Does Silk Shrink When Washed Or In Dryer?

  • By: Tiffany Peris
  • Time to read: 14 min.

After washing and drying our clothes, we try to wear those clothes only to find that they are either too tight or too loose. If you haven’t worn that piece of clothing for a long time, you might think you have added a lot of weight. However, in reality, your garment might have shrunken in the wash. It is thus always important you read the care label of each garment to take good care of the fabric and avoid shrinking it when there is no need.

Silk is a natural fiber and can shrink up to 8%. The silk fabric will shrink by exposing silk to any form of heat. Usually, silk will shrink by washing in warm water and then drying on a flat surface. If you put silk in a dryer, there is a high chance you will damage the garment. The main reason why silk shrink is that when silk fibers come into contact with heat, they tighten and twist, which effectively shrinks the fabric.

In this article, we look in great detail at how silk shrinks. Thus, by reading the article, you will understand how silk shrinks, whether different blends shrink, and how you can unshrink silk.

What Is Silk?

Silk is a natural fiber whose main content is fibroin. This fibroin is a protein exclusively obtained from specific types of insect larvae. Even though there are other insects capable of producing fabrics similar to silk, most of the silk used globally is obtained from worms that live on mulberry trees.

To make silk, silkworms have to first spin themselves into a cocoon in a phase where they advance to become silk moths. From that cocoon, silk fibers are obtained as they are put in hot boiling water and agitated to disentangle the cocoons.

The cocoons are converted into threads of silk yarn in a process known as reeling. The silk threads are twisted and dried and then woven into a piece of silk fabric. Making silk is elaborate and takes a lot of time hence the reason silk is highly-priced.

Like any other fabric, silk has its pros and cons.

Pros Of Silk

  • It is very strong to the extent that it can resist twisting.
  • It is possible to stretch and pull silk, and the fabric will not be ripped.
  • It does not wrinkle easily. It also drapes well, making it ideal for curtains.
  • It has a classy appearance that many fabrics cannot match.
  • It is light in weight.
  • Absorbs dyes well.
  • It has high absorbent values.

Cons of Silk

  • It is costly.
  • It is fragile and needs to be cleaned with special care.
  • As it ages, silk tends to turn yellow.
  • Insects can attack it.
  • When it comes into contact with water, it can be stained.
  • When it comes into contact with sunlight, silk fiber weakens.

To fix known weaknesses of silk and ensure that the best qualities of silk fiber are exploited, silk is blended with other fabrics. Some of the common fabrics that silk is blended with comprise; rayon, wool, linen, and cotton.

In a silk-cotton blend, silk fibers make the fabric lighter and fine while also providing the material with a fine polish. On the other hand, cotton in the blend makes the fabric soft and able to retain its shape.

Silk is used to make different clothing products such as jackets, suits, shirts, and suits.

Why Does Silk Shrink?

The main reason why silk shrinks is the structure of the fibers making up the silk fabric. Silk is a natural fiber that is made up of protein fibers. When the protein fibers come into contact with any heat, they usually tighten and twist, and this effect is what makes silk shrink.

If you do not want your silk garment to shrink, you should avoid washing silk in a washing machine. You should also never put silk garments in a dryer since if silk is set in the dryer, the heat and tossing of the fabric in the dryer will damage your silk fabric.

Silk is a fragile fabric that needs good care to last long. Therefore, you must read the care label and follow the instructions on the label if you want your silk fabric to last a long time while at the same time maintaining a classy look.

Does Silk Shrink In The Dryer?

One of the most commonly used methods to shrink fabrics entails putting the fabrics in the dryer and then subjecting them to the heat produced by the dryer. This heat from the dryer expands the materials making them loose and as the fibers get back to their position, shrinking happens.

Putting a silk fabric in the dryer will probably not shrink your silk fabric. Instead, it will most likely damage it. The silk fiber is, to some extent, similar to the hair. When the fiber is put into a dryer and is subjected to heat, it will tighten and twist and, as a result, shrink. However, the heat will make your fabric dull, while friction caused by tossing around the garment in the dryer will make your silk fabric have white streaks and snags.

