Searching for Silky Sheets
December 20, 2010 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Looking for personal recommendations for high quality silk sheets and ways to clean/ care for my silk.

I posted this question about a month ago and, unfortunately, received little help. I think I was too specific in my request for sheets that exactly matched my pillow cases.

More generally, I'm looking for recommendations for silk sheets that you've had personal experience with and *loved*. Please give me specific brands and types so we can actually find the sheets you recommend. Bonus points if these can be purchased in King and Twin XL sets and individual pieces.

Also, any tips on cleaning silk sheets and pillowcases, other than dry cleaning, would be greatly appreciated! I'd love to know your washing machine secrets (if any exist) and your sink washing secrets; please include recommended detergents and specific techniques.

Other information: we're in New York City; online orders are acceptable and preferable; budget is open within reason.

Very many thanks! (And very happy holidays!)
posted by chaiwawa to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any direct knowledge of silk sheets, but if you don't get an answer here you might contact paulsc via mefimail to ask him directly. This previous answer indicates some level of expertise. And this is the second day in a row that I have linked to this specific answer of his. I cannot explain this.
posted by raisingsand at 10:28 AM on December 20, 2010

I can't help with specific sheet recommendations, but can address the cleaning bit.

Background: Once upon a time, I was huge on Japanese kimono, which are made of silk. I still have the ones I bought those many years ago. Silk is more resistant than modern-day manufacturers would have you believe (if it's good quality, of course). That said, I've had best results washing it in cold or barely-warm water (30°C for instance), with a detergent for delicates. (Please note that I am indeed tailoring this advice for sheets, and not for kimono :) I haven't dared wash any antique kimono whatsoever, only some modern kimono undergarments made of silk.)

Important tips:
1. Do not dry silk in a dryer. Air-dry it (on a line).
2. Do not let silk dry out completely when on the line. While still damp (not wet, but still humid), take it off and iron it on medium setting. (Good-quailty silk is resistant. It would even be fine on a higher setting, but use medium to be safe.) This will give you incredibly soft silk. If you let it dry on the line before ironing, however, it will feel stiff and brittle. For whatever reason, steam ironing dry silk to get the same effect takes a lot more time and effort.
posted by fraula at 11:18 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

I can't help with brand recommendations either, sorry - but for cleaning I wash mine with regular detergent on a regular cold cycle wash, then dry on a clotheshorse inside. I do have a front-loading machine though; with a top-loader I'd probably wash them in a pillowcase on a delicate cycle.
posted by goo at 12:27 PM on December 20, 2010

My personal experience with silk sheets is all from the late 1980s, when I was traveling to the Far East several times a year, and was "encouraged" by my second wife to bring some home to her. I bought the first set, a high quality Japanese brand, at Daimaru in Osaka, in a natural cream color, 19 momme weight. They cost what a small strand of Mikimoto 8mm pearls cost, but were initially a big hit, back home. After a couple of weeks however, those sheets were causing some marital strife in our house, on a couple of counts, that you might want to be aware of, before plunking down money.

I learned that light or natural color premium silk sheets are best suited to people who habitually wear pajamas or other sleepwear, that perspire very little, perhaps have generally dry skin, and never drool in their sleep. Otherwise, such bed silks tend to develop noticeable discolorations quickly, and since they can't be bleached, these discolorations can be unsightly. I wound up hand washing them in Woolite, in cold water, in the bathtub, and hanging them to partially dry, outside, in the mornings only (direct sun blocked by the house). Later, trying to get out the discolorations, I had them dry cleaned, at $40 per cycle, a couple of times, which helped a bit, but wasn't 100% successful.

And I learned, that for some people, the pleasure of silk sheets is immensely reduced if you can't show them off proudly to friends.

The second and subsequent sets of silk sheets I brought home were dyed dark, on the basis of experience with that first set, and I took to wearing full pajamas and using my own cotton covered pillow when I slept home, in that bed. While the second and subsequent sets of silk sheets I brought home were all of similar weight and of likewise cultured silk to the first set, I mainly bought them in Hong Kong, for about 1/2 the price of Japanese products of similar quality, although I continue to think, in memory, that the seaming and finishing of that first Japanese set was of utterly superb quality, to nearly anything else I've ever seen in textiles. One thing that I found in Hong Kong sheet sets of that day were that, for queen and king sizes, they often had one or two center seams (because silk looms of that day were generally limited to 45" weaving widths). Modern air jet looms for weaving bed silk goods are now generally much wider, but there are still some quality items imported from China, for king and queen bed sizes, that will be of the older, multi-panel seamed construction. More on all that at this fairly informative, decently written link farm.

I also learned that silk sheets can have such low surface friction with skin and other bedding, that they can call for some alteration in technique for activities often conducted in beds. Again, perhaps not an issue for small, pajama wearing users, who are not physically vigorous in bed.

I personally never developed any tactile preference for silk, but I'm a fairly hairy man, with callused feet and hands, who will absent mindedly scratch bug bites until they bleed, and who keeps his elbows, knuckles, feet, knees and chin in winter shape only by daily use of pumice stones and copious amounts of 40W non-detergent white spindle oil. YMMV, particularly if you are a small, hairless person with delicate, sensitive skin.

I don't now own any silk sheets, because I personally prefer premium cotton for its ease of care, "bleachability" when needed, tolerance of ironing and starch/sizing in summer (really nice to get into cool, white, crisply sized and ironed sheets after a summer day on a Florida beach!), and long life, compared to my experience with silks. I also have a couple of flannel sheet sets, which I enjoy in winter, without pajamas.

In favor of silk bed linens, I will say that for photographic purposes in some genres, nothing seems to beat silk sheets, with quality multi-source electronic lighting set ups...
posted by paulsc at 5:44 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do they have to be silk? I used satin sheets for many years when I was younger, and LOVED them - easy to launder, so warm in winter, felt so smooth and slippery. Many people hate them because they slide around in them, but for me this is what made sleep a delicious experience. Soft, oh soft satin sheets.
posted by shazzam! at 8:28 PM on December 20, 2010

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