Tips for handling and caring for silk clothing.
Practical advice from Manuela Bengert, a textile expert with many years of experience in sales and production.
Manuela, many women love silk. But they worry that it is too sensitive and difficult to care for. Is that true?
This is a common preconception: Silk is only something “for special occasions” and always needs to be treated with great care. In fact, silk is a highly resistant material, the thread is elastic and highly stable at the same time!
“Silk clothing is often handed down over generations, which says something about the stability and longevity of this wonderful material.”
With just a few tips silk clothing retains its appearance and can be worn for years. This is particularly true of high-quality silks, which are produced free from chemicals and heavy metals, as they were in the past, when “organic” and “eco” were still the standard.
Do I need to take my silk dress to the dry cleaners?
Most silk clothing bears the care label “P”, the recommendation for dry cleaning. This is usually added by the manufacturer to err on the side of caution. And of course this type of cleaning guarantees that the clothing comes back in a perfect and unchanged condition. This is the first choice for most people, particularly if they are concerned about shrinking or removing stains.
But there are simpler, cheaper and more ecological methods …
Such as? Can I wash it myself?
Exactly, there are various methods for this:
If I only want to wash one silk garment, I fill the washbasin with lukewarm water (max. 30 degrees), with a little wool detergent or simply shampoo, and leave the item to soak in it for around 5 minutes. During this time I move it gently in the water, without rubbing or wringing it. Afterwards I rinse it with clear, cold water. Again, the garment is not wrung out, but gently pressed to expel the water. Some people swear by adding a dash of vinegar to the rinsing water, which can enhance the sheen. Give it a try.
To dry it I can roll the item in a towel and then hang it on a coat hanger or lay it on a dry towel. Please do not hang it in direct sunlight.
Many people also wash their silk garments in the washing machine. It is very important here to only wash with items of the same colour. The rule here is: gentle cycle, cold “wool/silk”, only a light spin. Then dry as above.
Please note: when washing with water silk may shrink a little, as all other natural textiles do. This shrinkage may be up to 5 %. If a dress is slightly too long, this can even be a simple solution!
The feel of the silk also changes slightly, becoming softer and suppler. Personally, I love this effect! Those that want to preserve the new silk state should opt for dry cleaning.
And what about ironing? Do I need a steamer?
Ironing silk is simple, no steamer is required. Personally, I really enjoy it: ironing really brings out the sheen and wonderful fineness of the material. Don’t iron too hot, and always inside out! I use a good steam iron, the steam helps to remove the finest wrinkles and gives the silk moisture to make it even more flowing. Ironing without steam also works well, then the silk should be slightly damp.
There is a great trick that I use when travelling: I hang my silk dress on a hanger in the bathroom, then take a long shower.
Talking of travel, is silk something to travel with?
I always have silk clothing in my case when I travel. And always a large silk scarf in my handbag. This is what I do: lay out all my silk clothing on top of each other and then roll them up tightly together. Then I put them in my case like that. When I arrive I unroll them and hang them up on a hangar. Then they are almost wrinkle free. I can also use the shower trick! Silk is a great travel companion, because it takes up little room in your suitcase and feels so wonderful on your skin: Cool in summer and warm in winter. A truly magical material.
And I always have the big silk scarf in my handbag: It folds up as small as two packs of paper hankies and wraps around me if it gets cool on the plane or on summer evenings in the south. And I pull it out of my beach bag if I want to quickly wrap a dress over the bikini. In the evenings I wear it as a stole over a strapless dress. In winter too, obviously, when the cold season gets underway.
Many people are scared of getting stains on silk. Do you have any tips?
I also used to think that I shouldn’t eat or drink anything when wearing silk… until I learned the tricks. They made silk even more of an everyday clothing item for me.
Removing greasy stains
There are three ways to remove them:
01_ Dust with baby powder or starch, press in a little, leave to work in, brush or shake off carefully.
02_ Lay blotting paper above and below the stain and iron at a low temperature.
03_ Dab the stain with washing-up liquid, leave briefly to work in, then wash in lukewarm water as described above.
Fresh stains that are still damp
Immediately soak up with kitchen paper on both sides, then hand wash.
Removing other stains
Hand wash, as described above: Leave to soak in for 5 minutes.
If stains are still visible after using these methods: these are sure to be removed by dry cleaning. Personally I have never had to use this method.
What does silk not like, what do I need to beware of?
Please don’t spray silk with perfume or deodorant. They should only be applied directly to the skin. And never use bleach or dry in direct sunlight.
And what does silk like in particular?
It likes giving us a wonderful feeling on the skin and dedicating itself to us. And it likes accompanying us for years, at all times of day and year, every mood and occasion. Isn’t that wonderful?
“Silk on my skin says: Feel beautiful, comfortable and special!”