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How to wash silk pillowcases (the right way)

There’s no denying that silk is special. Its delicate fibres are breathable, lush and delightfully soft to touch. And sliding over for a snuggle on a warm night? Unbeatable. If you care for your silk properly, it’ll stay as vibrant and smooth as that first silky night. Don’t worry, it’s simple. Use this step-by-step guide to learn how to wash silk pillowcases and keep your new favourites in their very best shape. You’ll enjoy the benefits of sleeping on silk for many years. Let’s jump right in.

How to wash silk pillowcases

While you do need to get it right, washing your silk pillowcase is pretty simple. It’s just four easy steps:

  1. Check your pillowcase for damage or wear.
  2. Hand wash with silk-safe detergent and cool water, or wash on a gentle cycle in the machine.
  3. Hang to air dry, or use the ‘air only’ setting in the tumble dryer.
  4. Iron on the lowest heat setting with circular motions, using light touch and pressing cloth.

Now let’s go through those in more detail.

Before you start

What you need to do before you start:

  • Inspect for rips, tears, or any signs of damage.
  • Put your silk pillowcase inside a laundry wash bag and into the machine.
  • Select a delicate cycle with cold water up to 30°C. 
  • Select the appropriate silk-safe detergent.

Before you think about how to wash your silk pillowcase, it’s important to check for any rips, tears, or signs of damage. If you’re unsure, err on the side of caution and go with a gentle hand wash, inspecting as you go. Doing this can be slow work, but may help prevent further damage to the item.

Next, you’ll want to select the appropriate water temperature. It’s safe to wash your pillowcases in water up to 30°C (86 °F).

It’s important to avoid higher temperatures than this because they can damage the delicate fibres of the silk. If your pillowcases are starting to age or have some delicate features, cold water will always be best. Don’t forget to check the care label for a specific temperature recommendation.

Finally, you need to choose the right detergent. Different fabric types require different detergents, and silk is no exception. To wash a silk pillowcase, use a mild, non-alkaline detergent. Harsh chemicals can damage the fabric.

You can use a gentle laundry detergent that’s specially formulated for delicate fabrics. But the safest option is to use a specialised silk wash or a wool wash. Using a silk wash won’t cause damage to those delicate silk fibres that feel so good to sleep on.

Modern silk detergents are also safe for use on a variety of different colours and types of silk. They’ll help you keep your colours vibrant.

Now that you’ve got the right detergent, let’s go through how to use it properly.

Wash the pillowcase

How to hand wash silk pillowcases

• Fill a bucket or sink with cool, soapy water up to 30°C or 86°F.

• Soak your pillowcase for 15-30 minutes.

• Rinse in cold, clear water.

• Gently spot clean if needed.

Washing a silk pillowcase isn’t as hard or time-consuming as it might sound. It’s actually pretty simple and will keep it feeling and looking its best for years to come. All you need is some cool water, a gentle silk-safe detergent, and a few minutes of your time.

First, if you haven’t already, check your pillowcase for any signs of damage or wear and tear. You can use a gentle soap and cool water for the best result.

Next, fill a sink, bucket, or tub with cool, soapy water and soak your pillowcase for 15-30 minutes. Give it a gentle swirl, but be careful not to agitate it too much, as this can damage the delicate fibres.

After 15-30 minutes, give it a rinse in cold, clear water. Gently squeeze out the excess water, but never wring it out, as this can also damage the fibres.

Finally, lay the pillowcase flat to dry. Don't place it where it can be exposed to direct sunlight or strong winds, as this can cause the silk to lose its shine, fade in colour and develop pilling.

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Wash the pillowcase

How to wash your silk pillowcase in a machine

• Put the pillowcase inside a laundry wash bag.

• Place the wash bag into the washing machine.

• Add a silk-safe detergent.

•Set the cycle to gentle.

Washing your silk pillowcase in a washing machine is the fastest, easiest option. But you need to use the correct settings on your machine.

