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How Do I Iron Silk?

Silk cocoons, which can be used to make fabric. Silk is a protein, and it can easily be damaged by heat.
Silk fabric.
The bottom of an iron.
An iron.
Silk ties can be hung up near a hot shower to get out wrinkles.
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  • Written By: Ron Marr
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2014
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The best way to iron silk is to not iron silk. That sounds like an obvious contradiction, but this most delicate of fabrics is incredibly sensitive to heat, light, water, and chemicals. Silk wrinkles easily, and if it is stained or spotted, it is likely that the marks will never be successfully removed.

One of the primary reasons for silk’s fragility is that the material is created from protein fiber. The raw materials of the very finest versions are harvested from the cocoons of the mulberry silkworm. The tiny, gossamer threads of the cocoons are woven into threads, which are in turn transformed into textiles. The Chinese developed this process well over 5,000 years ago, and for many centuries the method of creating silk were a closely guarded secret. As legend has it, revealing the secrets of silk making was punishable by death.

While such a fate is no longer the case, no doubt a source of comfort to silk manufacturers the world over, silk still requires far more care than any other fabric. Rather than making an effort to iron silk, a far better solution is to lightly steam it. In most cases, steaming will reduce wrinkles, and eliminate the possibility of burning, shrinking, stretching, or melting the fabric.

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A small, hand-steamer works well in removing wrinkles from silk. As another option, while taking a hot shower, one can hang silk suits, ties, dresses, shirts, sheets, or even drapes in the bathroom. This method should also cause wrinkles to vanish. One choice a person should avoid is the urge to take silk fabrics to a dry cleaner. The solvents used my most commercial dry cleaners will play havoc with silk’s delicate composition.

If you feels that you must absolutely iron silk, there are a couple of methods that sometimes work. It should be noted, however, that these are far from foolproof. The owner of the garment may have success, but irons are notoriously imprecise in their temperature settings. It is equally possible that the silk garment may suffer damage.

When ironing silk, it should be remembered that no water should touch the fabric. It will cause rings and spots. Also, too much heat will ruin the fabric. The first step needed to iron silk is to turn the iron to the lowest heat setting possible. Next, place a washcloth or a towel over the silk item to be ironed.

Do not press down on the iron. Rather, move it quickly and with as little pressure as possible, concentrating on small sections of the garment before moving on. Never use the steam setting, as irons often spray drops of water along with the actual steam. Even with a washcloth covering the silk, small amounts of water can soak through and ruin the fabric. When completed, hang the silk item in an area away from direct sunlight.

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StreamFinder
Post 3

Oh, this is so true. The title of this article caught my eye, and I was wondering what kind of craziness it would be because in my experience, silk and irons go together about like cookies and Tabasco sauce.

I once tried to iron a silk shirt when I was younger, and despite being so careful, it got water spots on it and was completely ruined. I was devastated, and of course mad at myself for somehow believing that I could will the iron to not spot the silk, but I knew I just shouldn't have messed with it to begin with.

So yeah, great article. I'm so glad you guys didn't just follow the trend to put up a few tips without really thinking them through and then just leave people to their own devices.

I'll definitely be coming back to read more of your articles.

EarlyForest
Post 2

Thank you so much for this article! I work in a fabric store, and I am continually getting people who come in asking me how to iron silk fabric.

When I tell them that it's really best to just steam it (if you have to do anything at all), they look at me bug-eyed, like I'm trying to doom them to a life of wrinkly fabric.

But the truth is, silk really, really does not take well to being ironed. I never iron my silk garments, and I have seen so many people just absolutely ruin beautiful cloth by trying to iron it.

Silk is so thin that a steamer is more than adequate, and most of the time it's not supposed to be just completely flat and straight anyway!

So thanks for telling the truth about the whole silk thing -- really well done.

Planch
Post 1

OK, that definitely answered my question. I have this silk blouse that I wanted to iron before I go in to have my picture taken for our work yearbook, and for some reason I thought that you could just iron silk with a flat iron.

Now I definitely know better! And thanks for all the extra information about the fabric in general, by the way, that was really interesting! It's a little gross to think that I'm wearing bug cocoon fibers every time I wear silk, but hey, at least now I know.

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