Silk, and its cheaper manmade alternative, rayon, are two materials that have long been admired for their smoothness and softness.
To Wash or Dry Clean?
Silk and rayon respond well to dry cleaning, however, the dyes and finishes in the fabrics may not. To protect your item, a spot test should be performed prior to cleaning by you or your professional dry cleaner. On the other hand, if you choose to wash your garment, ensure that water used during the process does not damage sizing and dyes, as they may be water-sensitive.
Washable Silk and Rayon
In recent times, manufacturers have created silk and rayon garments that are labeled Washable, but beware. While dry cleaning is not suitable for these types of garments, the dyes, especially darker ones, may not withstand exposure to water, bleeding during the cleaning process. Transfer of these dyes may also occur, discolouring other items that are being washed at the same time. Even if the label says Washable, test for colourfastness prior to washing and keep the washing cycle very short, following with rapid rinsing and drying. Do not soak for long periods of time.
If you choose to get these types of garments professionally cleaned, they should be cleaned following the care label instructions.
Frequently, the sizing or finish applied to silk and rayon by the manufacturer discolours when exposed to moisture, whether from perspiration, food, rain or etc. If a garment is badly stained by moisture, it could be extremely difficult to correct this shading if it is labeled Dry Clean. Instances of bad discolouration may require a short wet cleaning process, but only with the consent of the garment owner.
Many dyes and sizings are extremely sensitive to moisture. As a result, stains treated at home should not be removed with water unless the garment has been tested for colourfastness. Wet an unexposed seam and blot with a white cloth. Do not rub while wet since it can cause damage or distortion. Then, let the area air dry and examine it. If it doesn't look faded, distorted or any different from the rest of the garment, then it is safe to treat the stain with water.
Other stains, such as those from oily substances, can be more easily removed by fluids used during the dry cleaning process. To help your dry cleaner restore the beauty of your silk or rayon garment, point out all stains and let them know what the offending substance is. You can also let them know if the garment has been damaged by failed spot tests.
And remember: never use chlorine bleach. It will permanently damage silk.
Perspiration Stains on Silk and Rayon
It is the salt and acid (which turns to alkaline when exposed to the atmosphere) in perspiration that damages fabrics, including silk. Colour changes and fibre disintegration may occur with repeated exposure to perspiration, therefore these types of stains should be removed as soon as possible. Perspiration shields can be used for individuals who perspire heavily.
Alcohol can cause some dyes to bleed or change colour. Avoid contact with substances like perfume, toothpaste deodorant, and hairspray while wet. Brighter colours may fade from extended periods of light exposure, therefore always store garments in a dark closet. Blue and green dyes on silk are particularly sensitive.
If colour changes occur, seek the assistance of your professional cleaner as soon as possible. They may be able to restore the colour if there is no severe damage.