How to Wash Silk Pillowcases

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Fact: Silk pillowcases are dreamy. In case you missed it, the material actually gives new meaning to the phrase ‘beauty rest,’ namely because it boosts both skin and hair hydration. The reason for this is that silk pillowcases tend not to absorb oil in the way that cotton does, which means more product stays where it’s intended to, as opposed to becoming an oil stain that invites bacteria to the very place you rest your head. (Tip: Side sleepers who break out on the cheek they smoosh into their pillow on a nightly basis might benefit from silk.) Indeed, silk pillowcases are a luxury that’s well worth the investment...the only drawback is that they’re rather delicate. So if you’re wondering how to wash silk pillowcases, you’ll be relieved to know it’s actually not as hard as you think, especially with our handy guide to see you through.

Can you wash 100 percent silk?

If you’re concerned that owning a silk pillowcase means an expensive dry cleaning bill, we’re here to put your worries to bed (pun intended). The fact is that even items of pure silk can safely be washed in your own abode—provided you do it by hand and use a proper detergent.

What detergent is safe for silk?

Not every detergent treats items with the tenderness they deserve, which is why there are delicate laundry detergents designed specifically for things like, well, silk pillowcases. In fact, it’s paramount that you pick a mild soap for washing silk, lest you turn the smooth material into something more abrasive than you bargained for. Per the experts at the Laundress, it’s also important to keep in mind that dyed silk has a tendency to bleed upon first wash—so it’s best to soak solid-colored silk pillowcases on their own and test patterned silk in detergent-free, lukewarm water before you proceed. If you follow that advice, any gentle detergent will do, be it Woolite or a fancier delicate wash.

What you’ll need to hand wash a silk pillowcase

  • Stain treating solution (optional)
  • Gentle detergent (as described above)
  • Wash basin
  • Drying rack

How to hand wash a silk pillowcase

Now that you have all the necessary material on hand, the process should be a breeze. Here’s the safest and most effective way to handwash silk pillowcases, courtesy of Hannah Yokoji, brand director for the Laundress.

  1. Pre-treat stains
    Don’t despair if some unsightly oil blotches or a slosh of red wine have soiled your silk pillowcase—you can take care of the problem with a spot treatment solution of your choice, provided the instructions say that it’s safe for use on silk.

  2. Soak the pillowcases
    Next, fill a wash basin with warm (not hot) water and a small amount of gentle detergent, mixing the water to distribute. Submerge the pillowcases in the bath and let them soak for up to 30 minutes.

  3. Drain
    Drain the wash basin and then do the same for the pillowcases by gently pressing them between your hands to remove the excess water.

How to wash silk pillowcases in the washing machine

Silk can, in fact, be put in the washing machine. However, this method does not come highly recommended—particularly not for items (like pillowcases) that require regular washing as Yokoji tells us that the delicate material can easily catch and tear while tumbling in the machine. That said, if you must wash your silk pillowcases in the washing machine, some methods are better than others.

  1. Bag the pillowcases
    Those mesh bags exist for the express purpose of keeping certain items safe, and silk pillowcases definitely fit the profile. As an extra precaution, it’s best to turn the pillowcases inside out before you bag ‘em.

  2. Add detergent
    Add a gentle detergent—the kind intended for delicates—to the machine.

  3. Start the wash
    Before you start the wash, be sure that your machine is set to run a delicate cycle with cool water and a low spin. When the cycle is complete, remove the garment...but definitely do not put it in the dryer.

How to dry silk pillowcases

Silk is best left to air-dry at its own speed—so do not rush the drying process, friends. Instead, Yokoji recommends laying the pillowcases out over a drying rack in a way that best maintains their natural shape. You’re welcome to use gentle steam to tackle any creases that might be present upon drying.

How often should you wash a silk pillowcase?

Silk is no different than any other type of bedding when it comes to how often it should be washed. In other words, it’s a good idea to wash your silk pillowcases once a week...but at the end of the day, you do you.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...