If you have spent extra money to buy silk pillowcases, you want to look after them properly to ensure they retain their qualities and last as long as possible. Because items made of silk feel so delicate, it is easy to assume they need dry cleaning. However, you can usually wash silk pillowcases and bedding at home unless their care label includes the warning: dry clean only.
In this article, we will guide you through the process of washing silk pillowcases and other silk bedding by hand or in a washing machine. We also cover how to maintain your silk pillowcases for durability.
Why is Silk Different?
Silk is a unique material made with natural protein fibres that are produced by silkworm larvae living and feeding on mulberry leaves. The larvae spin cocoons out of long, lustrous fibres. To make silk fabric, the cocoons of the silkworm larvae are harvested. They then need to be heated in boiling water and unravelled before the fibres can be woven into silk thread.
Silk is a very breathable and smooth fabric that has a shimmery appearance. It is resilient to wrinkling and hypoallergenic. These qualities make it an ideal fabric for luxury bedding. Silk is not only luxurious and durable, but also resistant to mites and mould, non-irritating, and will not absorb as much moisture from your skin as cotton will.
How to Wash Silk Pillowcases
You can wash most silk pillowcases by hand or in the washing machine. However, before you wash them for the first time, always check the care label as there are some silk pillowcases that have to be dry cleaned. Your silk pillowcase is likely to have a “dry clean only” instruction if it has some delicate decorative beading or stitching.
Generally, all pure silk bedding responds well to hand-washing. Many silk items can also be machine washed as long as you turn down the water temperature. Below you will find detailed steps for washing your silk pillowcases.
Pretreat Any Stains
Whether you are washing your silk pillowcases by hand or in the washing machine, treat any stain before the wash. Makeup residue, oils from your skin, and other bodily fluids can all create stains on silk pillowcases.
If there are any stains, dab some mild detergent directly onto the stain using your fingers. Leave the detergent to work for a minimum of fifteen minutes before washing. This will give the detergent time to break the stain molecules apart before the wash.
Note that you should use mild detergent only regardless of the type of the stain. It may be tempting to try stain removers but these often work by enzyme action or contain bleach. Both can damage your pillowcases by breaking fibres and encouraging yellowing.
Washing Silk Pillowcases in a Washing Machine
- Once you have checked from the care label that you can wash your pillowcases in the washing machine, set your washer to a delicate or gentle cycle. Some washing machines have a setting specifically for washing delicate fabrics and items such as silk pillowcases.
- Choose a low spin speed to complete the cycle. This will reduce the risk of damage to the silk fabric and prevent excessive agitation.
- You should only use cold water to wash silk items. Hot and even warm water can cause the fabric to shrink and it may lose its luster. Cold water will be gentler and help the fabric preserve its quality.
- Use a pH-neutral detergent. You can find detergents that have been formulated especially for silk and other delicate fabrics. Do not use any harsh chemicals or bleach that can damage the silk’s delicate fibres.
- Because silk is a naturally soft fabric, there is no need to use a fabric softener. Besides, softeners can leave a residue on the silk pillowcases that will affect their texture.
- You should always place your silk pillowcases inside a mesh laundry bag when machine washing them. The bag will protect them from snagging or getting tangled with other garments or the agitator of the washing machine.
- Do not overload the machine so the pillowcases can spin around more freely.
- To make the rinse cycle more effective at removing detergent residue from the silk fibres, add distilled white vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser before the rinse cycle begins. About ½ cup will be enough.
Washing Silk Pillowcases by Hand
- If you are hand washing the pillowcases, begin by filling a sink with cold water. If you are washing a single item, mix about one teaspoon of gentle detergent with the water. For multiple items, use 1/4 cup or two tablespoons of detergent.
- When washing the pillowcases by hand, avoid twisting and wringing them. Instead, move them around gently in the water. This will avoid damage to the silk fabric which is weaker when it is wet.
- When you are ready to rinse the pillowcases, drain the sink and clean the sides of any detergent residue. Then fill it again with fresh cold water and add about 1/4 cup of vinegar to the water. Gently move the pillowcases about to remove all of the laundry detergent. Again, avoid wringing and twisting the pillowcases. You may need to repeat the rinse a few times to get all of the laundry detergent out of the pillowcases.
Drying Silk Pillowcases
While it is possible to dry most silk pillowcases in the dryer, letting them air dry is better since it is gentler on the fabric. If you are air-drying silk pillowcases, you can either lay them flat on top of a clean towel or hang them on a drying rack or clothesline. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight or near radiators. It may take a full day before the pillowcases are thoroughly dry.
If you prefer to tumble dry your silk pillowcases, choose the lowest setting possible. Take the pillowcases out of the dryer when they are still a little damp. Hang them up or lay them on a towel to finish drying and avoid wrinkling.
Ironing Silk Pillowcases
If your silk pillowcases appear wrinkly after you have washed them, it is possible to iron most of them. Just make sure you check the care label first. Use the lowest temperature setting on the iron and use a clean, white cotton cloth between the silk and the iron to prevent scorching.
