Dressing up to go out for women often involves reaching for outfits made of finer materials such as silk. Even simple designs become luxurious fashion statements when this fabric is used.

Although silk looks and acts strong in many regards, this beautiful fabric can easily be damaged if it is incorrectly cleaned. Here’s what you need to know.

Preferred by Designers

Spun from natural and organic fibers, garments made of silk are usually easy to recognize—even when placed against synthetic competition. There’s a subtle sheen and smooth texture to silk that makes it unmistakable.

Silk is light and breathable, so it drapes well without being too clingy. Designers prefer to use it for garments that are meant to subtly display the wearer’s physique. For such a sheer fabric, silk is extremely durable and strong. A well cared for silk garment can be counted on to last for many years.

Silk fibers also have a deep capacity for taking dyes, which is why you’ll often see garments made of this material in vibrant prints and colors. The dye can be counted on to stay embedded in the fiber—as long as the garment is properly cleaned.

Careful of Heat

Silk is such a strong and durable material that it used to be the preferred material for making parachutes. It was light, strong, and easy to fold and pack. Silk was replaced by nylon during the World War 2, but only because the supply was greatly diminished.

Even with this pedigree of durability, it’s important to remember that you can easily damage silk. Any excessive source of high heat is bad news for silk material. While it is possible to clean silk garments at home, it’s not recommended. Here’s why:

  • If you make the mistake of using any temperature higher than warm water, you’ll likely cause vibrant colors to fade, and light colors to yellow or turn brown. Hot water can actually cause extreme damage.
  • The most damaging high heat source tends to come from direct ironing. So, if you do try to care for your silk garments at home and the result is wrinkles, you’re courting disaster if you reach for the iron—even on low temperatures. And yes, heed this warning regardless of whether your iron actually has a “silk” setting.
  • Women love to wear silk because of its sheen and luster—but those two characteristics also make for beautiful window treatments. Unfortunately, direct sunlight over a period of time is damaging to silk. It’s why most silk window treatments are heavily treated with protecting films, or the silk material is a backing.

A silk blouse or skirt is an investment worth having professionally cleaned. Some silk garments are made with a blend of fibers, but excessive heat or sunlight can still cause damage. Play it safe and take any silk garment to a professional laundry and dry cleaning service. Keep these garments dry and cool, stored in a closet when you’re not wearing them for a night on the town.