How do I Care for a Silk Slip?

Henry Gaudet

When looking for the best way to care for a silk slip, the best place to start is the label. You might prefer to play it safe and dry clean all silk fabric, but the cost adds up quickly, and in most cases, you will be able to handle the cleaning yourself. Some silk slips are labeled “machine washable,” but generally speaking, hand washing will produce the best results.

Silk slip.
Silk slip.

If your slip is machine washable, place the garment in a mesh bag and use the machine’s gentle cycle. Normal laundry detergents are too harsh for silk. Use a detergent specially designed for delicate fabrics. Bleach will also damage your silk slip and should never be used.

Silk fabric.
Silk fabric.

You can wash most silk garments by hand, and this is the recommended method for caring for a silk slip. Depending on the quality of the fabric, hand washing might make your slip look and hang better. If you have not washed the slip before, perform a test by washing a small corner, and if nothing negative happens to it, you can proceed.

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Silk comes from the cocoon of the silkworm.
Silk comes from the cocoon of the silkworm.

Fill the sink with warm water — not hot water, because heat can damage the fabric. Use a mild detergent made for delicate garments, or you can use shampoo. Silk naturally resists dirt, so you should need only a little soap.

There are mild detergents specially designed to treat delicate fabrics.
There are mild detergents specially designed to treat delicate fabrics.

Leaving silk garments in the water for prolonged periods might cause their colors to fade, and you should not allow them to soak. Instead, gently scrub the silk slip, adding a little soap if you need to treat a stubborn stain. After the slip is cleaned, remove the garment from the water.

You will need to rinse the slip after it has been washed. Empty the sink and refill it with warm water. For best results, the wash and rinse should be about the same temperature.

Silk might yellow or fade with time, and this is usually a sign of alkali damage. You can minimize this effect by adding a little white vinegar to your rinse. Just be sure to rinse the slip one more time under running water, or your silk slip might begin to smell like a salad.

Delicate garments such as a silk slip should not be wrung out. Instead, pat it dry in a folded towel, then hang it to dry. Direct sunlight can make silk turn yellow, as can heat, meaning that you should hang your slip in a place where these can be avoided. Even if your silk slip is machine washable, it is not suitable for the dryer, and drying your slip in the dryer will damage it.

People may choose to dry clean all silk fabric.
People may choose to dry clean all silk fabric.

Discussion Comments

anon192201

I have a (white) bridal silk lace Spanish mantilla that has yellowed some with time. It's about 45 years old. I would like to know how I can safely wash it so that I can get it's color back. Any ideas?

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