Silk is one of the more expensive fabrics on the market, and silk garments often come with the warning to dry-clean them only. Dry cleaning can become expensive.
You will naturally ask yourself whether you can wash silk that says dry clean only on the label.
The simple answer is no, it’s not recommended. However, it really depends on the type of silk you are dealing with. It would be best if you didn’t wash certain silks like chiffon or georgette at home. You can wash cheaper silk that says dry clean only, but with great care, hand washing is your safest option.
I have a rather beautiful dress partially made out of silk, so I researched silk and how you can take care of it yourself.
I will share some of my research with you in this article.
What Can Happen if You Wash the Silk in the Washing Machine?
If you wash silk in your washing machine like any other clothing (or even with other clothing), you will likely ruin your silk.
Silk is a very delicate fabric that you can easily damage. If you wash it in the washing machine, there might be too much friction, and other fabrics will rub against it, damaging the silk’s fibers.
Washing silks like chiffon or georgette in the washing machine will most likely cause them to lose their body and texture.
Silk can also shrink if washed at high temperatures.
In addition, some colored silks will bleed when they are washed like an ordinary piece of laundry, which will ruin your vibrant silk and everything else in the wash.
What Can Happen if You Wash the Silk by Hand?
Now you are wondering: Can you hand wash silk that says dry clean only?
That is the safer option and will only cause issues if you are too rough with your silk and use the wrong laundry detergent.
If you use a laundry detergent that is not suitable for silk, then you will very likely damage it. This damage might not be visible the first time you do it, but it will show over time.
What Can Happen if You Dry the Silk in the Dryer?
Silk will shrink if exposed to high temperatures, so you should never put it in the dryer unless you want it to shrink.
Are All Silks Dry Clean Only?
Many silks are dry clean only, especially chiffon or georgette. Still, most other silk garments bear the label hand wash only (though these can often be washed in the washing machine if you follow a few precautions).
What to Do if You Accidentally Washed Silk that Says Dry Clean Only?
If your beloved silk shirt, for some reason, ends up with all your other laundry and gets washed, you will first need to check whether it has been damaged or even ruined.
Depending on the state of your silk item, you might attempt a repair or fix the damage (e.g. if it has lost its shine in the wash or has shrunk). There is no guarantee, however, that you can undo the damage.
Most silk that says dry clean only is not color-fast, so it will bleed when washed.
How to Dry Clean Silk at Home?
You are probably still wondering: can you wash silk that says dry clean only safely at home? You may even wonder whether you can do your own dry cleaning.
You cannot. Dry cleaning is an involved process that uses chemicals to clean garments. A special extractor then extracts these chemicals from clothes so the dry cleaners can reuse them. You cannot do this at home.
What You Can Do Instead:
Give silk that says dry clean only a gentle, cool or lukewarm bath with a silk-friendly laundry detergent (or baby shampoo). The pH of your laundry detergent has to be below 10. See our 5 best laundry detergents for silk here!
Soak the garment in soapy water for a few minutes and very gently move it around.
Take the silk out of the water and gently rinse it with cold water.
Put the wet silk on a dry bath towel and gently roll it so that the towel will soak up a lot of the water.
Then hang up to air dry. Never put your silk in a tumble dryer!
How to Know if Your Silk is Ruined?
You may already have washed silk that says dry clean only and now wonder whether you have ruined it.
You can tell your silk is ruined if it has lost its shine, feels different than before, has small tears, looks discolored, shrunk, feels stiff, or has little bumps on it.
Read our full guide on How to Tell If Your Silk Is Ruined?
One interesting thing I learned about labels was that the producers are often over-cautious.
Many countries legally require clothing labels to provide instructions that would ensure no damage is done to the piece of clothing if people followed the label instructions.
It can be expensive for clothing producers to test various methods of care for their items, especially when it comes to more luxurious and delicate fabrics like silk.
So, to be safe, they often say that dry cleaning is the only way to clean silk. For certain silks like chiffon or georgette, dry cleaning is the best option due to their texture. But when it comes to other silks, you are generally safe to hand wash them at home if you take care.