How to soften silk fabric?
May 6, 2012 1:07 PM   Subscribe

I have a 100% silk pillowcase. After washing how the instructions told me to (in cold water and hanging it up to air dry) it feels stiff. How can I get it to feel soft and silky again? The instructions said not to dry it. Thanks!
posted by skjønn to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just use it for a few days, it will be back to silky in no time.
posted by pullayup at 1:19 PM on May 6, 2012

You could consider tossing it in the dryer for just a few minutes on low or no heat. This will help soften it up a little bit.
posted by mekily at 1:21 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Drip-dry often results in stiffness. I'm sure the fabric just needs to be exercised.
posted by rhizome at 1:23 PM on May 6, 2012

It will probably soften up with use, but I agree with the "throw it in the dryer for a few minutes" suggestion too. I do that with silk clothes (which all say dry-clean only, but I hand wash them) and haven't ruined anything yet. But use low heat and don't leave them in too long.
posted by celtalitha at 1:32 PM on May 6, 2012

Use castile soap rather than detergent. The case may still be a bit stiff after air drying, but will soften quickly with use, or a vigorous shaking a few times before it's completely dry.

Reminds me I need to get more silk pillowcases -- anyone know any especially good sources?
posted by vers at 1:38 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

What detergent did you use? (Best: mild, non-bleach, designed for silk)

Silk is a protein fiber and reacts to alkaline detergents. They tend to make silk rough, lose its shine and it can cause the fabric to break down quickly.

Another issue could be that your water has a lot of calcium carbonate, which can remain in the silk fiber. To help this rinse the silk in water with a dash of vinegar.
You can roll the pillow case in a towel to absorb water. Iron on a low setting when slightly wet.
posted by travelwithcats at 1:39 PM on May 6, 2012 [5 favorites]

iron it , it always makes a huge difference for silk. Iron gently , on "silk" (non hot ) setting. Please don't use drier : silk does not like rubbing .
posted by Oli D. at 1:41 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yup, you need a little vinegar in the rinse. For really soft silk, I wash with gentle human shampoo, add a tiny bit of vinegar and hair conditioner to the first rinse, then clear water for the second rinse. Another trick is to gently beat/shake the silk out as it dries, while it's not soaking but still damp.
posted by slow graffiti at 2:18 PM on May 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

I put silk things in the dryer on the no-heat setting for about 10 minutes to prevent this.
posted by desuetude at 8:28 PM on May 6, 2012

Don't put it in the dryer.

Do get it damp and then iron it – you can use a high steam setting on your iron, or just spritz it (evenly, lightly) before ironing. Silky softness will return.

In the future, let it air dry until it's just slightly damp, and then iron it. (I do this all the time for my silk items.)
posted by fraula at 4:39 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I second/third ironing damp.

Funny story, my mom used to put damp silk shirts in zipper bags in the fridge until she was ready to iron them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:27 AM on May 7, 2012

Silk is incredibly strong when dry, but very delicate when wet. As a dyer, I avoid doing much to silk until it is completely dry.

And then, I beat the snot out of it. Really. If you have rounded edges on your kitchen counters, just roll the thing up lengthwise and thwack it smartly against the rounded edge a few times. Reverse the end you have a grip on, do it again. If your counters are not suitable, use the edge of your bathtub. Softness will magically return.

Don't use fabric softeners or soaps; a neutral pH detergent is best. Myself, I use livestock wash (Orvus paste). You can find it online and in shops that cater to quilters, where they will shamelessly and brazenly overcharge you for the privilege of buying less than a gallon at a time.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 1:22 PM on May 7, 2012

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