How to Remove Stains From Silk Clothes

Get Rid of Dull Film From Silk Garments

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Silk fabrics have been treasured and worn for centuries due to their luxurious feel and beautiful finishes. You may have steered away from silk clothes or pillowcases because you thought silk is too expensive or hard to care for. You might be surprised to find out that you may be able to easily remove stains and restore luster to your silk clothing from home with household supplies. Two important things first, read the label to make sure it is washable silk and never use stain remover or bleach of any kind on silk.

Stain type Varies 
Detergent type Gentle Laundry Detergent
Water temperature Cold
Cycle type Delicates

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour

Before You Begin

Always start by reading hangtags and care labels on silk garments or any clothes before cleaning or attempting to remove a stain. If the label says “Dry Clean,” this is the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning method. But, it may not be the only cleaning method that works. Silk clothing can often be hand washed successfully.

However, if the label says “Dry Clean Only,” believe it. The garment may have inner structure materials like interfacings that will be ruined by hand-washing.

Silk Test

Before you hand wash silk, try this simple test: Squeeze the silk in your hand and then let it go. If the fabric smooths out quickly, it is high-quality silk and will hold up well to hand washing. If not, take it to a dry cleaner or else risk ruining the garment. Silk fibers are made of protein and can react differently when treated with stain removal products and during cleaning.

Before washing colored silk, test for colorfastness by dampening the fabric on an inside seam. Wait a few minutes and then wipe the spot with a white cloth or cotton swab. If the color comes off, the dye will run during washing, so take that garment to the dry cleaner.

Never use stain remover on silk. For almost any other fabric, spot-treating stains can often remove a stain and save washing the entire garment. Not with silk. Spot treating with stain removers can result in color and finish damage. Wash the entire garment and allow it more time to soak to remove food stains. For dark or heavy stains, take the piece to a dry cleaner.

Also, there is no bleach—oxygen-based or chlorine-based—that is safe to use on silk. Silk fibers will dissolve in chlorine bleach. Even diluted solutions of chlorine bleach will cause permanent yellowing, color loss, and a weakening of the silk.

When you are ready to dry the fabric, do not wring or twist the fabric. When silk is wet, the fibers are fragile and can break. Squeeze out water or roll in a clean white towel to remove moisture. Do not use a tumble dryer even on low heat. Dry silk clothes flat if possible or well supported on a drying rack.

Silk care label
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What You'll Need

Supplies

Tools

  • Washing machine (optional)
  • Mesh lingerie bag (optional)

How to Remove Stains From Silk Clothing

  1. Pretreat Stains With Delicate Detergent

    If you see specific stain spots, apply just a dab of gentle detergent marked "delicate" directly to the stain (brand names are Studio by Tide or Woolite). Work in the detergent with your fingers and allow it to work for at least 15 minutes before you hand wash the entire silk garment.

  2. Hand Wash Only in Cold Water

When you are ready to hand wash, use only cold water and a very small amount of gentle liquid laundry detergent. Use a soft touch when washing, no scrubbing, and rinse well. If you decide to machine wash, place the garment in a mesh lingerie bag and choose the delicate, cold-water cycle.

How to Remove Dullness From Silk

If you have mishandled washable silk, it can lose its sheen and become dull. It is not really a stain, but more like a whiteish film that envelopes the entire garment. You can restore some of the garment's original shine in a few steps.

  1. Soak in Vinegar Solution

    In a large sink or bucket, add 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar to each gallon of lukewarm water. Mix well. Completely submerge the garment and swish around to completely soak the fabric. Remove from the vinegar water and rinse several times in clean water. Do not wring.

  2. Gently Towel Dry the Item

    Spread the garment on a heavy clean white towel and roll up to absorb the water. Keep moving and repeating the steps with clean dry towels until much of the water is absorbed.

  3. Air Dry and Avoid High Heat

Hang to air dry using a plastic shaped or molded hanger—wood can stain. Do not hang over direct heat or in the sun. Iron the garment on the wrong side while still damp using low heat. 

Heat Can Damage Silk

Extremely high temperatures when ironing can scorch silk, wool, and other protein fibers. The scorching or yellowing occurs as the fibers begin to burn. Burned fibers cannot be revived. Always use the lowest heating setting on your iron when pressing silk and a pressing cloth to prevent any water spots from harming the silk.

After the stain is removed, and you want to return some luster to the silk garment, there is a simple way to do this. You can do the detailed three-step-method above, or a shortcut method. Add 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse water. It will help the garment keep (or regain) some of its luster.