The smooth, glossy texture of satin clothes and sheets is the epitome of luxury, but the details of how to properly wash these items depend on what kind of fibers are used in the satin—they can range from classic natural silk to modern polyester synthetics. While some forms of satin can be machine-washed, it's generally safest to hand-wash all forms of silk in cool water using a gentle laundry detergent made for delicates. If your satin items have care labels indicating that machine-washing is allowable, then it's critical to wash them in cool water on a gentle machine cycle.
Here's how you can keep your satin sheets and clothing looking their best.
Equipment / Tools
- Washing machine; or basin for hand-washing
- Mesh delicates bag (optional)
- Clothes dryer (optional)
- Indoor drying rack (optional)
- Clothes iron or steamer
- Gentle laundry detergent
- Enzyme-based stain remover
|How to Wash Satin Clothes and Sheets|
|Drying Cycle||Low heat|
|Special Treatment||Hand-washing recommended for many items|
|Ironing||Low to medium heat; use pressing cloth|
|How Often to Wash||Weekly for sheets; after every two to four wearings for clothing|
How to Wash Satin Clothes and Sheets
Read the Care Label
Always take time to read the care label to determine the manufacturer's recommendations for care. Hand-washing satin is preferred over machine-washing because it is gentler on the fabric. But machine-washing can be done with care for many items, including most sheets.
If there are visible stains on the satin garment, pretreat the area with an enzyme-based stain remover. Work the stain remover into the fabric with your finger, and let it work for at least 10 minutes before washing the item.
Wash and Rinse the Items
For satin items that are approved for machine washing, select the delicate cycle, lower final spin speed, and cool or cold water setting on your washer. If washing a satin blouse or tie with other items, place it in a mesh bag to prevent snags.
If you are hand-washing satin items, fill a wash basin or sink with cool water, then add a small amount (no more than two capfuls) of gentle laundry detergent. Add the satin items, then gently agitate for a few minutes to distribute the soap. Allow the items to soak for about 30 minutes, then drain the basin and run fresh cool water through the items until all traces of soap are removed. Press and squeeze the items gently (never wring) to remove most of the water before drying them.
Dry the Items (Gently)
Satin sheets should be hung to air-dry or tumbled on low heat and removed from the dryer while still slightly damp. Satin clothes should be dried by hanging them up or laying flat, away from direct heat and sunlight to prevent damaging and weakening of the long fibers.
What Is Satin?
The term satin does not refer to a particular type of fiber, but rather to a method of weaving fibers in a way that produces an especially smooth, glossy surface. Therefore, satin clothes or sheets can be made of many different fibers, including wool, polyester, cotton, silk, or rayon.
Technically, the glossy look is created by weaving threads so that four "warp" threads float over one "weft" thread—rather than the basic one over and one under of a standard weave. These floating threads create a shimmery look. During the manufacturing process, the woven material is run through hot cylinders to add even more shine.
Satin is considered a luxury textile for wedding and evening gowns, lingerie, and sleepwear. It is also used to create pointe shoes for ballet and evening shoes for women. Many coat linings are made from satin because the smooth surface allows the lining to glide easily over other fabrics. You'll also find it used to create iconic sportswear like satin baseball jackets. Satin is also used for home furnishings like pillows, upholstery, bed sheets, and comforters.
History of Satin
Originally, all satin fabrics were woven from silk fibers only. Early satin originated in China in the 12th century and the manufactured fabric was shipped from the port city of Zayton—from which the name "satin" is derived. Because of the properties of silk and the amount of labor needed to produce satin fabrics, it was available only to royalty and the wealthy. Satin fabric was beloved in the 12th and 13th centuries by the Romans for the elegance it brought to royal garments. Satin became more widely accessible after the invention of the power loom and in the Industrial Revolution, when manufacturers learned to use different fibers to create the look of silk satin.
