Friday, August 24, 2007

Wash Day Blues - Washing Antique Silk

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Antique silk. How easy is it to wash and should you? Silk is classified as a natural fiber so by all standards it can be washed, however, a word of caution here as there are silks that will not hold up when put to water especially any of the weighed silks from the mid to late Victorian era. In my experience it is a hard determination on which items can be washed successfully and which will amount to a handful of shreds when lifted from the water. This is a very sad fact so if I have the least doubt I rather not put the item to the water test. I rather have the item dirty than to lose it.

During the Victorian / early 1900's some silk was advertised as "washing silk" such as yardage and clothing. Most of the the silk embroidery floss that decorated all those wonderful society silk doilies, runners, tablecloths & other decorative household items was of washing silk. The color selection of this floss seem endless. I have found most of these textiles do wash very well. But on occasion some floss is not color fast so bleeding of colors does occur. If not sure, it is advisable to do a test.

Towards the 1920's and later I found more silks to be of a washable nature and more sturdy when soaked. Still, do use caution.

If washing silk, soak as briefly as possible. I usually don't soak for more than a 10 minutes but others suggest no longer than one half hour pre-soak. Then wash in luke warm water with Woolite or Ivory Snow. If using Ivory dissolve first in hot water adding it to wash water. Rinse well and roll in turkish toweling until damp dry. Always avoid sunlight as this weakens the fibers.

Stain removal for silks? I know of none.

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