This post was most recently updated on June 8th, 2021
Silk sheets are the epitome of luxury when it comes to bedding. Real silk (not satin) are a true experience – albeit an experience that comes with a hefty price tag.
Silk sheets often cost hundreds more than their cotton counterparts – and for good reason. They’re “silky” smooth, don’t wrinkle, have a vibrant hue, and feel cool – even during the warmer months.
Whereas synthetic materials might be smooth – but not cool, and cotton sheets can stay relatively cool – but not necessarily smooth, silk sheets are the best of both worlds.
But the ultimate luxury comes with a price.
Naturally, you’ll want to take good care of your silk sheets. Silk sheets are an investment, and one to be looked after. But what is the best way?
Read the tags
If you shove them into the washer like regular sheets, and then into the dryer, silk sheets might only last a few cycles. Chances are, they might not even survive the first one.
Before you start, read the tags. They’ll either mention “machine wash”, “hand wash” or “dry clean”. With the method below for hand washing, you can use it regardless of what the tag says, but take them to a dry cleaner if you’re too squeamish. Conversely, if the sheets say hand wash, you can also take them to a dry cleaner.
Machine or hand wash
While instructions will vary from one manufacturer to the next, most silk sheets today are designed to be machine washed in cold water using your machine’s delicate cycle. Some tags will call for hand washing. Either way, you should hand wash for the first few cycles to soften the fibers and prevent future breakage. Your silk sheets will definitely benefit from a “break-in” period.
Traditional laundry detergents and bleaches are just too strong for silk. They make the silk fibers brittle – and cause them to shatter. If your silk sheets crumble and turn into a powder when you rub them – they’ve been mishandled too many times.
Instead, use a silk-safe detergent like Delicate Wash detergent from Laundress.
Delicate wash is ideal for delicate items like silk sheets, lingerie, lacy items, hosiery, and is generally safe for anything labeled as “dry clean”. You’ll need about 2 capfuls for a hand wash – so each bottle contains enough for about 30 washes or so (when hand-washing).
Silk sheet handwashing directions:
1.) Add enough cool water to immerse your sheets completely.
2.) Add two capfuls of detergent, and mix. Let soak for up to, but not longer than 30 minutes.
3.) After the soak, submerge the sheets into the soapy water, and swish the sheets around. It might be easiest to handle each sheet individually. Avoid stretching them, or handling too roughly.
4.) Gently squeeze them to drain excess soapy water – don’t wring them like a towel!
5.) Switch out the soapy water with fresh clean cool water. Submerge the sheets and swish around again until soap is removed.
6.) Gently squeeze the sheets again, or gently shake to drain the water – gently!
If you’d prefer to use the machine washer, soak the sheets as mentioned above, using 4 capfuls of the detergent. Use your machine’s cold water and delicate cycle settings.
Now that the sheets have been gently washed, it’s time for them to dry!
Drying silk sheets
Silk sheets don’t like heat – of any kind. We used cold water to wash them, and now we need to let them air dry.
DO NOT put silk sheets in your dryer.
Just like harsh chemicals, heat can also make the silk fibers brittle, and prone to shattering. For home care, it’s best to let them air dry.
You just have to do it the right way. Drying outside is not a good idea for several reasons:
- Sunlight causes heat
- Your sheets could be exposed to bugs (more on this later)
- Sunlight fades colors
Any room in the house will do – I use my garage, as the floor is concrete, and there are no windows to let sunlight inside. You can use any room in the house with sufficient space; you just might have to place some towels underneath to catch the drip off.
Sheets are naturally much larger than clothing, and will take much longer to sufficiently dry. Plan ahead, this isn’t something to do an hour before you go to bed (unless you have another clean set ready).
Plan on a minimum of 8 hours (depending on the temperature inside), and maybe up to 12. Facing a rotating fan at the sheets will speed things up a bit.
One final note about post-wash care: DO NOT IRON SILK SHEETS!
Dry cleaning silk sheets
If the thought of washing your sheets sounds like a lot of work (really, it’s not that bad), then take them to your local dry cleaner.
They’ll know how to properly wash, and dry your sheets – just make sure to tell them beforehand that they’re silk.
Most dry clean centers will know just by looking, but you never know!
Storing silk sheets
Now that your silk sheets are clean and dry, let’s talk about storage.
Assuming you rotate your sheet sets (one set on the bed, one in the dryer), that will usually leave one or more sheet sets sitting in your closet.
While you can’t control what happens when the sheets are on your bed – you can dictate what happens when they’re sitting in the closet.
Silk sheets are relatively thinner compared to cotton sheets – so it doesn’t take much for moths or carpet beetles to eat multiple holes through them. Bugs love natural fiber – which means they love silk.
The truth is, moths and beetles don’t actually eat your sheets, clothing, etc. They bury their eggs in them. Once these eggs hatch and turn into larvae, the larvae are what feeds on the fabric.
So, let’s protect your expensive sheets as much as we can.
After your sheets have completely dried – when in storage, place the sheets into a sealable plastic storage bag. They don’t have to be vacuum-sealed, so long as they are sealed shut. This should keep bugs like carpet beetles, moths, or silverfish from getting in.
To sum up, we’ve washed and dried your silk sheets, and protected them from harmful bugs. Is there anything else to consider?
Yes, thank you for asking!
For most people, silk is the most delicate material they will come across. Silk is vulnerable to:
- Fiber eating bugs
- Harsh chemicals
We’ve covered those four elements above, but there are still a few more things you can do (or not do) to keep your silk sheets looking their best:
Cosmetics – remove any and all cosmetics before getting into bed. Alcohol, and hairspray especially can damage silk fibers.
Thread count – Avoid silk sheet sets that promote a high thread count. Thread count is for cotton. Silk fabrics use a momme weight as their unit of measure. Look for silk sets that mention the momme weight. A momme weight of 19mm is generally a standard for good silk fabric – kind of how 200 thread count is a good standard for cotton sheets.
Type of silk – In addition to the weight, look for a description of what type of silk the sheets are made of, such as Mulberry, Charmeuse, Chiffon, etc. This along with the momme weight is a sign of a good quality silk sheet set.