Types of Satin
The answer to whether you should wash or dry clean satin clothes is not a simple one. It depends on the type of fibers used to make the fabric. Following most manufacturers' fiber content terminology on care labels, you may see fabrics that feel like satin with any of these labels:
- Traditional satin is made of silk, polyester, or wool.
- Duchesse (often labeled Duchesse Satin) is heavy, looks luxurious, and contains silk or rayon.
- Sateen is made of cotton.
- Canton satin contains two layers of fabric with a different fiber composition for each layer.
- Baronet satin has a silk appearance on the front side of the fabric, with a cotton backing.
- Charmeuse satin is very lightweight.
- Faconne satin features a jacquard weave of intricate designs, often floral.
- Gattar satin has a cotton weft and a silk warp.
- Farmer’s satin is woven from mercerized cotton thread.
- Messaline satin is lightweight and loosely woven.
- Sultan satin is woven from worsted fibers that have been combed to a silky state.
- Slipper satin is heavy and stiff in texture.
- Surf satin resembles taffeta and is often used in costumes.
Read the fiber content labels and follow the care instructions recommended by the manufacturer. If you are a laundry novice and the garment is expensive or vintage, it's best to head to a professional dry cleaner.
Treating Stains on Satin Clothes and Sheets
Stains on satin are best treated immediately, without giving them time to set. If you catch it in time, blot the stain with a lint-free rag or washcloth, but never rub the stain, as this sets it further.
If your stain remains, try using a mixture of half water and half vinegar to flush away the stain. If this doesn't work, you might have a grease stain. If so, sprinkle some talcum powder or flour on top, and let sit for a few hours to soak up the stain. Still there? A laundry stain remover might do the trick. If this doesn't work, try bringing the item to a trusted dry cleaner.
Satin Fabric Care and Repairs
Snags and pulls in satin might be inevitable, but you can make them less noticeable. Lay your item on a flat surface, shiny side up. Grab the fabric on either side of the snag, and pull it taut several times. If this works, shake the fabric until it hangs correctly.
For a larger snag that remains after pulling it taut, find a needle and thread that matches the color of the fabric. Insert the needle on the wrong (opposite) side, push it to the right side, and catch the snag. Then, reinsert the needle through the same hole, and pull the snag gently through. Steam the right side until the fabric hangs correctly.
If ironing is needed on satin, iron on a low to medium-low heat setting on the wrong side of the fabric. Always use a pressing cloth between the iron and the fabric.
Storing Satin Clothes and Sheets
Store satin garments in clean, cotton garment bags (or rolled up in clean, all-cotton pillowcases). Do the same with satin sheets and upholstery fabric.
How Often to Wash Satin Clothes and Sheets
Satin sheets should be washed weekly. Clothing should be washed after every two to four wearings, unless it becomes visibly soiled.
Tips for Washing Satin Clothes and Sheets
- If your satin item is a garment or pillowcase, turn it inside out before washing to protect its shiny fibers.
- Never wring or twist satin because it may lose its shape.
- If using a clothes steamer, keep the nozzle at least 6 inches away from the surface of the fabric to prevent water spotting.
Can I hang satin clothing on hangers to dry?
Yes. Hanging or laying flat to air dry is the preferred method of drying satin. If hanging clothes, avoid wire hangers, which can leave creases or cause discoloring. Padded hangers are best for lingerie and other delicate items.
Does an electric clothes dryer hurt satin fabric?
It's better to air-dry satin, but many items will tolerate partial drying in a clothes dryer at low heat. You can then finish drying them by hanging them up or laying them flat. But avoid high dryer heat or direct sunlight, as this can damage the fabric or cause discoloration.
What kind of satin items require dry cleaning?
Especially delicate silk satin items, or those with extra beading or embroidery, may be labeled "dry clean only." These items will not do well with any kind of water washing, even gentle hand washing. But if the care label says simply "dry clean" or "dry cleaning recommended," it's usually possible for you to hand-wash them and air dry them without causing damage.