Like many delicate natural fibres, silk can be easily damaged by a regular washing machine cycle. However, many cheap washing machines these days have safe-for-silk cycles (usually labelled ‘gentle’ or ‘delicate’). These may be suitable for silk-rich blends, but pure silk is still best washed by hand or at the dry-cleaners. Always check the label for cleaning guidelines.
To hand-wash silk:
· Fill a sink or washing tub with lukewarm water. Very hot or cold water may cause the fabric to shrink.
· Using a mild soap or gentle shampoo, very gently scrub the fabric to remove any stains. Regular detergents will damage the fibres, as will over-zealous scrubbing.
· Empty the tub and refill with tepid water, this time adding half a cup of white vinegar, and rinse the garment. The vinegar will help to remove any residual soap and restore the silk’s natural lustre. Rinse a final time in clean water.
· To dry, lay the garment on a clean towel and roll it up. Do not wring it out, as this will only damage it. Some tumble-dryers have an air-only setting which may be suitable for silk and other delicates. Do not leave to dry in direct sunlight as this may cause silk to yellow.
· While the silk is still damp, iron it inside-out on a very low temperature with a tea-towel placed between the iron and the fabric. This will remove the remaining moisture without discolouring the fabric.
Wool and Cashmere
· Dissolve soap flakes in a tub of hot water and then add cold to create a lukewarm, soapy solution.
· Squeeze the suds through the garments and rub and spots or stains gently. As with silk, excessive scrubbing will fray the fibres.
· For light colours, like beige, cream or white, add a capful of ammonia to the soapy water.
· Rinse once in tepid water with half a cup of white vinegar
· Rinse again with clean water to get the vinegar out. Drain.
· Roll the wet items in a towel and twist until the towel is saturated. You may need to repeat this step a couple of times. Don’t dry wool or cashmere in a tumble dryer; the heat will cause it to shrink irreversibly.
· Use an iron on a medium heat to remove the last of the moisture and relax the fibres before hanging up to dry.
Contrary to popular belief, most lingerie can be put through a washing-machine’s gentle cycle, even though the label reads ‘hand-wash only’. You can use all-purpose detergent with cotton and synthetics, but opt for a milder detergent for lacy fabrics. Place bras in a mesh bag to prevent twisting or snagging and wash in a light load as heavy items may bend the wiring.
Remember – always check the label for cleaning guidelines before undertaking delicate cleaning jobs, and test stain removers on an inconspicuous area before using.