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How to Clean a Silk Dress

by M. Langton

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Woman in a green, silk dress

Things You Need:

  • White vinegar
  • Shampoo or mild soap
  • Soft sponge
  • Thick towels

If you're afraid to wear your fabulous silk dress to a party for fear of damaging it, a few cleaning tips can help you out and save you big on dry cleaning. While this delicate fabric requires careful handling, most silk clothing does well with hand washing in mild soap. Removing stains from a silk evening dress is a little trickier, but it is still something you can do at home. You do, however, need the right technique to avoid roughening or dulling the fabric. Find out how to wash a silk dress correctly so your dress keeps its soft texture and original color for years.

Cleaning Silk Dresses:

  1. Spot treat stains. Blotting silk clothing with cool water will treat most food stains. For perspiration or deodorant stains, apply diluted vinegar to the area with a soft sponge.

  2. Fill a clean sink or washtub with lukewarm water. Add two or three drops of hair shampoo or mild soap and stir the water to create lather. Immerse the silk dress and let it soak for no more than five minutes.

  3. Rub stained or very dirty spots with soapy water. Use your fingers or a soft sponge to apply very light pressure. Avoid scrubbing the silk, which can permanently damage the fibers.

  4. Drain the warm water and fill the sink with cool water. Add 1/4 cup white vinegar to neutralize alkalinity and remove traces of soap. This softens the silk and restores its shine. For extra softness, add a few drops of hair conditioner. Use this water to rinse the dress.

  5. Replace the used water with fresh water. Rinse the silk dress again in pure, cool water with no fabric softeners or other additives. Turn the dress as you rinse it to ensure water runs over all areas of the garment and no traces of soap remain.

  6. Remove the dress from the water. Spread the dress on a thick terry-cloth towel and roll it up in the towel, pressing as you go, to absorb excess water. Lay the dress flat on another dry towel or a sweater dryer to air dry.

Tips:

  1. If you have hard water, add one teaspoon of borax to the water for the wash and the first rinse water.

  2. Brighten white silk by adding one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to the wash.

  3. If you want your dress to dry more quickly, use a sweater dryer, a net stretched over a frame. A sweater dryer is ideal for drying silk items because it lets the garment lie flat but receive air from both sides.

  4. Very delicate silk items, such as silk brocade or dresses with beading, require dry cleaning to avoid damage. Don't submerge a dress such as this in water.

  5. Before treating stains or cleaning a silk dress, check for color fastness. Dampen the fabric or apply your preferred stain remover to an inconspicuous part of the dress. If the color runs or changes, dry clean the dress.

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