How to Wash a Silk Top
‘Cause only an idiot would dry clean one.

As far as household chores go I think it would be safe to say that laundry is my least favourite.   It’s a little known fact that laundry was invented by Ivan the Terrible as a form of human torture.  We don’t even need to clean our clothes.   I’m almost positive this is true.  I’d bet my 6th favourite pair of jeans on it.

Regardless, laundry  is the never ending chore that involves far too many steps for my taste.  There’s the sorting, the washing, the drying, the sticking more in the washing machine, the running out of soap, the folding, the smashing it all into already over-stuffed drawers.  And repeat.  10 or 12 times.  Doing laundry makes me want to pull my own teeth out and scratch at my eyeballs with the jagged roots.

That is why when my fella first moved in with me I formulated a plan.  He is a boy, and thusly … very easy to trick.  About 2 weeks after he moved in I stopped doing laundry.  Entirely.  I didn’t mention it and I certainly didn’t ask him to do it.  I just dove head-first into a full-on, secret work stoppage.   The laundry mounted.  With a 6’4″ frame, he’s kindda big and has clothes to match, so with a few pairs of jeans a laundry hamper is almost full   Add in several pair of size 13 socks and we had a mountain of laundry in no time.  You know what happened next?

He did the laundry.  And promptly ruined my favourite red dress.

I sucked up the loss and let him continue to do the laundry, which he still does to this day.

I’m still responsible for the delicates and cashmere.  Which brings me to the reason for this post.  Even though I hate doing laundry, I hate paying someone else to do it even more.   So I’ve pretty much figured out what I can wash myself and what needs to go to the dry cleaners.  Wool winter coats and men’s dress shirts go to the dry cleaners.  Everything gets washed here.

That includes items that say “dry clean only”, like silk shirts.   And here’s how to do it ….

Washing Silk


How to wash a silk shirt in the washing machine. ‘Cause it works! Usually.

O.K. Why did I post this video showcasing my massive failure? Because doing anything else would be a lie and there’s enough lies on the Internet. And because every other time I have washed silk in the washing machine it’s turned out perfectly. In order to figure “stuff” out you have to be prepared for setbacks, failures and not getting it right 100% of the time. Right? right? Does anyone have a tooth root handy?


  1. I’ll immediately grasp your rss as I can not to find your email subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service.
    Do you have any? Please let me know so that I could subscribe.

  2. Roberta says:

    Wonderful! I needed some laughs this morning.

    I have a question for you all. How do I get underarm sweat stains out of my favorite silk shirt? I love it so and don’t want to throw it out. So many creative replies, I’m hoping for someone who knows.

    • Karen says:

      HI Roberta. Oooo I’m not sure about that one. And as you can see this time machine washing didn’t go very well, lol. I can tell you that Oxyclean is great for sweat stains as is a mixture of Hydrogen peroxide, water and Dawn dish detergent. But with silk I’d be a bit frightened. ~ karen!

  3. Janice says:

    I only came here cos my sister gave me a used coat that said dry clean only. As to the all comments about the vacuum, and ironing, my son came up with an idea. When he wants to get rid of wrinkles, he takes a damp towel and throws it in the dryer with the shirt/pants, and viola! No wrinkles. When I got him that As Seen On TV steam buddy (where you wet the sponge and insert into the football-shaped plastic thing), he used it once and tossed it; it doesn’t work. As a teen, my mom had me ironing pillow cases to ease the load of ironing a mountain of clothes every week. They were starched, too. Nowadays, the ol’ iron is retired, like me.

  4. June Tang says:

    Dry clean, hand wash, machine wash. Done it all. And then I tried dry cleaning sheets. At first, I used Dryel but got tired of fussing with the special bag and the stain/spot remover bottle. So, after doing a bit of research, I discovered Dry Cleaner’s Secret and – praise dee lord!!! – no more more hand washing and no more dry cleaning except when the item is very badly soiled or if its a winter coat. Just toss about 4 pieces of clothes plus 1 sheet into the dryer for 20 minutes and that’s it, you are done. In fact, I even cut the sheet in half and do two loads hehehe :)

  5. Traci says:

    Hi Karen! I wash everything together in cold water and damp dry. If it needs ironing, i take it to the cleaners for “press only”. I don’t own an iron, board, or steamer. It’s awesome and it was around $6 for 9 items.

