How to Clean and Care for Silk Ties

treating stains on ties

The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

Unlike the rest of your laundry, it’s best to avoid cleaning a tie—particularly a silk tie—unless you know exactly what you are doing. Washing a silk tie is risky, due to the delicate fabric and meticulous stitching. A tie should be either hand-washed or dry-cleaned, depending on the material, and then air-dried to avoid damage. Don't put a silk tie in the washing machine, as it's bound to destroy its prized shape and color beyond recognition.

Fabric protectant can safeguard your silk tie from some errant food, beverage, and ink stains, but only if it's applied in advance. If it's too late for that, you can try to get the stain out at home on your own—but it might be better to take it to a dry-cleaning professional.

A silk tie is harder to clean than cotton, polyester, or other fabrics. Be incredibly gentle with the tie by dabbing at the stain, and resist the urge to just throw the whole thing in the washing machine. For stubborn stains, take the tie to the professionals. When you bring it in, point the stain out, and tell them what it is so they can determine best how to eliminate it.

How to Wash Silk Ties
Detergent None
Water temperature Cool if hand-washed
Cycle type Do not machine wash
Drying cycle type Do not machine dry
Special treatments Spot-treatment only
Iron settings Steam or lowest iron setting

Project Metrics

Working time: 5 minutes

Total time: 12 to 24 hours

Skill level: Intermediate

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Club soda
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Talcum powder or cornstarch
  • Stain remover formulated for silk

Tools

  • Spoon or butter knife to scrape
  • Dry napkin or cloths to blot
  • Cotton balls (optional)
ingredients for cleaning silk ties

The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

Instructions

  1. Scrape or Absorb Food Stains

    If you've spilled food or a viscous liquid, such as mustard, on your silk tie, use a spoon or butter knife to get rid of the excess. If it was coffee or wine, use a dry napkin, paper towel, or clean cloth to blot up the liquid without rubbing it into the silk.

    blotting the stain with a paper towel

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  2. Dab Club Soda on the Stain

    Plain water can ruin a silk tie, but club soda will help lift a water-based stain. Gently dab the spot with a cotton ball dipped in club soda until the stain has disappeared.

    dabbing the tie with a cotton ball dipped in club soda

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  3. Absorb Oil or Grease Stains

    After blotting with a paper towel or clean cloth, lay the tie on a flat surface. To tackle lingering oil or grease, pour talcum powder or cornstarch onto the stain so it's in a little pile and let it sit for 12 hours to 24 hours. Dust the powder off and check that the stain is gone. If it's not, repeat the process.

    adding talcum powder to a tie to absorb stains

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  4. Dab Rubbing Alcohol on Ink

    Unlike other types of stains, you want to let an ink stain sit until it's dry. Removing wet ink causes it to spread, creating a bigger mess. Blot the dry ink stain with rubbing alcohol that's been applied to a clean cloth or cotton ball. Repeat as needed.

    dabbing rubbing alcohol on a tie

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

What is Silk?

Silk is a delicate material made most commonly from the fibroin produced by the mulberry silkworm. The fibers have a shimmering appearance because of their triangular prism-like structure that refracts light and produces varying colors.

Silk has been used as a textile as far back as 6000 B.C. in China, which created a flourishing trade industry surrounding the fiber. It came to America in the 17th century but was too expensive for most early settlers. Silk is now used in nearly every country in luxurious bedding and garments, including Indian saris and Italian gowns.

Ironing

It's better to steam a silk tie than iron it. Ironing a silk tie can damage the interior folds and tip lining. However, if you must iron it, position a towel under the tie that's laid out flat. Place another slightly damp towel on top of the tie. Turn the iron onto the lowest setting and run it over the tie. Leave the tie in place between the towels until they're completely dry.

Storing Silk Ties

Once clean, store a silk tie rolled up carefully or laying flat. Don't roll up the tie too tight or too loose for storage. Knitted silk ties should always be rolled up for storage. If you have to hang a silk tie, give it enough space to breathe. If you are putting a tie away after wearing it, always untie it and put it away flat (keeping a silk tie always knotted makes the knot look flat and worn). Keep silk ties away from direct sunlight to prevent fading. A cool, dark closet or drawer is ideal.

Repairs

The typical repair you will need to do on a silk tie is to eliminate a snag. The goal is to pull the snag from the front to the back where it can't be seen. This will be easier to do on a patterned tie. You can try to use a needle without thread to coax the snag from front to back. Or thread a needle with the same color thread, push the needle up from the wrong side to the front, grab the snag with the needle, then bring the threads back to the wrong side of the tie through the same hole the needle used to come up.

Fraying sides may be another problem with a silk tie. Mending it with a needle and thread may be too obvious. Take the tie to a professional dry cleaner to see if it can be rewoven to look as good as new.

Treating Stains on Silk Ties

Keep a silk-safe stain remover in your back pocket or briefcase to immediately treat stains when you are out at an event, meeting, or dinner. Individually wrapped towelettes such as Silk & Clean wipes are formulated specifically for silk, while on-the-go stain removers such as Tide to Go and Shout Wipes are both safe.

To double-check that it's not going to harm the fabric, test the stain remover out on the back of the tie first. Never try to rub out a stain from a silk tie, as this can spread it across the fabric. Instead, blot or dab the stain with the wipe, clean cloth, or rag.

Tips for Washing Silk Ties

  • When dabbing a stain on a silk tie, avoid using paper towels because they're bound to leave lint or wet gobs on the tie.
  • If you spilled red wine on your tie, take it off, put it down flat, and shake a mound of salt on the spot (don't be frugal with the salt here). Let the salt sit for a few hours to absorb the wine. Remove salt, blot area with a barely damp clean cloth, then air-dry.
  • Remove any stains prior to steaming a silk tie to eliminate wrinkles or creases. Steam will set in a stain.
  • If you don't have rubbing alcohol on hand to remove dried ink on a tie, substitute it with a drop of hand sanitizer.
  • Remember to throw your tie over your shoulder when eating a messy meal, such as a pasta dish with sauce.