You should, therefore, never put a silk fabric in the dryer. If you want to dry your silk fabric, air-dry it in a place, not in direct contact with sunlight or dry it on a flat surface. If you have to iron the garment, never allow it to dry completely dry since if silk is ironed when dry, you could damage your fabric to the point that it is beyond repair.

If you must use a dryer to dry your silk fabrics, you should make sure that you only put the silk with other fabrics classified as delicate and knits. Set the dryer to the delicate air-dry mode. Before you put your clothes in the dryer, it is also crucial that you put the garments in a protective mesh washing bag.

Does Silk Shrink When Washed?

Even if many people believe that washing is what shrinks many fabrics, that is never the case. Instead, the main reason fabrics shrink is due to heat from the warm or hot water that the fabrics are washed with, and the ensuing friction as clothes are rotated in the washing machine. Indeed, if you were to wash clothes with cold water using low speeds, you cannot shrink the fabrics.

When silk is washed with warm or hot water, it could quickly shrink or even be damaged if you are not careful. This is because the protein content in the silk fiber is susceptible to heat and is either shrunk or damaged when it comes into contact with heat.

To ensure that silk does not shrink when washed, you should always wash silk with lukewarm water (not above 86° Fahrenheit). If washing by hand, the fabric should be easily agitated, while if washing by machine, the machine should be set to a gentle wash cycle. In addition, silk fabric should be put in a mesh bag for machine washing to offer extra silk protection.

After washing silk, you should never put the fabric in the dryer. Instead, hang dry the fabric to dry in a place that does not have direct sunlight. If silk is exposed to the sun, it starts to fade, and you don’t want this to happen to your fabric.

Does Silk Shrink In The Wash?

Yes, when in the wash, silk can shrink. When washing silk, you are likely to use warm or hot water, and the heat from the water will make your silk fabric shrink in the wash.

Various factors will come into play to determine the extent to which silk will shrink in the wash. The temperature of the water used and how you will be washing your fabric will be the two key factors that will determine whether silk will shrink in the wash or not.

If you are washing silk in a washing machine, the water setting should be warm while the wash mode should be gentle, and the wash cycle should also be gentle. Remember, you will need to put your silk clothes in the mesh bag to ensure that clothes are protected from damage caused when the fabrics are tossed around the washing machine.

When handwashing, silk, mild soap, and lukewarm water should be used. Any form of detergent should not be used as detergents can damage the fabric. After swirling the garment in the water with soap, the garment should be rinsed and then hung to dry. A dryer should never be used to dry silk. Using a dryer to dry silk can damage the silk garment.

Does Silk Shrink When Dry Cleaned?

Before you either dry clean or wash your silk fabric, I always recommend that you read the care tag of your silk garment. You can dry clean the silk for some types of silk and not damage it. On the other hand, for different types of shrink, you could end up damaging silk. By reading the care tag, you will find out whether you can dry clean the fabric or not.

In normal settings, you will never be able to shrink your fabric by dry cleaning. There is no heat involved in dry cleaning, while the organic solvent used in the dry-cleaning process does not require any heat or water. Therefore, silk does not shrink when dry and cleaned. The only way that silk will shrink when dry cleaned is if the machine used for dry cleaning is faulty.

Even if silk does not shrink when dry cleaned, some silk fabrics have care tags specifying that they should not be dry cleaned. The main reason these fabrics should never be dry cleaned is that the process will damage silk fabrics if they are dry cleaned. Specifically, tossing around the silk fabrics inside the dryer would make the silk have streaks and snags in the fabric.

Can Silk Go In The Dryer?

It is not recommended that silk goes in the dryer as there is an increased chance that the silk will end up being damaged in the dryer.

However, if you must put your silk in the dryer, you should make sure that you put the silk in a protective mesh bag before putting it in the dryer. You should then set the dryer to the delicate air-dry mode.

Does Silk Shrink When Hand Washed?

