Extend the life of your silk clothing and deter damaging moth larvae by following the advice below:
Silk comes from the cocoon of the silkworm, the larva or caterpillar of the silk moth which has been domesticated in China, Northern India, Korea and Japan. The practice of breeding silkworms for silk production has been in place in China for thousands of years. The silkworm is predominantly fed on mulberry leaves.
Silk is an elegant and relatively expensive fabric. People are often daunted by the necessary care of silk garments, but by following the care advice below silk clothing can be maintained in excellent condition for years to come.
Washing Silk Clothing
Always check the manufacturer’s care label to ascertain whether your silk garment is suitable for hand washing, machine washing or dry cleaning only.
Hand Washing Silk: Silk clothes should be hand washed in either cool or lukewarm water using a mild detergent, non-alkaline soap or specialist cleaning product for silk. Bleach or other ‘pre-wash’ soaking products should never be used. In case dyes run, wash each garment separately and try to keep the temperature relatively constant throughout the wash. After several washes any excess dye ‘bleed’ in the washing process should stop. Avoid soaking and to revive faded colours a little white vinegar can be used in the first rinse stage. You may find that a little borax may help in areas with particularly ‘hard’ water, but please carefully read the instructions on the packet. Avoid soaking for more than a few minutes. Rinse in cool water and try to avoid wringing the clothing when removing excess water – silk fibres are weaker when wet. It may take more than one rinse to remove all traces of the detergent and to initially dry the garment, lay flat on a clean dry towel and roll up the towel gently pressing to remove excess water. Then hang the silk garment on a padded hanger – avoid untreated wood or metal hangers which may mark or stain the freshly washed clothing! Avoid direct heat or sunlight when drying to prevent a ‘yellowing’ of the silk fabric.
Machine Washing Silk: Always use a ‘delicates’ programme on your washing machine and a mild detergent. Avoid machine washing mixed fibre garments or highly detailed / trimmed silk clothing and always avoid detergents that are described as biological or containing brightening agents. Place your silk garment in a mesh bag to avoid any ‘snagging’ during the washing process. The wash temperature should be 30 degrees and the spin cycle should be kept slow and short in duration. For drying, follow the care advice for hand washing above. Never put silk clothes in to a tumble dryer.
Dry Cleaning Silk: Ensure your dry cleaner knows how to handle silk clothing – many silk garments specify ‘dry clean only’ in the care label, although some say to avoid dry cleaning, so always read the care label carefully. The dry cleaning solvents and process also eradicate any moth eggs or larvae that may be present on silk clothing.
Stain Removal: It is always best to use a good specialist dry cleaner to remove stains or marks on silk clothing. If attempting to do so at home, rinsing in a weak ammonia or white vinegar solution can be effective, however, always avoid putting water on the stain – water can leave permanent marks on the garment and worsen the problem! When taking your garment to the dry cleaner for stain removal, try to do so quickly and explain exactly what the stain has been caused by to increase the chances of success in stain removal.
Pressing: You may not need to iron or can reduce the amount of ironing required by hanging your silk clothing whilst still damp (not wet!). While your silk clothing is still slightly damp, use a very low / silk temperature setting on your iron, and if the garment has dried completely, damp it with a fine mist spray to moisten the fabric. Always do the main ironing with the clothes inside-out. Where you need to iron the ‘right-side’ of the fabric, always iron through a clean white cloth. Steaming is an effective alternative to ironing.
Storage and Clothes Moth Prevention for Silk
Silk garments should be stored clean – this is critical because clothes moth larvae feed on human and animal hair and skin which is a form of protein, and they are also particularly attracted by food stains and the residual from perspiration, which also provides the moisture that is essential to their survival
We recommend that silk clothes are stored neatly folded in breathable cotton storage bags and in non-acidic tissue paper or hung in clothing covers in a dark and dry place. We have the prefect solution for you in our storage bags and garment covers. Avoid sealed plastic containers that may cause moisture or yellowing of the silk. Moisture will significantly increase the risk of any moth eggs that may be present being able to survive and develop into damaging moth larvae.
If you are storing your silk clothing for a long period we recommend that you periodically shake the clothing and air in bright light to deter any potential moth larvae settling. They hate disturbance and light!
Finally we strongly recommend that you include a natural anti-moth repellent in the bag with your silk clothing – this will add fragrance and deter moths from laying eggs on or near you valuable clothes.
MothPrevention.com provides a number of solutions to both eradicate moths and their larvae, as well as preventing further moth damage to your clothing.
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Here are some further tips from around the web that may help you to take good care of your silk clothes.
Some silks are washable, for others dry-cleaning is recommended. If in doubt check with the store where you bought the fabric or garment. Do not wash Silk goods if the colours are not fast. Keep silk out of strong sunlight. Before washing test for colourfastness. Wet a small piece of the fabric in cool water and then lay it on a piece of white material. Press it with a warm iron. If it leaves no colour or hardly any mark on the white fabric, then you can safely wash it. Normally silk is best washed by hand with a mild detergent, such as Tenestar, Dreft or Lux in lukewarm water. Rinse well, squeeze out surplus moisture by rolling in a towel and hang to dry. Never soak, boil, bleach or wring Silk or leave it crumpled in a towel. Do not let Silk become too dirty before washing, as hard rubbing damages the fibres.
In cleaning silk garments, it is important to follow manufacturer’s instructions. Most silk garments will need to be dry-cleaned to protect the delicate fabrics. This typically includes the more structured silk garments and those with very delicate weaves.
However, many silk garments can be hand-washed as long as you do so carefully. Always use a gentle hand-wash detergent or even a mild (baby formula) shampoo and lukewarm water. To remove the excess water after rinsing, roll the garment in a towel and press gently to blot away the extra moisture. Then you can iron the fabric dry using a low-heat setting on your iron. Whenever possible test a swatch or unobtrusive corner of the garment before placing the iron in a visible location on the garment.
Never, ever use chlorine bleach on silk. It will cause the fabric to yellow and the fibers to breakdown more quickly.
Remember that moths will attack and eat silk the same as they do for wool so you must always protect your silk garments when you plan to store them for periods of time. Use cedar blocks to repel moths and other insects during storage. Do not store silk clothing in plastic, as the plastic can trap moisture and lead to yellowing and mildew in the natural fibers. Furthermore, store silks away from light, especially direct sunlight, to prevent fading of colors and breakdown of the fibers. The best choice for storing silk in inside a cotton pillowcase with a couple of cedar blocks in a dark closet. Be sure the garments have been cleaned before storing to prevent the damage caused by body soils left on the garments over a long storage period.
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