Top tips for washing silk and other delicates

September 22, 2015

Today's gentler washing machine cycles have almost eliminated the need for handwashing. Still, some delicate garments need special treatment to retain their beauty, body, and shape. The best part? It’s simpler than you think with these easy-to-do tips.

Top tips for washing silk and other delicates

1. Silk

Wash silk in warm water and soap flakes, mild liquid detergent, or a hair shampoo containing protein. Slowly swish the garment in the suds. Do not twist or wring. After, rinse three or four times and dry flat or hang to dry. Press silk while it is still damp.

2. Antique Embroidery

Wash antique embroidery in warm, sudsy water and then dry flat. Test new embroidery for colourfastness before you wash it.

  • To test, spread the piece (or sample pieces of the embroidery threads) on a white cloth, cover with a wet cloth, and press with a hot iron. If the white cloth is stained, the piece is not colourfast. You can clean it by dipping it in a solution of hot water and 15 millilitres (one tablespoon) of borax.

3. Tulle

This delicate fabric, which is sheer, stiffened silk, rayon or nylon, is used mostly for ballet costumes and bridal veils. Wash tulle according to instructions on the garment. If washing gives the tulle ragged edges, trim it with scissors.

4. Velvet

If your velvet is made of silk, take it to a dry cleaner. Cotton and synthetic velvets, however, can be hand-washed.

  • Test for colourfastness (darker, richer colours may run).
  • If your garment is colourfast, wash it in cool, sudsy water with a liquid detergent.
  • Swish the item around until it's clean.
  • Rinse it three times, then allow it to drip-dry.
  • To set dark-coloured velvet so it won't run, presoak the garment for 20 minutes in two litres (two quarts) of cold water mixed with 15 millilitres (one tablespoon) of Epsom salts.
  • To restore velvet pile, smooth with a clothes brush after it is dry.

5. Taffeta

Hand-wash acetate and rayon taffetas in as much water as possible so that folds or pleats are suspended and aren't crushed.

  • Dunk the item gently.
  • Drain the water, rinse, then hang to drip-dry.
  • Hand-wash nylon taffeta in warm water and liquid detergent.
  • Rinse twice; drip-dry.

For those looking to wash their delicates by hand, these easy-to-follow tips are sure to help with any fabric. Keep them in mind the next time you're doing laundry.

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