Once upon a time I had a beautiful Marc Jacobs silk skirt. Then I washed it. The end.
That was about 4-5 years ago & to this day I follow the rule ‘when in doubt, dry clean’. Unfortunately, since I tend to favour silk or silk blends in my sewing & many of the fabrics I’ve bought don’t come with cleaning instructions, this has lead to a rather large dry cleaning bill.
Also I’m lazy & always forget to take said items to the dry cleaners. For the last 2 months I have had a bag of silk shirts that need cleaning sitting by the door. This has left my work wardrobe somewhat limited.
So I decided to have a look around on the internet & see if this dry-clean only thing was really necessary. As far as I can tell the only silk that absolutely 100% needs the dry-clean only status is silk duponi. Apparently water permanently affects it’s structure (that explains the water stains on my wedding dress – there was a 100 year storm on my wedding day). For other types of silk apparently you can handwash – but you do so at your own risk. I think this because sometime dyes don’t hold too well with silk fabric, (I found out the hard way when I ruined my skirt).
Anyway I tested the theory with three different garments from my closet, my watermelon shorts (printed silk cotton blend), my Pendrell blouse (100% silk linen) & my pink & blue top (100% silk – printed).
I used a combination of the instructions for washing silk in ‘Spotless’ & some additional tips I’d found on the internet. Spotless is a brilliant book from Shannon Lush (Australia’s ‘Clean Queen’) with heaps of amazing tips for cleaning & stain removal, not just for clothes but for household stains & spills as well. It’s one of those great reference books to have handy, so next time a guest spills something weird on your carpet you know you can deal with it (without a nervous breakdown that is).
Basically I washed them in tepid water with a small amount of baby shampoo. Then I rinsed them in water with a bit of vinegar mixed in. I let the majority of the water drip back into the sink & then lay the garment on a towel & rolled up the towel to squeeze out the water, before pressing it dry (with an organza press cloth)
First the Pendrell blouse. I figured this was the lowest risk as it was white. My biggest concern here was that the texture would change for the worse. It was fine.
Next off the watermelon shorts. This is silk-cotton blend so I hoped that the cotton would help the dye-retention. These were also fine.
Finally the biggest risk top – the blue & pink top. 100% printed silk in bold, contrasting colours. This one very nearly turned into disaster. I put it into the tub & gently moved it around & in less than 30 seconds the water turned a very nervous shade of navy. I quickly pulled the top out & rinsed it in the vinegar rinse water, before wrapping it in a towel & then pressing it dry. It turned out fine in the end.
All in all it was a good exercise & I know that with a bit of effort (& a lot of care) I can reduce the amount of dry cleaning I do. I’d also like to note that you want to head down this path you need to be careful & do your research before you try it, because it may not end well.