Washing a silk tie is risky and far more difficult than cleaning cotton, polyester, or other fabrics. Due to the delicate fabric and meticulous stitching, it’s best to clean a tie—particularly a silk tie—only if you know precisely how to do it. A tie should be either hand-washed or dry-cleaned, depending on the material, and then air-dried to avoid damage. Resist the urge to put a silk tie in the washing machine, as it's bound to destroy its 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 remove the stain at home on your own—but it might be better to take it to a professional.
How Often to Clean a Silk Tie
Since silk ties aren't worn close to the skin, you'll only need to spot-clean them most of the time. If you frequently wear a favorite silk tie, however, a deeper cleaning at the dry cleaners about once a year should suffice to brighten and refresh the item.
Equipment / Tools
- Spoon or butter knife
- Dry napkin or blotting cloth
- Cotton balls (optional)
- Club soda
- Rubbing alcohol
- Talcum powder or cornstarch
- Stain remover formulated for silk
|How to Wash Silk Ties|
|Water temperature||Cool if hand-washed|
|Cycle type||Do not machine-wash|
|Drying cycle type||Do not machine-dry|
|Special treatments||Spot treat only|
|Iron settings||Steam or lowest iron setting|
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 gently scrape off the excess. If it was coffee or wine, use a dry napkin or clean cloth to blot up the liquid without rubbing it into the silk.
Dab Club Soda on the Stain
Plain water can ruin a silk tie, but club soda can help lift a water-based stain. Gently dab the spot with a cotton ball dipped in club soda until the stain has disappeared.
Absorb Oil or Grease Stains
After blotting with a napkin or clean cloth, place 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 12–24 hours. Dust the powder off, and check that the stain is gone. If it's not, repeat the process.
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.
What is Silk?
Silk is a delicate material made most commonly from fibroin, a protein produced by the mulberry silkworm. The fibers have a shimmering appearance because of their triangular prism-like structure, which refracts light and produces varying colors.
Silk has been used as a textile as far back as 6000 BCE in China, and a flourishing silk trade industry developed. 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.
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, place a towel flat under the tie. 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 flat or rolled up carefully. Don't roll up the tie too tightly or too loosely 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're 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 for storage.
The most common repair you'll need to do on a silk tie is eliminating 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 using 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, and grab the snag with the needle. Then, bring the threads back to the wrong side of the tie through the same hole.
Fraying sides may be another problem with a silk tie. Mending it with a needle and thread may not do the trick. 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're 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 use as well.
To double-check that a stain remover isn't going to harm the fabric, test the stain remover 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 stain-remover wipe or a clean cloth.
Tips for Washing Silk Ties
- When dabbing a stain on a silk tie, avoid using paper towels because they could 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). Let the salt sit for a few hours to absorb the wine. Remove the salt, blot the area with a barely damp clean cloth, and 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, use a drop of hand sanitizer instead.
- Remember to throw your tie over your shoulder when eating a messy meal, such as a pasta dish with sauce, to avoid stains.