If your pillowcase isn’t showing any signs of damage or wear and tear, place it in the washing machine. Select the gentle cycle, making sure not to use any fabric softener. You can use a mesh laundry bag to really protect it.

Once the cycle is complete, it’s time to dry your pillowcase.

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Dry the pillowcase

Air drying your pillowcase

If you want to make sure your pillowcase is thoroughly dry and free of bacteria, then it's a good idea to hang it to air dry instead of using a dryer.

Air drying is a great way to keep your pillowcases in good condition, especially if they’re made of natural fibres like silk. Hanging your pillowcase to air dry will also help to reduce any wrinkling and shrinkage that may occur when using a dryer.

To air dry your silk pillowcase, simply hang it as flat as you can in a shaded, well-ventilated space. An air dryer indoors works well. Once it's completely dry, it's ready to go back on the bed.

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Using a tumble dryer

When you’ve taken care to wash your silk pillowcase properly, you should also try to air dry it if possible (to avoid the risk of overheating in a dryer). But if needed, you can use a tumble dryer too. Just make sure to select the no heat setting. Use a delicate cycle if available. As with air drying, keep an eye on the pillowcase and remove it from the dryer as soon as it is dry to reduce wrinkles.

Using a dryer sheet in the tumble dryer

If you want to use a dryer sheet to dry your silk pillowcase, select the delicate cycle and add a dryer sheet to the dryer. The dryer sheet will help keep the silk soft and reduce static. Keep an eye on the pillowcase and remove it from the dryer as soon as it is dry to reduce wrinkles.

Iron the pillowcase

Set the iron to the lowest heat setting

• Iron the pillowcase, preferably inside out

If you want a really smooth-looking silk pillowcase, ironing it is one way to make that happen. To get started, set the iron to the lowest heat setting and make sure all the steam settings are off.

• Turn the pillowcase inside out, place it on a flat ironing board and begin ironing, making sure to use a light touch. You can also use a pressing cloth to protect the fabric from the heat.

• Hold the iron with one hand and pull the fabric with the other to keep it taut. Move the iron in a circular motion as you iron the silk pillowcase. Remember to iron both sides and pay extra attention to any creases or wrinkles.

• Once the pillowcase is ironed, turn it over and place it on a hanger to air dry. Do not place it over a clothesline or other areas where it can be exposed to direct sunlight or strong winds.

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How to prevent discolouration and damage

When you wash a silk pillowcase, there are four main things to do to be sure it’ll stay vibrant and soft.

• Wash your silk pillowcases in a laundry wash bag.

• Avoid fabric softeners.

• Use colour-safe detergents.

• Store the pillowcase properly.

Washing your pillowcases regularly is an important part of keeping your bedding clean and hygienic. But frequent washing can age your pillowcases if you don’t take good care. So let’s look at these four tips more closely.

Place your pillowcases inside a laundry wash bag before you put them into the machine. This will reduce the chance of your pillowcase snagging or catching on other items during the wash cycle.

Avoid using fabric softeners when washing pillowcases as these can cause the fabrics to become too soft and damage the fibres.

Use colour-safe detergents when washing your pillowcases as these are designed to protect the colours from fading.

Once you’ve washed your pillowcases, make sure to store them properly. Place them in a drawer or closet away from direct sunlight, as this will help reduce the chance of fading. Store in a natural fibre storage bag for the best protection.

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Recap: how to wash silk pillowcases

• Check your silk pillowcase for damage before washing

• Hand wash with cool, soapy water and rinse.

Or, machine wash on a gentle cycle.

• Air dry on a hanger and avoid direct sunlight or strong winds.

Or, tumble dry on an air setting using a dryer sheet if desired.

• Iron inside out on low heat setting with a light touch.

Following these six simple steps will mean you get to enjoy those smooth, silky nights for many years to come. You invested in the best silk pillowcases – make sure they remain a statement piece.

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