Silk is an elegant fabric. Did you know that it is also very versatile and can be washed? In previous years, some women would shy away from buying a silk clothing item because it meant you had to pay the upfront cost initially and then all of the dry cleaning costs. However, all silk can be washed. Silk is a natural protein similar to human hair. But silk comes from the cocoon of the silk worm. The natural glue-like substance called sericin is secreted out of the silkworms and isn't totally removed during the silk manufacturing process. It acts as a natural sizing agent that is activated when you wash the silk in warm water.
Most silk pieces should be hand washed. Technically speaking, silk doesn't have the shrinkability that other fabrics do. If the fabric is somewhat loosely woven though, washing it will tighten the weave.... that means that lighter weight silk- like a crepe de chine that is 14 mm may actually be improved through washing since the weave will tighten a little. Silk that is already tightly woven won't have shrinkage or will have very minimal shrinkage. But beware that silk items can shrink if they weren't washed before the piece was made. When you do launder silk, roll it up in a towel instead of wringing it out. Silk will dry quickly but don't put it in the dryer unless you know that the silk put in a dryer before the clothing was made. You can use a good shampoo to wash your silk. It will get rid of the oil and revitalize the material. Don't use shampoo that is alkaline or has things in it like waxes, petroleum, or similar derivatives, because those ingredients will leave residue on the silk and could cause "oil" marks. If you find that static cling is a concern with your silk pieces you can try a good hair conditioner (with above cautions) added to the rinse water.
Beware that silk can turn yellow or fade in color if you use a hot iron on it. Using pressing cloths and adding steam are good ideas. Silk can also get weaker when exposed to sunlight or perspiration.
By Lori Prince
Lori writes articles about silk fabric and also about choosing coffee tables