Structurally, silk is strong, yet somehow, it’s delicate. You can easily guesstimate why silk posses such two contrasting qualities at the same time.
Water is the gray area for silk. Where all possibilities for “damage” to occur begin to manifest!
When silk gets wet, agitation can easily cause it to distort, and when put in the dryer, the heat plus the agitation can cause distortion, scorching, and even burning of the fibers.
That’s why it’s always recommended to air dry silk away from direct sunlight.
Find out how to properly do so at home in the next few paragraphs below.
Don’t Put Silk In The dryer
There’s a very good reason why silk isn’t advised to be put inside the dryer, and it’s all about how the drying machine works!
A dryer combines both heat and motion to remove moisture from clothes. This is a safe, effective and efficient way of drying clothes that aren’t chemically structured like silk, for example, cotton, polyester or linen.
When you have a fiber that is built like silk however, having a linear, beta-configuration polymers and a crystalline system, it is by default, naturally weakened by submersion in water (and guess what, silk filaments love to get water all over them).
When you now apply agitation or motion to the weakened silk (like you do in the washing machine or dryer), stretching occurs which ends up disorganizing the aforementioned polymer system (permanently) thereby causing distortion, as well as wrinkles and creases that are very difficult to remove.
But that’s not all, while silk has a polymer and crystalline nature that makes it a strong fabric to work with, this system lacks covalent cross links which makes the material sensitive to heat.
When temperature goes beyond 10°C on silk, there will be a breakdown of bonds and linkage in the system which will cause discoloration or fading. Allowing silk to stay under high heat for too long will also cause scorching, which we know weakens fibers and makes them even more sensitive with future cleaning efforts.
Don’t Dry Silk Directly Under The Sun Either
The same reason why silk shouldnt be put inside the dryer is the same reason why it shouldn’t be put directly under the sun to dry.
Silk fibers are somewhat twisted about their axis, and also have a prism-like structure. These two factors combined result in the continuous change in the angle of reflection of the incident light which produces a soft sheen.
When you subject silk to heat for long, bonds and linkages are broken and degradation products now surface on the fibers which cause incident light to scatter wide as opposed to being reflected in a way that promotes sheen. This makes silk lose its luster and appear dull or even yellowed in some cases!
The Best Way To Properly Dry Silk
The best way to dry silk is to allow cool breeze to do the job. Let it sit on a clothes rack outside in a shaded area. Or you can choose to hang it. Make sure also, to avoid squeezing or wringing silk for moisture removal. Squeezing can present the same consequences as agitation.
If you need to remove moisture from silk clothes, do so by placing the silk on a white cotton towel and rolling the towel all the way to the end, then press on the roll formed to extract as much water from the silk to the towel. Now take the silk for drying as described earlier.
Can You Iron Silk?
Try as much as possible to avoid ironing silk. Placing a hot iron on silk increases the risk of scorching and burning of fibers. It can also cause discoloration.
Besides, some wrinkles on silk might have been caused by agitation in the washer or dryer which is somewhat permanent. So trying to use a pressing iron to get rid of them might be a fruitless endeavor, if not destructive.
If you have the type of silk that can be ironed, (from the care label) then here’s how to do it. First, make sure you’re using the pressing board. Fit the silk on the board and place a clean white towel over the silk surface you want to iron. Set a pressing iron to medium and run it over the surface of the clean cloth to iron. Move the cloth to other areas of the silk while also moving the pressing iron too.
To get better results, make sure the silk is only slightly damp. The fibers are weaker and thus are easier to align than when they are dry.
Another method you can use to remove creases is by letting gravity do the job for you. Hang the silk from the rod of your shower curtains (after a hot shower) and let the steam partner with gravity and release wrinkles and creases.
You should avoid putting silk in the dryer because it can cause scorching, burning, fading, and even distortion. To dry silk, it’s advised to suspend it from a hanger and keep it in a shaded area outside. Avoid the sunlight as much as possible as it can cause yellowing and fading of silk.
You can also dry silk inside the house, and the best place to do so is in the bathroom. Hang the silk on the rods of your shower curtains and let it sit there until it dries.