  6. Kimmi says:

    So I have recently moved and while doing so, I found out my littlest shih tzu had been using the nook behind my buffet table as his personal emergency pee pad!!! I thought he seemed too perfect to be true. Anywho… my silk drapery panels seemed to soak up his misdeeds. So my question is, if I throw these in my wash, should I use regular wash detergent? I’m a Gain-a-holic. What do you think? Also I no longer have high vaulted ceilings, and I want to make the rooms look bigger by hanging the drapes about 3″ from the ceiling. I want to save some money (the move in itself financially depleated me, and was going to use my 84″ panels on my 8′ ceilings. Do you think this would look stupid???

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kimmi – Well … it depends on the windows, but I’m afraid curtains falling around 1′ from the floor might look a bit “off”. You can definitely get curtains for cheap at a LOT of places. And I mean really cheap. The drapery panels in my house all cost around $15 per pair from my local fabric store. If you look at the “My House” button on my righthand sidebar you’ll probably see them in some of the pictures. The other option is to add to the bottom of the panels you have right now to make them hit the floor, but it could end up looking crafty and home done unless you get the right fabric and colour. I”d go with looking for cheap panels in fabric stores or places like HomeGoods/Homesense. Oh! And use a detergent meant for natural fibres for your silk drapes if you can. And be prepared for spotting! I’ve never had a problem with it … until I tried to wash my top. :( ~ karen

  7. The Accomplished Woman says:

    Ah, you made me laugh so much with your video. Loved it!

  8. Lynda says:

    Still look for the gentle ‘homemade recipe for washing silk and wool’ you ‘promised’ back in May, 2010???

    • Karen says:

      O.K. So … my mother has that recipe. And she hasn’t dropped it off at my back door. So technically it’s her fault. Blame Betty. ~ karen

  9. Is it because it went in the machine on its own maybe? I wash all my 100% silk stuff all the time (love Mexx by the way (on sale though, it’s expensive!)), but I never wash things individually. Might just be a coincidence. Glad you rescued it anyway, it’s a beautiful top.

  10. Sherry (BTLover2) says:

    Hey Karen,
    Oh great Wizard… can you let me know when you’ve figured out how to “wash” men’s suits? My parents have owned a dry cleaners for 35 years and I’ve never had to pay for cleaning (spoiled, lucky me I know, but it would’ve been a dang shame if they charged their own daughter, right?). However, we now live halfway across the country and my hubby wears suits 9 months out of the year. The cost is ridiculous!!! I’d be happy to supply you a suit for research purposes.

  11. Laura says:

    You guys are missing something. There are two considerations to create washing instructions.

    The first is delicacy. Manufacturers assume that people will always go one less than what they advise. So if it should be hand washed, they advise dry cleaning. If it can be washed on gentle, they advise hand wash.

    The second is thread type. Silk, like synthetics, comes out in a single tight shiny thread that is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water. It gets cleaner in a chemical wash. Wool is like this too for different reasons. Wool looks like a fish skin under a microscope. It has scales, which is why it can be itchy. The scales also repel water.

    So yes, some silks can handle the agitation but dry clean it every now and then if you wear it a lot.

    • Tracy K says:

      I was going to comment on this as well. Another reason they will say DRY CLEAN ONLY is because there may be a mix of different materials (e.g. silk and lace) which do not clean or dry the same way and can cause the garment to become deformed.

  12. Jennifer says:

    You are hilarious. I love your blog and your videos. My new most favorite.

  13. HeidiRenee says:

    Thanks for the branch tip. On small drawer pulls I have used toothpicks – one on each side of the screw usually gives it enough grab to reset the screw.

  14. Nicole says:

    You are my new hero. Congratulations! So, so, so funny and lovely you are.

  15. Shannon S. says:

    Oh my godness this is the forst time I’ve ever been to this blog and also the first post I’ve read, After watching that video I am dying laughing! I’m pretty pumped to read more!

