Like always, I’m behind schedule again. You guys can blame mark though, he gave me too much work!
Anyway, today we are going to talk about how to care for your silk. Luxury silk, especially 19mm and above, are actually quite durable when compared to lower tiered silk, but that doesn’t mean you can just toss them around like you do with your doormat. In fact, in order to give your silk the maximum amount of serving life it is capable of having, there are quite a few precautions to you will have to take when you work with them. This includes:
I will walk you through them one by one so that you don’t accidentally destroy the silk you bought with your hard-earned money and then complain about them being frail. Nothing’s strong when you let your cat or dog roam on it, especially Huskies – this comes from my personal experience…
Washing silk is tricky business. Hand-washing is safe but time-consuming, machine-wash is risky but convenient. Using too much force for better cleaning may prove to be too risky, but just rinsing with water is not enough to clean off the stains. These are common dilemmas that silk owners tend to run into; but worry not! Silk isn’t as frail as some people make them out to be. Just follow my instructions and you will be fine.
The best way to wash silk is using your own hand, it offers just the right amount of cleaning required. If you have the time to spare, you should always hand-wash your silk pillowcases and other smaller silk pieces in lukewarm water (30C/86F). Avoid regular soap because the basic nature of soap will damage silk fibers. If you cannot get your hands on specialized silk cleaners such as TENESTAR (it’s not that difficult to get to be honest.), you can use very light cleaning agents such as baby soap or wool cleaners (which are also used to clean protein fibers as wool is also made of proteins). After you have applied cleaning agents, you can rinse silk with clean water or with diluted white vinegar. Silk fibers are resistant to acid, so the vinegar can help to get the basic sweat/salt stains off silk without causing damage.
Some key points on hand-washing:
– Temperature: It’s best to wash silk in lukewarm water, that is, water at approximately 30C/86F.
– Force: Rubbing silk with your hand should not break silk fibers, however, try to avoid extensive pulling, as it may cause the silk to partially deform.
– Detergents: Avoid anything that are even remotely corrosive, especially strong bases such as bleach, or anything with enzymes/brighteners, as they will destroy silk fibers with ease. Silk can handle weak acids such as vinegar which is useful for getting rid of sweat stains, but the most recommended solution when it comes to washing silk is, of course, specialized silk detergents such as TENESTAR.
– Wash duration: Avoid leaving silk in water for extended periods of time. Doing so may cause silk threads to unwind, resulting local deformations.
Of course, not everyone has the time or the patience for hand-washing silk. Indeed, I myself couldn’t bear the thought of standing near my sink for anything longer than 5 minutes. This is when you turn to the trusty helper of mankind – your washing machine.
Machine-washing silk is somewhat risky. From a personal point of view, if your building only has those really old-style washing machines that don’t have a “delicate” cycle, I would advise you to find somewhere that has better washing machines. I know there is one on Somerset Street (in Ottawa of course) that I have used before that gets the job done just fine, but if not, don’t worry, there is a trick you can do: find some sort of container made of other, more durable materials with smooth surfaces, such as a cotton or polyester pillowcase, then put your silk stuff in the container and seal it. Now you have just created a save haven for your fragile silk pillowcases in the stormy sea that is the washing machine. Do note that if you are not careful, storms are still capable of destroying the safe haven, so don’t let your guard down just yet.
Use the lightest washing cycle, I repeat, use the lightest washing cycle. This is very important, as the number one cause for ripped silk is due to using inappropriate washing cycles. Spinning cycle duration is usually pre-set when you choose washing cycles, but if you are able to set how long you wish the machine to spin, always go for the lowest value that is possible. If you decide to use the cotton container trick I mentioned earlier, check periodically to see if the container is properly sealed or if the content has leaked out if you can, but usually there shouldn’t be much problems. Detergent-wise, use the detergents I recommended with the hand-washing process (i.e. TENESTAR) and you should be just fine. The last thing you should pay attention to is what you are washing with the silk. Generally speak I would recommend that you do all your silk as a separate load, as the light cycle and detergent used are probably not enough to clean anything else, and items with hard or rough surfaces (such as sneakers… yeah) can do bad, bad thing to your silk.
