Silk is a prized, luxurious textile that’s frequently used in the construction of high-quality men’s dress shirts. Made from the material produced by silkworms on mulberry leaves, it has several unique characteristics that make it stand out from other fabrics. Silk is soft, shiny, comfortable, and exceptionally strong relative to its weight. But if you’re thinking of buying a silk dress shirt, there are a few things you should know about cleaning and caring for it.
Don’t Spot Treat Stains
You can typically clean most shirts and garments by “spot treating” the dirty or stained area. If you spill coffee on your jeans, for instance, blotting the stain with a damp washcloth should remove it. Silk is more delicate than denim (and even cotton), however, so you shouldn’t attempt to spot treat stains in this manner. Doing so may cause discoloration, permanently affecting the way your silk shirt looks.
Don’t Stretch it
This doesn’t apply strictly to silk shirts; it applies to all delicate shirts and garments. If you stretch a silk dress shirt, it could damage the fabric, preventing it from returning back to its original shape.
Steps to cleaning a silk dress shirt vary depending on the type, manufacturer, and whether or not it contains other fabrics. Normally, however, it’s best to hand-wash silk shirts rather than placing them in the washing machine. Washing machines are too harsh for silk. Even on the “gentle” setting, they can damage the otherwise delicate silk fabric. This is why it’s best to err on the side of caution by hand-washing your silk shirts.
The golden rule of washing silk dress shirts is to line-dry them. Sure, using a traditional machine dryer is probably faster and easier, but silk is too delicate for them. After washing your silk dress shirt, hang it on a line to dry. It may take several hours for it to completely dry, but this is a safer solution for drying silk than using a traditional machine dryer.
While there’s no rule stating that you cannot iron silk shirts, you should use the lowest heat setting possible to prevent damage. Silk is highly susceptible to heat damage. When exposed to heat, it can literally melt, at which point there’s no easy way to fix it. To prevent such damage, you should only iron silk shirts using the lowest heat setting possible. Or when in doubt, have your silk shirts professionally dry cleaned.