  16. susie says:

    Come now, it takes no time at all to handwash a silk shirt with a few drops of liquid soap. 30 minutes in the washer is too much agitation, I would think.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Susie! Clearly in this case everything went wrong! But in answer to your washing machine comment … I have always washed silk in the washing machine on the “hand wash” cycle. The point of the post wasn’t washing machine versus hand washing. It was washing machine versus dry cleaners. This is literally the only time things went wrong. I just wanted to show that even if things go right 99% of the time, things CAN go wrong occassionally. And you’re right, it doesn’t take much time handwash a silk top … but it’s time I don’t often have. If it can’t live through 30 minutes in my washing machine, I don’t want it. I WILL however, be posting a gentle, homemade recipe for washing silk and wool for those who are a little more forgiving than me! :)

      • Kailua Rodrigues says:


        Was looking to see about washing in my front load machine which has a hand wash facility and I came across your video, regarding hand wash versus machine wash machine washing delicate it better as when you wash by hand the wriggling out can spoil the garment whereas the machine will not damage the garment (that is a front load machine) I wash just about everything,n the machine and usually only buy clothes that you can machine wash, however these trousers I bought in Paris and couldn’t resist them but I want to try and wash them In the machine, they are cotton silk and polyurethane , wish me luck.

      • Karen says:

        Good luck Kailua! ~ karen

  17. Andrea says:

    I think it’s great to show the failed attempt.

    Your makeup is the perfect makeup and I was not making fun. (this time)

    LOVE FACEatelier – I thought that was Peach Glaze. Dang I know my makeup!

    Hair – me likey too. I’d request some slide cutting to break it up at the ends for movement, is all. Or blowdry with a vent/skeleton brush straight down. But that’s about preference and technique not necessarily meaning bad cut.

    (ps: walmsley = voldemort)


  18. Andrea says:

    OMG! I was so hopeful I would watch this and get inspiration to wash my Dry Clean Only in my machine (which FYI my schwanky machine has a ‘hand wash’ and ‘dry clean’ setting. You have inspired me…. to drive to the cleaners!

    You are brilliant! kinda sorts… well not really; but entertaining!!

    ps LOVE your haircut and LOVE your makeup…. do tell, KB: Who are you wearing?

    • Karen says:

      Hah! I hated to show this video because I SWEAR to you, every other time I’ve done this it has worked! My mother claims to have some secret silk/wool washing recipe so once I get it from her I’ll let cha know! I think you’re secretly making fun of my LACK of makeup. However, just for you … I am wearing Face Atelier foundation mixed with a little moisturizer. Also, Face Atelier Peach Glaze Powder Blush, Face Atelier Peach liquid, (which I LOOOOVVVEEE), Chanel Shimmering Tweed Highligher on cheeks, and an absolutely fantastic self sharpening eyeliner that I got at the drugstore “L’Oreal Infallible NeverFail Eyeliner in brown. The gloss is one of a million I have hidden into crevices around the entire house. Oh … and my beautiful silk top was Mexx. :( Feel free to make hair comments … it’s isn’t quite what I want yet, but I’m not sure what I want! Seems a big choppy to me. Lemme know … Andrea Claire Walmsley … International makeup artist extraordinaire!

  19. Langela says:

    Kate, are the clothes dry when you vacuum them? I have a Dyson and love it too. Maybe ironing clothes will suck in a whole new way now! Thanks for the tip.

    • Kate says:

      The clothes I Dysoned (shall we use this term for ironing with a Dyson?) were dry, Langela, but now you’ve given me something to think about. Try it and report back from the front, please.

      And you’re SO right — ironing does suck in totally new way now!!

  20. andrea says:

    OK this latest exchange between you and Kate gave me fits of laughter! Thank you both – I so needed it.

  21. Kate says:

    I (inadvertently) found out that you can use a Dyson vacuum cleaner to iron your clothes. It works GREAT! In case anyone with a Dyson (any model) wants to try this at home, lay an article of clothing over an ottoman (best) or on the bed or sofa and vacuum away using the little vacuum hand tool (not the brush). Sucks those wrinkles right out. I love my Dyson, and I don’t even like to vacuum.

    While I would never get out my vac expressly to iron, any time I happen to be vacuuming, I look around for a full basket of clean laundry. There’s usually one hanging around, with some pathetic crumpled shirt or three.

    • Karen says:

      Kate! That’s the strangest tip I’ve ever heard! It’s great. You can SUCK wrinkles out? I wish I had a Dyson to try it. I wonder if just putting my basket of laundry next to the television while the show Two and a Half Men is on. That show sucks so much it might do the trick! (My apologies of course if Two and a Half Men is your favourite show)

      • Kate says:

        Karen, OMG!!!

