How to Wash & Clean a Silk Scarf: 10 Things You Should Never Do

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For so long, we have written about the many different ways you can style a scarf and fashionable-savvy celebrities wearing scarves, and yet, not once have we mentioned how you should care for your lovely accessory — which is kind of embarrassing, actually. That’s why for today, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Well, sort of. We’re going to highlight the things that you should NOT do to your scarf. By avoiding such mistakes, you will make your scarf last longer. Scarves come in different materials so each type requires a different way of caring.

To keep this article simple and short, we will focus on one type of scarf first before moving on to another. We will start with the most popular — the silk scarf.

If you’re an avid silk scarf collector, take note of these common mistakes and make sure you avoid committing them. Remember that your scarf will only last as long as it gets the TLC it needs.

1. Never overlook the care instructions

Sad to say, but most people end up making this mistake. Overlooking the care instructions because you’re too lazy or too busy to do so may cost you a fortune especially if your scarves are from brands like Hermes and Chanel.

Always, as in, always, read the care instructions provided before doing anything. That means if the label says “Dry Clean Only”, then be sure to take your scarf to the cleaners.

Due to the high quality and delicate nature of the material used to make Burberry scarves, they should never be hand-washed. Please see the scarf’s label for care instructions and consult your dry cleaner for help.

Lightweight Check Wool and Silk Scarf, $390 at Burberry

An Italian-made check wool and silk scarf in a lightweight gauze weave

2. Don’t put your silk scarf in the washing machine

Scarves that can be washed will hold up longer if you hand wash them instead of putting them in the washing machine. Silk, in particular, requires gentle washing to keep its fibers intact.

3. Do not wring, twist, or rub the silk scarf while washing

It doesn’t take a genius to know that silk is a very delicate fabric, hence, you have to wash it gently. That basically means you should never wring, twist, or rub the silk scarf if you want it to maintain its shape and keep the fabric intact (silk fibers can loosen when compromised).

Squeezing out the water gently is one way of drying the scarf. But an even better way is to lay it flat on a dry towel, then press and roll the towel to squeeze out the water.

4. Never put your scarf in the dryer

Of course, you shouldn’t put your silk scarf in the dryer. Why would you? Intense heat can make silk lose its luster and possibly shrink. Not only that, but it can also cause the fibers to break.

Air drying your scarf is always the best option because it is the most gentle. But be sure not to make mistake number 5 below.

5. Never expose to direct sunlight

Again, intense heat can damage the silk fibers. Plus of course, there’s the fact that direct sunlight can make a fabric lose its color.

6. Never use harsh chemicals on your scarf (bleach, perfume, etc.)

Harsh chemicals can compromise silk fibers and can even cause stains or unwanted spots. That’s why it’s always best to keep the bleach away from your scarf when washing it. And always remember not to spray perfume onto it too.

7. & 8. Don’t iron your silk scarf when it is dry AND Don’t iron on high heat

If you must remove wrinkles on your silk scarf, never iron it while it is dry. Iron while damp. Don’t spot damp either, as these could create a circle or round marks that are ugly.

Lastly, never use high heat when ironing silk. Make sure iron is set on ‘cool’.

9. Don’t wash with other colors

Just to be safe, never wash your silk scarf with other colors for two simple reasons, you don’t want other colors to bleed into your scarf, and neither do you want colors from your silk scarf to bleed into other garments or scarves that you wash it with.

10. Never store your scarf in a damp place

As you know, silk is a natural fiber much like wool. That means it is prone to deterioration and moths. Please don’t use mothballs to save your scarves because they will smell terrible afterward.

Instead, keep them in airtight containers or boxes that are clean and dry. Also, you can try using natural lavender sachets that repel moths, if you have to. You may also hang your silk scarves, but make sure the area where you will hang them is clean, dry, and airy.

In general, the silk scarves you buy from a lot of fashion labels today are actually more resilient. They are also tougher, thanks to better manufacturing technology. However, it is always good to be safe than sorry — especially since some designer scarves can be very pricey.

Also, a lot of scarves today are made of mixed-blend fabrics, which can usually hold up to “stress” better. But again, it is always best to read the care instructions so you are well informed, and so that you will be able to care for your lovely neck warmer properly (thereby making it last longer in your closet).

If we left anything out today, please let us know by leaving a comment. Lastly, allow us to end this post with three highly covetable silk extras from one of our favorite stores.

Jonathan Adler Chinoiserie Owl Silk Scarf, $98 at Nordstrom

An oversized avian graphic amplifies the signature style of a square silk scarf trimmed with a deco-inspired border.

An oversized avian graphic amplifies the signature style of a square silk scarf trimmed with a deco-inspired border

Bernie of New York River Silk Scarf, $98 at Nordstrom

A contrast satin band traces the edges of a filmy silk scarf patterned with bold brushstrokes of color.

A contrast satin band traces the edges of a filmy silk scarf patterned with bold brushstrokes of color

Echo Orchids Silk Scarf, $98 at Nordstrom

A vivacious floral print lends a breezy, tropical vibe to a sophisticated silk scarf.

A vivacious floral print lends a breezy, tropical vibe to a sophisticated silk scarf