How to wash a silk pillowcase – and keep it fresh and soft

Find out how to wash a silk pillowcase without compromising this luxurious fabric

How to wash a silk pillowcase – silk pillowcases against upholstered headboard in blue
(Image credit: Gingerlily at The French Bedroom Company)

It’s a luxury worth indulging in when it comes to dressing a bed, but understanding how to wash a silk pillowcase so it retains its soft texture is essential.

A silk pillowcase is reputed to do wonders for both your hair and skin, and it’s certainly a way to bring five-star style to a bedroom, and make slipping among the best bed sheets after a long day a very welcome experience.

A silk pillowcase isn’t as hard to wash as you might suppose if you haven’t owned one before, and we’ve put together an expert guide to care.

How to wash a silk pillowcase

It’s possible to wash a silk pillowcase in the washing machine or by hand. You should always check the manufacturer‘s label, but as Wayne Edelman, CEO of high-end dry cleaning service Meurice Garment Care says, ‘The origin of silk used as a textile dates back to ancient China. There was no dry cleaning at this time only “washing”. We use silk pillow protectors in my house and maintain them at home.’

However, remember these guidelines when caring for a silk pillowcase. ‘Stay away from hot temperatures, excessive agitation, do not wring, do not use fabric softeners, do not dry with excessive heat,’ cautions Wayne.

These are the details on how to wash a silk pillowcase.

How to wash a silk pillowcase in a washing machine

The golden rules on how to wash a silk pillowcase if you want to put it into the machine? ‘Set to a gentle cycle, cold water and use the softest detergent you can find,’ says Steve Evans, owner of house cleaning service Memphis Maids.

‘If you have many pieces of clothing that are made of silk, you should buy a silk and wool detergent. These two fabrics are very particular so it’s not surprising that they have a detergent meant just for them.’

Just as when you are washing a pillow, it’s also a good idea to put a silk pillowcase inside a mesh laundry bag which will protect it from snags and abrasion during the washing cycle.

How to wash a silk pillowcase by hand

As an alternative to putting it into the washing machine, you could wash a silk pillowcase by hand. 

‘Cool water, gentle hand wash detergent and sufficient rinsing will provide great results for hand washing silk pillowcases at home,’ says Wayne Edelman. ‘Do not wring out.’

How to remove stains from a silk pillowcase

Like other bed linens, silk pillowcases can become stained with fluids such as sweat – which we can’t help but lose as we sleep – makeup that hasn’t been removed entirely before bed, or spills.

Treat any stains before washing a silk pillowcase using the same neutral detergent as you will for washing. ‘To remove stains, add a small amount of detergent directly on the stain and rub with your fingers,’ says Alessandro Gazzo of Emily’s Maids of Dallas, Texas. ‘Do not use bleach or any other strong chemical product.’

How to dry a silk pillowcase

To dry a silk pillowcase, you can lay it flat on a towel. Make sure it is not in direct sunlight, which can damage the delicate fibers of the material.

Otherwise, check the label as you may be able to use a dryer on a low heat. ‘It is best to remove slightly damp and allow the final drying to occur naturally,’ recommends Wayne Edelman.

How often should you wash a silk pillowcase?

Like the rest of your bed sheets, a silk pillowcase should be washed regularly. ‘Typically we clean pillowcases and sheets together on a weekly or twice weekly schedule,’ says Wayne Edelman.

Can you put silk pillowcases in the washing machine?

It is possible to put silk pillowcases in the washing machine. ‘For machine washing, you must use something called a laundry bag,’ says Alessandro Gazzo. ‘You can place your silk pillowcase inside for protection and toss it in the machine. You should use cold water, too. Hot water can stretch out natural fibers and weaken them once they return to their regular state. Of course, use a delicate cycle as well. A regular cycle will create too much friction between the fibers.’

Are silk pillowcases worth it?

Silk pillowcases are undoubtedly a luxurious and beautiful choice – but there’s more to them than that. ‘Silk is a textile with some interesting properties,’ says board certified dermatologist and textile expert Erum N Ilyas of AmberNoon and Schweiger Dermatology

‘It is considered hydrophobic compared to other textiles in that it repels and prevents absorption of droplets. It has good breathability and can be cleaned easily.’

As for the durability of silk pillowcases? ‘Remember, as with cotton pillowcases, nothing lasts forever. However, silk pillowcases get softer and more cuddly with age,’ says Wayne Edelman.

Sarah Warwick
Sarah Warwick

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.