your work wardrobe. The shirt comes in five different hues and is made with 100% pure silk for a comfortable experience. It also has a loose fit and back box pleat for a more professional look. You can even personalize the shirt with your preferred embroidery.

Who said you can't be comfortable in work attire? The relaxed fit and silky texture feels appropriate for summer and humid weather. It features utility pockets and will look crisp even after washing it in the machine.

Jannely is the SEO Writer for Shop TODAY.

What is washable silk? | Washable vs. non-washable silk | How can I wash washable silk? | Does washable silk shrink? | Best laundry products | Best washable silk clothing | Meet the expertsWhat is washable silk?How can I wash washable silk?Frej LewenhauptSuzanne Vinnik