After you have successfully completed the wash, with your hand or with your trusty washing machine, don’t relax just yet. Putting the washed silk into your drying machine is just like sending it off to another adventure, during which your silk is still capable of getting ripped or deformed due to the heat produced from the friction between your silk and the wall of the drying machine.
The best way to dry silk is not using your drying machine at all. Hang your silk up in a place with good air circulation, but beware of sunlight. Never put silk under direct sunlight as it will cause the dye to fade quickly. Depending on the humidity in your home, it may take up to 2 days for silk pillowcases to dry completely, but you have just avoided all the risks that come with a drying machine.
Of course, in the case that you do not have the luxury of time to air-dry your silk, there are other methods too. Drying machine, for one, can be used. Use “tumble dry” on a cool setting if it is available, and watch closely for the temperature inside the roller. Remove silk from the drying machine if you think it is too warm. Some other things to note include: Do NOT dry silk with other items with hard or rough surfaces. The cotton bag trick can also be used here but it may lengthen the time needed for drying.
Another way to dry silk is by using your hair dryer – but make sure it has a “no heat” option, or you will be looking at a very shrunk pillowcase the next day. Use the “No Heating” setting on your hair dryer and blow away! Try to use the dryer evenly on the entire surface of the silk as focused drying may cause a ring-like deformation in the area you focused on.
Ironing silk is a fairly tricky process (just like washing and drying, hooray), and you need to be extra careful when playing with the iron as the heat can easily destroy your silk or create deformations large enough you will never want to use whatever you are ironing again. “Why bother then?” You may ask. Well, ironing silk after each wash is the optimal way to keep your silk wrinkle and shrinkage free – with careful handling, of course.
So what’s the best way to go about the ironing practice? First of all, keep your iron on a cool, or preferably, silk setting; then make sure the silk you are trying to iron is slightly damp. One thing to note here, is don’t spray water on silk locally. If your silk is dry, make sure you spray water across the entire surface of silk. Spraying water locally then iron may cause a ring-like deformation to form in the area of ironing.
One more thing – when you iron silk, always iron the inside so that the heat does not work on the lustrous surface directly, avoiding potential damage. This helps greatly when the iron is mishandled, ironing the inside may very well save the silk.
Then, for those that don’t want to iron silk or don’t have an iron at all, there is a little trick you can use to straighten out wrinkles – or so I heard. When you take a shower, hang your silk somewhere in the bathroom and let the moisture do its work. Supposedly if you shower long enough, all that water in the air will get rid of all the wrinkles on your silk. Now, I don’t know if you want to stay in your shower for over an hour though…
Generally speaking, silk is a great material to sleep on all year round, but there are always unexpected circumstances in life when you need to pack your silk up and stow them away for a while. Here are a few tips on how to handle storage properly:
– Clean your silk before putting them away: This is very important, as food stains and residual sweat stains are both very attractive for potential silk eaters such as cloth moth.
– Dark, cool, dry: These are what an ideal place for silk storage should offer. Ideally, you should store your silk by having them neatly folded and stored in a specialized cotton storage bag, as cotton helps wick moisture away from the silk, preventing potential protein-eating insects from breeding on your silk.
It is recommended that you take your silk out of storage and hang them out in a place with good air circulation once every half a year, to avoid dampness and related deformations.
Taking silk with you on your vacation or a business trip? Worry not. Silk is actually very easy to bring along. Just fold your silk pillowcases or pajamas up like you would with any other clothes, and put them in your suitcase.
After you arrive at your destination, take the silk out and unfold them, you can hang them in the closet (if your hotel has one) or in the bathroom if the air is moderately dry. In the case of humid weather, keep them hung in a well circulated area to avoid dampness and related deformations.