Thursday, October 13, 2016

Silk in the Wash

Obligatory photo.  Yes, I'm running my four ply silk crepe wedding dress through the washing machine as I write this.

I refuse to sew anything that requires dry cleaning.  This is partly because I'm too cheap and lazy to go to the dry cleaner's, and partly because none of my experiences of taking me-made clothes to the dry cleaners has turned out well.  (RIP, several garments). 

I send a lot of fabrics through the washing machine that would probably make you panic.  On the bright side, you now have the chance to learn from my experience!  Here's what I've found about putting silk through the washing machine, and yes, sometimes, even the dryer.

IMPORTANT NOTE #1:  I always wash cold delicate, tumble dry low.  If it's an evening dress, I wash the dress by itself with nothing else in the load.

IMPORTANT NOTE #2:  Always wash/dry the fabric before cutting it out, so it won't shrink after washing.  It's a bad idea to run a dry clean only silk dress through the washer for this very reason.

IMPORTANT NOTE #3:  Never ever ever ever wring out silk fabric.  The fibers lose strength when wet and you could rip it apart.

Without further ado...

Silk Habotai/China Silk
Washer:  YES
Dryer:  YES
This is what I typically use for lining fabric.  With tens of garments and hundreds of washings, I've never had any problems whatsoever putting it through both the washer and the dryer.

Silk Charmeuse
Washer:  YES
I use silk charmeuse for linings and also for garments.  For linings, I've never had problems putting it through the washer or the dryer.  It does come out of the experience looking somewhat sueded, though.  That's why I line dry my charmeuse dresses.

Silk Crepe
Washer:  YES
Dryer:  NO
My red silk crepe de chine dress has gone through the washer several times with no apparent problems.  However, the time I ran it through the dryer, it shrank, and I was only able to get it back to wearable condition by weighting the hem overnight.  Thank God it was cut on the bias and that kludge worked.

Silk Chiffon
Washer:  YES
My silk chiffon dress has gone through the wash several times.  It's fine.  It gets lots of wrinkles from air drying, though, and ironing it out afterwards is a pain.  Oh well.

Silk Dupioni
Washer:  YES
I have two silk dupioni dresses, one that I blogged about here and another that I haven't posted yet.  They come out just fine.  Washing makes the dupioni soft and drapey rather than stiff, but I like that, since I almost never make garments with a lot of structure to them.

Silk Brocade
Washer:  YES
I have a silk brocade dress that I've somehow never blogged about.  It goes through the washer with no problems.  Running silk brocade through the wash makes it soft and drapey rather than stiff, but I like it better that way anyway.

Four Ply Silk Crepe
Washer: YES
I have two dresses made out of four ply silk crepe, and I run them through the washer regularly with no ill effects.  One of them is in the washer as I type this, in fact.

Silk Velvet
I run my silk velvet evening dress through the washer and the dryer and it's great-- the dryer fluffs up the pile and the dress comes out looking better than new.  I don't see why you would clean silk velvet any other way.


  1. totally agree with washing silk, although I tend to handwash most times.....I will use a dash of vinegar in the rinse. I dont have a drier but I will try and steam the silk to plump it out again.

  2. I agree! Washing silk is nothing to be afraid of. I do wash and dry 4 ply silk crepe and it comes out like a dream! I dry it on delicate and don't overtake it and I feel like the dryer gives back some of the sponginess of the 4 ply. Something to think about or test.

  3. Totally agree. I machine wash all my silk - and linen and wool, for that matter. I used to have a silk noil/raw silk blouse - the one with all the nubs. That one I would line dry. But I learned if I put it in the dryer after it was totally dry, alone and on low - the stiffness and wrinkles would disappear and it didn't shrink.
    p.s. I would love to see the silk brocade dress.

  4. The idea of washing silk in the machine (I would wash it by hand, if ever) and drying it in the machine (never) is alarming to me, but I will save this in case an emergency arises.