How to Wash Silk Pillowcases and Sheets

Laundering your silk bedding correctly will help keep this delicate fabric soft for years to come. Here’s everything you need to know about how to clean silk pillowcases and linens right at home.

Silk is a natural fiber made up of protein (just like your hair), which makes it a lot easier to wash than you might think. Silk fibers are made from silkworm cocoons boiled in hot water until they unravel. Known to be hypoallergenic and repellent to moths and dust mites, silk makes ideal bedding for allergy and asthma sufferers. Silk is also practical for those with sensitive skin, dry skin, or eczema, and helps wick away moisture from the body, keeping you cool all night.

But the luxurious feel of silk can make it intimidating to wash when it comes to laundry day. If your bedding is 100% silk, you can absolutely wash it at home, by hand or with a machine. We'll also show you how to treat stains and dry silk bedding to keep it looking (and performing) its best.

bed with throw pillows and dark wood headboard
Jason Donnelly

Can You Wash Silk?

Just like any other fabric that can harbor bacteria, sweat, and dirt, you must wash silk regularly to keep it fresh and germ-free. But even if your garment's care label instructions say "dry clean" or "do not wash," 100% silk items can usually be washed at home. However, you'll want to take a few preventative measures to keep your silk pillowcases looking their best.

While silk is washable, some of the dyes used to color silk are not stable to wash. Washing silk can also remove its satin finish, leaving behind a pebbled texture. Avoid using baby soap or shampoo to treat stains. Soap is made from lye and plant fats, ingredients that can damage your silk, leave behind residue, or remove one of silk's best features—its sheen.

To prevent permanent damage, before washing silk, always perform a water test and a color bleeding test. When washing silk, the most important first step is picking the right laundry detergent. Choose a detergent specifically made to treat silk, such as Delicate Wash ($20, The Laundress) or Gentle Silk Wash ($29, Slip). Never use chlorine bleach as bleach can harm or even dissolve silk fibers.

How to Wash Silk Sheets and Pillowcases

Although you can wash silk by hand or machine, hand-washing is the safest method for washing silk.

How to Wash Silk by Hand

What You Need:

  • Sink or wash tub/basin
  • Silk detergent of your choice
  • Drying rack
  • Iron or steamer

Step 1: Pre-treat odors and mix soap solution.

If your silk pillowcases and sheets have developed an odor, soak your fabric in lukewarm water mixed with 1/4 cup white vinegar before washing. Fill a clean washtub or sink with cool water. Add the correct amount of detergent by reading the label recommendations.

Step 2: Wash pillowcases.

Turn your pillowcases inside-out and submerge them into the water. If cleaning multiple items of bedding, only wash with like colors. Using your hands, gently agitate the water and soap with the silk. Silk becomes weak when its fibers are wet and shouldn't be rubbed too much. Do not let silk soak for more than 30 minutes.

Step 3: Rinse and dry.

Rinse your item by running cool water until all soap is washed away. Gently push the water out of your items. Do not wring them.

Air your silk pieces on a drying rack or lay them flat on a surface. Avoid using hangers with metal clips as this can damage the fabric. Padded or flocked hangers work best. After laundering, silk will become wrinkled. Follow our steps for drying and storing silk, below, to remove wrinkles.

How to Wash Silk by Machine

What you'll need:

  • Delicate detergent
  • Mesh laundry bag
  • Drying rack
  • Hand or steam iron

Step 1: Choose machine setting and temperature.

Look for a silk cycle option on your washer. If it doesn't have one, use the delicate cycle, which is the machine equivalent to handwashing. Silk is more prone to tearing (and wrinkling) on fast spin cycles, which is why delicate cycles work best. This is the safest way to wash silk by machine because it uses low or no spin and is the shortest cycle. Make sure your water temperature is cold and the spin is set to low.

Step 2: Place in laundy bag and wash.

Wash your silk separately from your regular load of laundry; do not wash silk with cotton clothing or towels. Also, wash with like colors only. When washing silk pillowcases, place smaller items into mesh laundry bags to prevent tearing.

Step 3: Remove from washer and dry.

Promptly remove your silk pieces from the washer one the cycle is finished. Do not let silk soak longer than 30 minutes. Air out your silk pieces on a drying rack or lay them flat, avoiding hangers with metal clips. Once dry, silk may be wrinkled; we'll show you how to remove wrinkles, below.

How to Clean a Silk Pillowcase Stain

Spot-cleaning silk can leave bigger stains that permanently damage the fabric. For a stain on your silk pillowcases or sheets, first treat the affected areas with a stain solution made for silk fabric. Use your finger or a brush to gently blot the stain with cool water and the stain remover. Do not rub or pull at stains on silk, as you might damage the fragile material. Finish by washing the item using one of the methods above.

Top Tip: Don't forget to wash your pillows every few months. Pillows can harbor bacteria, dust, dirt, and sweat, which builds up over time.

How to Dry and Store Silk

No matter how you choose to wash silk pillowcases, never place any of silk items in the dryer. Also, do not line dry your silk in direct sunlight. Both options will dull and shrink silk.

Handheld steamers work well to unwrinkle silk, as this material is soft and doesn't need a traditional iron. If ironing, use the lowest iron temperature and place a pressing cloth between your silk item and the iron.

Store your silk items on hangers or in hanging storage bags to protect them from yellowing, dust, and pests. These processes apply to silk clothing as well.

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