[DISCLAIMER: While I've done some research on this topic through reading blogs, magazine articles, and watching YouTube videos, I am by no means an expert and am simply sharing a method that has been successful for me.]
Today I'll be showing you how I hand wash my silk and other delicate clothing items. I just found this amazing Orla Kiely silk dress from a consignment shop for just under $20, so I figured I'd show you how I clean these clothing items at home instead of taking them to the dry cleaner.
Here is the dress before hand washing. Again, it was from a consignment shop so it was pre-worn and definitely needed some cleaning.
First of all, this dress is a silk/cotton blend, but I've successfully used this same method for 100% silk items, wool, and cashmere.
Notice it says "do not wash" and to "dry clean only." I'm going to show you how you can, in fact, wash items like these and avoid taking a trip to the dry cleaners.
First, you will need vinegar, Woolite (or some mild detergent), a large bowl or sink, and an iron (for later).
Fill up your bowl with cold water, about 3/4 cups of vinegar (which helps neutralize odors), and a few drops of Woolite.
Swirl the water around with your hands to create some bubbles.
Submerge your garment.
And swirl around gently to release any dirt. You do not need to do this vigorously. Remember, you're working with a delicate fabric so you want to be as gentle as possible. Leave your garment in the water for 10 minutes.
You may notice the water change color. This is either from the dirt being released or it could possibly be some dye, but don't worry! If it's a good quality piece of clothing, the colors will not run or fade and will still look good as new once finished.
After the time is up, take your garment out of the water and squeeze into a ball, continuing to squeeze as much water out as you can. Do not wring - squeezing is more gentle on the garment.
Refill the bowl with just water (no vinegar or detergent) and submerge your item once again. Swirl around for a few seconds to release any remaining detergent. Take it out and squeeze excess water again.
Lay your garment on a towel and reshape it.
Begin rolling the towel on one end.
Continue to roll while squeezing the towel as you go. This will help absorb excess water.
Roll until the garment is completely wrapped and give the towel a good squeeze to absorb any remaining excess water. Hang your garment in a dry area away from sunlight for about ten minutes.
Now, set your iron to the higher end of the wool/silk setting.
You'll want to iron your garment while it's still wet. YES, wet. I know that sounds super scary because it seems like you'll damage the silk, but this is actually a pretty important step in the process. If you wait for your garment to dry, the wrinkles will set and will be a lot more difficult to iron out. So ironing while wet will do two things - 1) dry the garment and 2) remove wrinkles at the same time. (Please note, if you're using this method for wool or cashmere, skip this step. Do not iron, but instead reshape the garment and lay flat to dry.)
Make sure to iron on the reverse side. It might take a few passes to get the garment completely dry and smooth, and that's ok. Here you can see on the left the dry smooth side, while on the right the dress is still wet and wrinkled. Continue to iron until your garment is dry.
And now you're finished!
As you can see, the dress looks brand new, clean, and smooth. The silk is not damaged and the colors have not faded or bled.
I have used this method many times over the years, and my clothes come out looking brand new each time. It does save me quite a bit of money on dry cleaning, BUT it is time-consuming. This whole process took me about half an hour. So you do have to set aside time if you have several pieces you want to wash, but in the end, I think it's worth it because you're saving money and your clothes come out looking fresh and conditioned from the water/Woolite mixture.
Please feel free to leave me any questions in the comments below. I hope this article helped, and if you do end up giving this method a try, please let me know how it worked out :) Good luck!