Why You Need to Avoid Detergents With Enzymes
If you have a stain on your silk pillowcase that you are struggling to remove, it could be tempting to dry stain remover that uses enzymes to break down stains. If you want to keep your silk pillowcases in their best condition, keep to mild detergents even if you need to treat and wash the stains several times.
Laundry enzymes work by breaking down the proteins in stains so the stains are released from the fabric. If they are safe to use on most fabrics, why cannot they be used on silk? It is because silk is a protein-based fabric and using enzyme detergents will damage its fibres. Other fabrics that you should not use enzyme detergents include, wool, alpaca, cashmere, feathers, and fur.
How to Maintain Silk Pillowcases
You can increase the longevity of your silk pillowcases by looking after them properly. That includes washing and drying them correctly, but also storing them right, and washing them often enough.
Keeping Silk Pillowcases Soft
When you are washing your silk pillowcase, use less laundry detergent than what the detergent’s label recommends. This will help avoid any detergent buildup that can make your pillowcases feel stiff and cause them to smell of mildew.
However, if you notice that detergent is building up on the pillowcases, soak them in a sink filled with cold water. Mix one tablespoon of white vinegar into the water to cleanse and refresh the fibres. Then wash and dry the pillowcases as usual. Remember not to stretch or wring the pillowcases as this can weaken the long filaments in the fibres.
When your silk pillowcases are not in use, storing them right will help to maintain their quality. Silk pillowcases should not be folded into tight squares with sharp creases as this may weaken the fibres. Instead, roll the pillowcases or hang them on a wide bar hanger.
If you are storing the pillowcases for a longer period, ensure they are freshly cleaned and fully dry. To protect the silk pillowcases from moths and other bugs and larvae that feed on silk, store them in a breathable storage bag.
Over time, silk pillowcases may become frayed at the edges or develop loose seams. If you notice loose seams or frayed edges, fix these as soon as possible. You can resow the seams with a matching thread and treat fraying edges with a fabric adhesive or anti-fraying liquid.
Silk Pillowcase Washing Schedule
Your pillowcases are an important tool in protecting your pillows. However, they can only do their job effectively if they are kept clean. You should wash your pillowcases once a week to remove oils, makeup residue, and other debris that can accumulate on the fabric. If you have skin conditions or suffer from allergies or a cold, more frequent washing is recommended.
Since frequent washing and drying can cause wear and tear on your pillowcases, have at least one extra set at home. This way you can rotate the pillowcases to help them last longer and allow proper time for the washing and drying.
Benefits of Silk Pillowcases
Since silk pillowcases are more expensive and require more care than, for example, cotton pillowcases, you might wonder if they are worth getting. There are some unique benefits to silk pillowcases that make the extra money and time worth it for many people.
Gentler on Skin and Hair
Because of its smooth and soft texture, silk is gentler on the skin and hair than many other fabrics. There is less friction, which reduces the likelihood of split ends, frizz, and hair breakage. If you sleep on your side, they will also help minimise creases and sleep lines on the face, which may lead to smoother skin. To maximise the benefit, combine the silk pillowcase with a pillow that is good for side sleepers.
Better Moisture Retention and Hydration
Silk is less absorbent than other materials commonly used to make pillowcases. This means it helps to retain moisture in your skin and hair and prevent drying that can occur if you have a cotton pillowcase. You might find this especially helpful if you have dry or sensitive skin.
Better Temperature Regulation
Silk is extremely breathable, which helps to regulate temperature. Therefore, silk pillowcases can help you keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter and improve the quality of your sleep. For the best cooling effect, you can use silk pillowcases with cooling pillows.
Silk is a hypoallergenic fabric and is naturally resistant to mould, dust mites, and other allergens. This means they are a great choice for anyone who suffers from allergies or asthma. They can reduce the allergens that can irritate sensitive skin or trigger allergic reactions.
Best Pillows for Silk Pillowcases
Silk pillowcases can be used with all types of pillows. So whether you have down pillows, foam pillows, or polyester pillows, you can use silk pillowcases with them. You will also find silk pillowcases to fit all pillow sizes from standard to king size. However, since some manufacturers’ pillows and pillowcase sizes may vary from the standards, always check the exact dimensions before buying silk pillowcases.
While looking after silk pillowcases takes a little more time and effort, most of them can be washed at home and do not require a trip to the dry cleaner. Wash your silk pillowcases regularly, either by hand or in the washing machine, and let them dry fully before putting them back on. Taking proper care of your pillowcases will increase their lifespan and ensure they stay smooth and soft.
Frequently Asked Questions
If your silk pillowcases are starting to turn yellow, the best thing to use is white vinegar. Fill a sink with cold water and a tablespoon of white vinegar, and let the pillowcases soak in the water for at least five minutes before washing them.
The best way to get stains off pillowcases is to treat them as soon as possible. Dab mild laundry detergent on the stain with your finger and let it work on the stain for at least fifteen minutes before washing. Do not use bleach or stain remover as they can damage the sheet.
Most silk pillowcases can be washed in the washing machine, but always check the care label before doing so.