Yes, silk can shrink when hand washed. For example, if you wash silk in warm water and also leave the silk in water for a few hours, the silk fabric will shrink. To ensure that you do not shrink silk when handwashing, wash silk with warm water and make sure that you don’t leave the fabric in water for a long time.

To shrink silk by hand washing, you should wash the fabric and then soak it in warm water for 3-5 hours. Then, gently squeeze any water in the textile and leave the fabric on a flat surface for it to dry. Ensure that the material is not dried in direct sunlight since the sun makes silk fade.

How To Wash 100 Silk Dress And Not Shrink

To wash your silk dress or another piece of clothing and not shrink it, you can either hand wash the fabric or use a washing machine.

Step By Step Process Of Hand Washing Silk Dress

Step 1: Fill the washbasin with warm water – Fill the washbasin where you will wash your fabrics. The washbasin should be large enough as you will want to wash the entire dress.

Step 2: Put detergent in the basin – Mix gentle detergent with the warm water and use your hand to mix the detergent with the water.

Step 3: Put silk fabric in water and detergent solution – Put your silk dress or shirt in the water and leave it for about three minutes. You must make sure the garment is fully immersed in the water.

Step 4: Work out the garment – Put your hand in the washbasin and gently agitate the silk dress or shirt to clean it.

Step 5: Rinse silk fabric – Use cold water to rinse the fabric until it doesn’t have any detergent.

Step 6: Remove any additional water in the garment – Using a towel, gently remove any added water in your garment.

Step 7: Dry the garment – Dry your silk garment away from sunlight. Do not use a dryer to dry the garment. Instead, hang it with a hanger.

Step By Step Process Of Washing Silk Dress In Machine

Even if it is recommended that you do not wash your silk garments in the washing machine, with a lot of care, you can wash silk in a washing machine and not ruin the fabric. Here is a straightforward step-by-step process that you should follow.

Step 1: Read the care label: Carefully read the care label of your fabric and find whether the manufacturer recommends machine wash. If hand wash is recommended, you should not wash the material with the machine since you will most likely damage it if you proceed to wash with the machine.

Step 2: Put the silk clothes in the protective mesh bag: You must wash your silk clothes in a mesh bag. The Mesh bag protects the delicate silk fiber from being damaged once the fabrics are inside the washing machine and are tossed around.

Step 3: Put the mesh bag with the fabric in the machine – Put the mesh bag with your silk clothes in the washing machine.

Step 4: Put delicate detergent in the washing machine – Follow the dosing guidelines specified on the detergent’s packaging and put the detergent on the washing machine.

Step 5: Set washing machine to the delicate cycle – Wash the silk on the delicate cycle wash mode, warm water cycle, and shortest spin.

Step 6: Soak any water in the fabric using a towel – Once the wash cycle is complete, remove the fabric from the washing machine and soak any extra water on the silk garments with a towel.

Step 7: Dry the silk clothes – To dry the silk clothes, you will hang dry them with hangers or just lay the clothes on a flat surface. Make sure that you do not dry the fabrics in a space with sunlight since the light from the sun makes silk fade.

How Much Does Silk Shrink?

The extent to which silk will shrink is mainly determined by the structure of the specific protein fiber that makes up the particular silk fabric. As shown in the table below, different types of silk fabrics shrink differently.

Silk FabricPercentage of Shrinkage
Silk Habotai3 – 6%
Silk Organza3 – 5%
Silk Georgette13 – 15%
Silk Crepe de Chine9 –  12%
Silk Twill4 – 6%
Silk Tafetta1 – 2%
Silk Heavy Crepe9 – 13%
How much do different types of silk fabric shrink (Source Panda Silk)

It is important to note that if the silk garments have been pre-shrunk, the shrinking rate of most silk garments is mainly between 2 – 3%. However, as the pre-shrink values decrease with washes, silk garments washed a few times will shrink quickly.

Does Silk Blend Shrink?

