How do I take care of my Thai silk?

Silk is a natural product, similar in nature to human hair. It has been around for centuries, long before dry-cleaning was invented. Consequently, many silk items can be hand-washed with appropriate care. Nevertheless, dry-cleaning is a valuable addition to the methods of caring for this most beautiful of fabrics.

Always read the care label on the item and follow the instructions carefully.

Take care of silk items as recommended and their beauty may be enjoyed for generations.

Dry-cleaning

Nearly all silk items can be dry-cleaned using perchloroethylene solvent. Professional dry-cleaners should know how to care for your silk. Be sure you tell the dry-cleaners that the item is pure Thai silk.

Certain silk items should probably always be dry-cleaned, including curtains, heavy garments with complex construction, very brightly coloured items, dark coloured items, and any items that include other dry-clean only elements in their construction. If you are in any doubt about what to do, or you are not comfortable hand-washing, dry-clean your silk.

Hand-washing

Not all silk items should be washed by hand. Always follow the care label instructions. Nonetheless, certain items, such as blouses and skirts, might be suitable for hand-washing.

Before washing, test to see if the dye runs. Use a clean, soft, white cloth dipped in cool water with a little mild soap. Choose a part of the silk that is not normally visible and gently rub the fabric. If dye appears on the cloth, or the sheen is obviously affected, dry-clean the item.

If you can hand wash your silk items, follow these guidelines if there are no specific care instructions:

  1. Wash items of different colours separately.
  2. Do not use pre-soaking products or bleaches. These will damage the silk.
  3. Wash only in lukewarm water.
  4. If the water is "hard" water, a teaspoonful of borax added to the washing water may help to soften it.
  5. Do not use detergent as it may make your fabric shrink. Use only a small amount of mild soap.
  6. Do not soak the item. Allow no more than five minutes in the wash.
  7. Rinse thoroughly, yet gently, in clean water as many times as necessary to ensure there is no soap residue. Smell the item to be sure.
  8. Rinse yet again, adding one tablespoon of clear white vinegar to the rinse water. This will help to maintain the characteristic lustre of the fabric. If your silk is white, it will also help prevent yellowing.
  9. Do not crush or wring the silk as this will damage the fabric. Gently press it in a clean bath towel to remove the majority of the water, allowing it to remain wet but not dripping.
  10. Do not tumble dry. Dry in the shade away from direct sunlight. A gentle breeze is always helpful. Support the item well on a clothes rack. If the clothes rack is wooden, place a towel between the silk and the clothes rack to avoid any staining from the wood. Avoid hanging clothes on thin wire coat hangers.

Stains

Almost inevitably, silk may become stained in various ways. For stains caused by clean water, if the item is hand-washable, simply wash it as normal. If the item is not hand-washable, dry-clean the garment with professional dry-cleaners.

Stains caused by anything except clean water will need to be treated by professional dry-cleaners as soon as possible. This includes stains on hand-washable silk items. Do not attempt to treat the stain at all, not even with water. Take the item to the dry-cleaners, show them the stain, and tell them what substances have stained it and when the stain was made.

Although silk is a strong fibre, it can be weakened by perspiration and deodorants, and these may also affect some dyes. To try to minimise the effects of these substances, clean your silk garments soon after wearing if there is any evidence of perspiration or deodorant marking.

Silk can also be stained by alcohol-based products such as hairspray and perfumes, and solvent products such as nail polish remover. Minimise the risk of staining by applying perfume and hairspray before putting on a silk garment so that the mist from such products has time to dissipate, and do not use nail polish remover near silk.

Ironing

Most minor wrinkles in silk will disappear if the item is hung in the bathroom during a hot shower, allowing the steam and humidity to "iron" the fabric naturally.

If ironing is required, use a good iron and iron on the inside while the fabric is damp. Use a warm (silk) setting for a dry iron and a low setting for a steam iron. If the fabric is already dry, either dampen the silk with a misted spray of distilled water or dampen a white cloth with distilled water and iron this cloth on top of the silk – ensure the fabric remains damp as you iron. Avoid any drops of water on the fabric as these may cause a mark requiring washing again to remove.

Storage

When you have cleaned your silk item, store it appropriately. Hang light weight clothes on padded coat hangers, and heavier clothes on padded or wide rigid hangers such as might be used for hanging men's suit jackets.

Hang curtains again in their normal location. The silk curtain should be protected against direct sunlight by a suitable lining.

It is best to avoid allowing silk items to lie folded as undesirable creases may form. It is also good to allow air to circulate around the fabric – this will reduce the likelihood of yellowing and discourage pests from finding their way to your clothes.

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