Considering silk can be a very expensive fabric, there are few things more annoying than dropping food or drink down your favourite silk top.
When you factor in the potential risks of washing silk, you’re faced with a bit of a challenge.
Provided you plan and test your approach, getting a stain out of silk doesn’t need to be difficult.
Below, you’ll discover a few viable options for getting a stain out of silk.
Is It Easy to Get Stains Out of Silk?
Getting stains out of silk isn’t as easy as, say, cotton or polyester. This is because silk is a natural fibre but is also far more delicate than cotton.
By extension, dyed silk might not be as colourfast, and it might even be dry clean only.
Then there’s the nature of the stain. Things like tomato, red wine and curry can be very challenging to remove on all types of fabric, whereas coffee and grass can be slightly easier.
How to Remove Stains from Silk
If you’re using at-home products to remove a stain from silk, you’ll want to start with any of the following:
Try vinegar or lemon juice first, as the mild acid should work on most minor stains.
Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) provides abrasion, which can help remove stains. However, don’t scrub too hard because you’ll damage the fibres. Also, don’t mix it with vinegar or lemon juice, as you’ll create a chemical reaction and make it fizz up.
Here are the general steps to getting a stain out of silk:
- Mix lemon juice or vinegar in equal parts with warm water.
- Before applying this to the clothing, dab the stain with a clean paper towel to absorb as much as possible.
- Using a sponge or colourfast cloth, dab the stain on the silk garment.
- Finally, wash the clothing according to its instructions.
How to Remove Old Stains from Silk
Once a stain has dried on any clothing, it’s more difficult to remove. Unsurprisingly, this is especially true for silk because there’s far less you can do to treat the fabric.
To remove a dried stain from silk, first try the vinegar method above. If that doesn’t work, and the garment is colourfast, try dabbing on neat vinegar and washing as normal.
If that doesn’t work, your next step should be taking it to a professional dry cleaner.
Silk Stain Removal Tips
Although the basic steps for removing stains from silk are easy, you’ll want to consider these tips before getting started.
1. Act quickly
As you’ll know if you’ve ever tried to remove a stain before, quick action is best. Where possible, aim to treat the stain as soon as it happens. Of course, this isn’t always an option.
If you’re away from your washing machine when you stain your silk, dab it with water.
You’ll want to essentially dilute the stain and prevent it from settling as much as possible. Ideally, keep it wet until you can treat it.
2. Do a colour test
Before using any cleaning product on your silk clothing, do a colour test on an inconspicuous area. The best place to try is on the inside of a hem where the material doubles over. You do this to ensure you won’t strip the colour from the silk trying to remove the stain.
3. Don’t rub the stain
When trying to remove the stain, don’t rub it. Rubbing stains can drive them deeper into the fabric and will damage the silk fibres.
Silk is very delicate and any excessive rubbing will stretch the fabric. Always blot or dab stains.
4. Don’t use stain remover
Sure, stain remover sounds like it’d be the perfect tool for the job. But considering stain removers can damage cotton if not used properly, you’ll want to keep them well away from silk. At best, you’ll strip the colour. At worst, you’ll cause irreparable damage.
Hand Washing vs. Machine Washing When Treating Silk Stains
Most silk items can be machine washed on a delicate or silk cycle. If the washing instructions say you can use a machine, go ahead. However, there are benefits to hand washing when it comes to stain removal.
First, you can soak the garment for a while before washing. When trying to remove the stain, you can rub it with a cloth, which will be more abrasive than washing in a machine, but shouldn’t be harsh enough to damage the fabric.
Of course, you’ll want to do what the washing instructions recommend. If machine washing, don’t put anything else in the machine, and consider putting the item in a mesh wash bag if you have one.
If the stain hasn’t come out after a treatment and wash, try repeating the process. You’ll want to do this while the clothing is still wet, as drying it could set the stain.
However, make sure you’re gentle with the fabric, as too much washing could damage the fibres. Try hand washing if you plan to do it more than once.
Silk Stain Removal at the Dry Cleaners
After trying white vinegar or lemon juice to remove your silk stain, the next best option is to go to a dry cleaners.
Generally, dry cleaning is far more successful for removing stains from any clothing thanks to the process it uses. This isn’t a guarantee it’ll work, but it’ll have a higher chance than vinegar.
Pretty much all natural fabrics can be dry-cleaned, but speak to a professional before handing them your stained silk clothing. If nothing else, they’ll be able to tell you whether it’s worth trying.
Final Thoughts on Silk Stain Removal
Provided the stain you’re dealing with isn’t too bad, a bit of white vinegar should remove it.
Working with silk is more difficult than with other fabrics because it’s so gentle. But, as long as you’re just as gentle, you should be able to dab that stain straight out.
Of course, if your stain-removal efforts fail, you could always bleach-dye your silk clothing to breathe some new life into it!
Jacob is a freelance writer based in Wales, where he lives with his partner and two dogs. All his work is fuelled by extensive research and buckets of coffee.