        Did Two and Half Men spawn a new show with an extra man?? Oh the horror!

        Back to the topic at hand, yes, you can suck those wrinkles right out. I will admit, in the spirit of enquiry, I did toss a shirt (one of the husband’s — sorry honey) on the floor and vacuumed it using the regular floor vac. BAD MOVE. You can seriously screw up a Dyson with a man’s shirt! Because a Dyson will try to vacuum up whatever it runs across, and believe me, it’s usually successful or will die in the attempt. Quick machine medic attention on my part kept my vac intact. The sound effects as it ingested the shirt were pretty ferocious. Small plastic buttons apparently make a Dyson scream.

        The only things that would be worse would be a Flokati rug or a Maine Coon cat. Fortunately, all our cats are shorthaired and have the good sense to run when they hear the Dyson roar into action.

      • Karen says:

        Hah! I’m an idiot! See? That’s how bad the show is. I hate it without even knowing the name of it. (I have since changed my previous comment from “Three and a Half Men” to “Two and a half Men”. me = dumb dumb

      • Kate says:

        Karen, when I first read your reply, I wondered whether there was an even worse version of 2-1/2 shopped around at a discount to other broadcasting systems!

  22. Andrea says:

    Karen, Karen, Karen! That was funny – but you can wash silk, BUT it has to be by hand – that means BY HAND. Last time I checked none of the washing machines here in the States have grown arms or hands that can gently massage your silks clean. Maybe you Canadians have magic machines… Second, if you used any fabric softener in the machine previously or with the said silk garment you will have instant spotting – so if you must use the machine wipe it down, don’t use softener. Sometimes ironing the item when it is almost dry also helps with the odd wrinkles. OR just take the darn thing to the dry cleaner and save yourself the trouble.

    • Karen says:

      Hey Andrea! I didn’t use fabric softener, but that’s a really good tip about wiping down the machine. We do have magic machines! My washing machine actually does have a handwash setting that has always worked great on handwashables. And I swear, I’ve done this a hundred times and it’s worked. Blech. Not this time tho. Obviously! :)

  23. Anj says:

    I will only buy myself, my husband and my son low maintenance clothes. My daughter’s clothes however I get sucked in to pretty and flouncy and PLEATS! I think pleats were designed to keep women toeing the domestic line and not able to have careers outside of the home.
    To enter our home the biggest maintenance a piece of clothing can need is to have to hang it after the wash instead of putting in the dryer. If it is a type of clothing that will need ironing, it better be inexpensive because we will basically be wearing it once or twice. Once it enters the ironing pile it won’t be seen again for about 6 months. I only iron twice a year, yet the ironing board stays set up right in the Master bedroom. We even hung the painting on that wall setting it to complement the height of the ironing board.

    • Karen says:

      Hah! Pleats. Yeah, they’re a pain. You know what’s great though?? A steamer. I use my steamer all the time. It takes up a big hunk of space, but it’s great for ironing really hard to iron things like lightweight sweaters or um … silk. :(

    • Langela says:

      Funny, we have the same master bedroom design as you. Or did. We got a new bed this week and braved a new look, without the ironing board. At least until I need to pile ironing stuff somewhere again.

      And Karen, I used my steamer yesterday in an attempt to get my windows smear-free. It clouded up in the evening, so I don’t know how it worked yet. But my kids already have handprints all over it.!

  24. Langela says:

    I’m with you. I wash everything in the washer. In fact, I have never been to the dry cleaner. I figure it’s still cheaper to buy a new shirt everytime I ruin one than to pay a dry cleaner to keep cleaning them. Plus I get a new shirt! Actually, laundry is handled like my gardening. If it needs coddling, I don’t need it in my life. My mom waters her plants constantly, fetilizes them, coddles them. Then she wants me to do mine that way. I don’t think so. I am not a high-maintainance kinda girl. If they can’t be beautiful on their own, they don’t deserve to be in my gardens. If my laundry can’t all be thrown in the washer together (I also hate doing laundry), then I don’t need that particular piece of clothing. I can actually never remember any clothing I have ruined except one of my girl’s dresses. It was machine washable, too! Oh, well.

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