How to look after Silk

Looking after your silks is an easy thing once you know the rules.

Some people feel that silk is a “fussy” fabric; “can’t wash it,  can’t iron it easily, isn’t colour-fast” etc etc. I’ve heard it all, and it’s all wrong.

Silk is one of the strongest natural fibres in existence. If you make a cable out of steel and then an identical weight and construction cable of silk, and then try to break them under tension, the one that fails first is the steel.

Most commecial silk is the fibre made by the Bombyx mori silkworm. It’s a triangular protein fibre, made by extrusion from two spinnerettes of fibroin protein anti-parallel “beta sheet“cores stuck together with sericin protein “glue“.

It’s this structure that give both the light reflective properties and the strength of silk.

However, silk’s tensile strength lessens by about 20% when wet, which is why it seen as difficult to launder as the fabric will inelastically stretch far more easily when wet than when dry. As it is a protein fibre, biological powders litterally eat it away, and heat will literally cook it (both the heat from an iron and from the sun can effect it.)

It also rots if left dirty with sweat-salts after wearing, It’s also very vulnerable to moth attack, particularly if left dirty.

If it’s badly dyed, and the wrong amount of fixative used it can leak colour, however, most commercial silk is dyed and fixed correctly.

Alkali environments are also not good for silk.

So, what does all this mean?

Preferably give it a warm water hand-wash with a Non-alkali soap and neutral or mild acid pH water after every wear. (Acid pH water will also help set any residual dye that has not exhausted.)

If your machine has a hand-wash cycle or wool cycle, there is no problem using that setting with a non-biological powder.

Use a towel to remove excess water before drying flat. Don’t pull or stretch it about too much whilst wet, but give it a shake ad get it hung up as soon as it’s dry.

If you do that, the silk should only ever require minimal ironing with low heat. Just the “1dot” is enough.

If you treat it right, silk will last a very long time and give you a little happy every time you wear it.

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