Sunday, September 01, 2013

How to: Care For Your Silk

In the beginning, only the ruling elite of China wore silk garments--but as production techniques improved, silk became more widely available. As the material made its way through the rest of the known world, caring for silk became an art form. Silk is one of the world's oldest textiles, and one of the world's strongest fibers. Below are some tips that, when followed, will help you ensure that your silk clothing stays looking great for many years.
Cleaning Your Silk Clothing
Most soaps are too harsh to use on silk garments, and you should choose an olive-oil based, non-alkaline or otherwise gentle soap. Contrary to popular belief, not all silk clothing has to be dry cleaned--only finely printed or poorly-dyed fabrics have this requirement. Almost all other silks are hand-washable; silk is a protein-based fiber, and will not shrink. Rather, its loosely woven fibers tighten up when wet, especially the first time a garment is washed. Follow these silk cleaning tips for best results:
  • 1. Always wash your silk clothing in lukewarm or cold water, and add a bit of ammonia or borax if you have hard water.

  • 2. Soak the item for a few minutes, rub lightly and drain the wash water.

  • 3. Rinse in cool, clear water until all soap residue is gone.

  • 4. Submerge the item in fresh water, adding 1/4 cup of white vinegar. The vinegar will neutralize any traces of soap and restore the silk's natural sheen.

  • 5. Rinse the item in cool water to get rid of any lingering vinegar smell.

  • 6. Do not leave the silk in water for a prolonged period, as the dyes may fade.

  • 7. Test your wash solution on a non-visible, small part of the garment. If you notice any color change, take the item to a dry cleaner.

  • 8. If your silk directly contacts your skin, wash it often. The acids and salts found in perspiration can rot and weaken the fibers when not quickly removed.

  • Steps to Take When Cleaning Silk

  • 1. To remove perspiration stains from silk, add a cup of hydrogen peroxide and a drop or two of ammonia to the water. If the stains are recent, you can dab them with a mix of 1/2 cup water and a tablespoon of ammonia. Perspiration stains are notoriously difficult to remove, and may become permanent.

  • 2. Once your silk garment is clean, do not dry it in the sun, as white silks can yellow and colors can fade. Do not hang the item to dry; spread it flat instead.

  • 3. If you choose to iron silk, do it when the item is still damp. Hand-woven silks need little more than a light touch and low heat from the iron. Using a high-heat setting can damage the fabric. If you notice damage, iron the garment inside-out or put a towl between the silk and the iron. Don't use the steam setting, as it can leave water marks.

  • Drying and Storing Silk

  • If your silk clothing is stiff after washing or ironing, its sericin residue may be to blame. The more it's washed and worn, the less stiffness will occur. To avoid silk stiffness, shake the item several times throughout the drying process, beginning when still damp. You can also put it in the clothes dryer for a minute or two on low heat. Store your silks in breathable material such as cotton, to avoid trapped moisture, discoloration and mildew. For prolonged storage, use sandalwood or cloves to eliminate moths.
About the authorThis guest post was written by Crispin Jones on behalf of Patra, an online retailer of all kinds of silk clothing – ‘feel the difference’.

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