How to Hand Wash Silk (and Everything Else)

How to save money by hand washing your clothing.

‘Dry Clean Only!’ screams the tag, so you put the item back because you just can’t afford to pay for dry cleaning. Of course, you might ponder…”How did the Chinese wash silk back in the Day?”

The reason manufacturers warn one not to wash an item is the same reason this computer has a warning that the back should not be opened. A techie, called to repair the computer has no problem in disobeying that warning. And someone who knows how to wash silk doesn’t even glance at the tag. If you follow these steps you can pretty much handwash anything.

Firstly, you need a lot of clean cold water.  Water, plain water removes a lot of dirt.  Often, just running an itme under clean water removes the grime. Second of all, you need a nice mild detergent; buy the kind for delicates or baby clothes. I am going to use a pure silk blouse as the example of how to wash. Turn the blouse inside out and button it. Now hold the blouse by the shoulders and dip into a bucket of cold water a few times quickly, then a few times not so quickly. Keep going until the water is not so clean any more. Use that water to flush a toilet, wash a car, whatever. Catch another bucket of cold water and repeat until that water is also cloudy.

It is the plain water which removes much dirt, the agitation which forces the water into the garment where it removes the dirt. Hence much of the washing is done simply by the pure water.

Fill another bucket, add your delicate detergent, just a little and agitate the water until it is soapy. Dip the blouse in the same way you did with the plain water. Holding it by the shoulders, in and out, in and out, quickly, This agitation will dislodge remaining soil on the blouse. While the blouse is soapy, check the collar, the cuffs, any part which still shows soil. Put a little detergent on the spot, and rub it with a finger. This should dislodge that dirt. Dip it a few more times, then discard the water, catch clean water, and dip it until the water is soapy. Discard that water, catch another bucket. Keep going until the water is clean.

The “discarded” water can be used to soak other items of clothing,, water the garden, wash the bathroom, the floors, whatever. You don’t need to waste that water. You just can’t drink it, or use it to wash delicates.

Now your blouse is clean hang it, buttoned, inside out, on a hanger, not in the sun. If you can’t hang it outside, make sure the room it is hanging in has a fresh smell, open the window or use something to freshen the air so that it doesn’t dry smelling like eau de bathroom.

Carefully, while it is hanging, smooth it. Take a sleeve and put your hand inside of it, all the way up, to prevent it from drying stuck together. Separate the front and back with your hand, smoothing as you go. Fold the collar as you wish it to be, the cuffs, and every so often swirl it around on the hanger making sure there is lots of air getting to the insides.

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Published in: Homemaking


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  1. “Now your blouse is clean hang it, buttoned, inside out, on a hanger, not in the sun”

    Is that correct? Do you also dry it inside out? Wouldn’t it dry “funny” and how could you fold the collar and cuffs if it is inside out?

  2. you put it on the hanger inside out. Your fold it as if it is outside out…the crease is perfect.

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