An investment in a fabulous silk scarf can be pricey but if cared for correctly that scarf can be worn for decades. Vintage Hermes scarves with their hand-rolled and hand-stitched hems and motifs that range from equestrian themes to ancient maps to coats of arms are still must-have items for anyone who is fashion forward.
So whether you buy a new Chanel, Hermes, or Valentino or a silk scarf from an open-air market in the Far East, it's important to learn how to keep it looking great and feeling silky smooth.
How to Wash a Silk Scarf
You may find a care tag on the scarf that recommends dry cleaning only. While some structured silk clothing should be taken to a professional cleaner to keep it looking its best, most scarves can be washed by hand to restore their classic beauty.
Do not use regular bath or laundry soap for washing silk because the alkalines will damage the fabric. Use a mild detergent like a wool wash and cool water to hand wash. Do not clean scarves in a washer, even on the gentle cycle, because excessive agitation may damage the fibers.
Fill a sink with cool water and add the detergent, swishing it through the water to evenly distribute the detergent. Add the scarf and gently squeeze the suds around the scarf. Even during hand washing, avoid excessive rubbing because it can break the fibers and dull the finish. Rinse carefully in water of the same cool temperature, then remove excess moisture by patting the scarf between dry towels. Do not wring or wrinkle the silk any more than necessary.
If you can see stains like makeup or oil on the scarf, do some pretreating of those areas before hand washing. Apply a dab of the mild detergent directly to the stained spot. Work it into the fabric with your fingers. Allow the detergent to work for at least fifteen minutes before you continue washing the entire scarf.
If you have a white scarf that needs to be whitened or brightened, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Bleach, or Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach are brand names) and cool water. Follow the package directions as to how much product per gallon of water. Completely submerge the scarf and allow it to soak for an hour. Check the color. If it is white again, wash as recommended. If it is still yellowed, mix a fresh solution and repeat.
How to Dry a Silk Scarf
After you have removed as much moisture as possible with the towels, the silk should be air dried. Never place silk in an automatic dryer even on low heat. Do not hang silks in the sun which can cause fading or place them near any source of heat, but do dry them as quickly as possible. Rapid drying in front of an electric fan prevents the formation of watermarks and helps retain the glossy finish.
Saving a Dull Silk Scarf
If you have mishandled washable silk, it can lose its sheen and become dull. You can restore some of the shine by following these steps. The fabric will improve but will never be quite the same.
In a large sink or bucket, add one-fourth cup of white distilled vinegar to each gallon of lukewarm water. Mix well. Completely submerge the scarf and swish around to completely soak the dress. Remove from the vinegar water and rinse several times in clean water. Do not wring!
Spread the scarf on a heavy clean white towel and roll up to absorb the water. Repeat with clean towels until most of the water is absorbed. Hang to air dry using a plastic hanger-no wood that can stain or metal that can rust. Do not hang over direct heat or in the sun.
How to Iron a Silk Scarf
Silk should be damp when pressed. Use a warm-never hot-iron and press on the wrong side using a piece of clean white cloth between the silk and the iron.
Tips to Keep your Silk Scarf at its Best
- Apply make-up, lotions, and perfumes and allow them to dry completely before you put on your scarf.
- Always store your scarf in a dry place. Be sure the scarf is completely clean and use lavender to repel clothes eating insects which can attack the natural fiber silk.
- Use non-acid tissue paper to soften the folds of a scarf and prevent severe creases which can break fibers.