Caring for Silk

Foxburrow Vintage Caring for Silk

Have you ever seen a beautiful vintage garment, discovered it was silk, and passed over it because you thought it would be too difficult to care for or too expensive to dry clean? Silk is a beautiful, durable, and relatively easy to care for fabric. Sure, it can't be put through the washing machine, but with a little care it can be easily cleaned, and will last for a very long time!

One of the wonderful things about vintage clothing is that it was made to last. Women knew how to pick high quality clothing, and standards were much higher than they are today. By buying vintage silk, you are getting something durable, affordable and luxurious. To top it off, silk is great at retaining heat in the winter and keeping you cool in the summer. It's magically breathable and yet insulating. All of those perks with just a little extra time needed on your end!

Interestingly enough, silk is a protein fiber similar to human hair. Think of that when you're deciding how to care for your garment and be no rougher than you would be of the hair on your own head!


NOTE: If you are worried about your garment's reaction to your water or shampoo, I recommend a test washing on a hidden spot before washing your entire garment.

1) In a glass or plastic mixing bowl, fill the bowl with cold water, adding a little dot of shampoo.

2) If you need to remove a smell from the silk, let it soak for approximately 5-10 minutes, otherwise let it soak approximately 2-3 minutes. Never let silk soak for long periods of time, or the color may bleed. 

3) Gently rub the silk between your hands and lightly mix it around. Do not wring or twist it or tug it. Remember to treat it like your own hair! If there is a problem spot or stain, rub it gently with your finger tip or a soft bristled toothbrush.

4) Dump out the water, and refill the bowl with clean water. Add a 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the water to keep the silk from yellowing. (This is especially important with white silks) Add a tiny bit of conditioner to the water to keep the silk supple and soft. Gently swish and rotate the silk until the soap is out. Drain the water.

5) Lay out a towel you've washed many times before, and lay the garment flat on the towel, smoothing out the fabric as best you can. From the bottom of the short end, roll the towel up with the silk inside. You'll have a towel tube.  Press down on the towel tube a bit to remove some of the water from the garment, and then leave it for an hour.

6) Return to the towel tube, unroll the towel and remove the garment. Put it on a plastic hanger (never use metal!) and hang it to dry, shaking or smoothing any wrinkles as best you can.

All in all this process takes maybe 5 to 10 minutes of your actual time. The rest is waiting. Plus, you don't have to wash silk every time you wear it! Try washing it only after 2 to 3 wears.


I highly recommend this handy tool for ironing silks. If you have one, you can iron out wrinkles on full steam without burning or damaging your silk garment. I've used it with all kinds of silks and have never had any problems. 

The best thing you can use is a professional steamer such as this one. It pushes hot steam through the garment, relaxing the garment, removing smells, and refreshing the fabric.

If you do not have the tools above, there will usually be a silk setting on your iron. This will be a very low-temperature setting and will have NO STEAM. Can you imagine what would happen if you tried to iron your own hair on full heat with steam? It would burn up and get crispy! Don't do the same to your silk. Treat it with care and be patient. 

If water droplets end up on your silk, try to dab them as dry as you can. You don't want to leave a watermark on the garment.

Another way to remove wrinkles from silk is to hang the garment on a plastic hanger in the bathroom and take a very hot, unventilated shower. The steam from the room will "relax" the garment and you can shake out the wrinkles. 

Dry Cleaning

For brightly patterned garments where colors could easily bleed or for very delicate or very structured garments that may be difficult to wash and re-structure, dry cleaning may be necessary. However, dry cleaning silks can often make a garment LOSE its structure, so hand washing and hang drying or drying flat can often be a much better solution than dry cleaning. 

Let's recap!
Foxburrow Vintage Caring for Silk


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  2. I have a question about silks that seem to be disintegrating from the 1920s. I'm unsure whether they are unravelling due to tears or actually falling apart.

    How do I clean these and remove body oil and wear stains?

  3. very informative it ll helpfull for every one. we always get worried when cloths and fabrics got dirty because of somethings. after cleaning the cloth proper steam press is most important to make cloths as its is. to get best steam press you can visit here

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