Since silk is a natural fiber, it will shrink when it comes into contact with any form of heat. However, when silk is blended with other fabrics, it can either lose some of its shrinking value or increase its shrinking values.

Thus, even if the silk blend will shrink, the nature of the fabrics in the blend will determine the extent to which the blend will shrink. For example, if silk and polyester were blended and the silk percentage in the blend would be more than 80%, the fabric would require high temperatures to shrink.

Does Cotton Silk Shrink?

The cotton-silk blend will shrink. This is because both cotton and silk can shrink when subjected to heat, so the blend of silk and cotton will shrink when subjected to heat.

Does Silk Cashmere Shrink?

Yes, the silk-cashmere blend will shrink. Both fibers in the blend are natural, and when the fibers are washed in hot water or put in a dryer set to high drying temperatures, the blend will shrink.

How To Shrink Silk Dress, Shirt, Jackets

If the silk garments are pre-washed, the garment can shrink. When you leave a silk dress, shirt, jacket, or other silk clothing in water for an extended time before washing, the garment will shrink.

The shrink, in this case, will be because when silk is in water, the fibers get to tighten and twist. Moreover, the silk will shrink by washing silk in hot water or putting it in a hot dryer.

Here is a simple process to use when you want to shrink your silk garments.

Step 1: Put the silk clothes in warm water and leave them in the water for about 3 hours.

Step 2: To unsettle the fibers making up the fabric, agitate your silk clothes in the washbasin after 3 hours have ended.

Step 3: Remove the silk garments from the washbasin and dry them on a flat-lying surface. If you want to use the dryer, put the clothes in a protective mesh bag and set it to its lowest heat setting.

Step 4: If you are in a hurry, you can use a blow dryer or iron to shrink the silk fabric. Just direct the heat from the blow dryer to the silk fabrics; set your iron heat to medium heat for ironing. Place the silk clothes on the ironing board and cover them with protective clothing. Gradually iron the garment from one end to another.

Step 5: Check whether your garment has shrunk to the size you wanted. If not, repeat the shrink process.

How To Unshrink Silk

If you have shrunken your silk clothes to a smaller size, you can try to unshrink the clothes before deciding to take the clothes to the charity shop or throw them away.

Here is a simple process on how to unshrink silk.

Step 1: Fill a washbasin with lukewarm water – Fill a washbasin or a sink with lukewarm water. The basin or sink you are using should be big enough to immerse your silk fabric.

Step 2: Put a gentle hair conditioner in the water and agitate it with your hands or wooden spoon – Put about five teaspoons of gentle hair conditioner in the water and mix the conditioner with the water. If you don’t have a hair conditioner, you can use baby shampoo as it has the same effects as a hair conditioner.

Step 3: Put the silk fabric in the solution of water and detergent – Put the silk garment in the solution and make sure that the garment is fully immersed in the water.

Step 4: Leave the silk garment immersed in the solution for half an hour (30 minutes).

Step 5: Remove silk garment from water – Remove the silk garment in water after 30 minutes. Take note you should not rinse the garment.

Step 6: Place a towel on a flat surface – lay the garment on the top of a flat surface where you have already laid a towel.

Step 7: Roll the towel – Roll the towel so that the towel will fully cover the garment and inside the roll.

Step 8: Let the garment stay in the roll for 15 minutes – Leave the silk garment in the roll for 15 minutes.

Step 9: Remove the garment from the towel – Remove your silk garment from the towel roll and lay it on another bigger towel.

Step 10: Put the garment on top of another towel – With the garment on top of the towel, gently pull both sides of the fabric that you want to unshrink. Again, it would help if you were cautious here as you don’t want to ruin the fabric.

Step 11: Check the unshrunk garment – Check the unshrunk garment and confirm whether you have achieved the correct size. If not, you can repeat the process.

Concluding Remarks

Silk is a natural fiber that is very expensive. After buying your silk garments for a lot of money, the last thing you want is the silk to become loose or stretchy. In this article, I have explained how you can shrink your silk garments and unshrink them.

I hope you are now in a better position to take good care of your silk clothes.