Because silk is such a fine and flimsy material, many people assume that it is not at all durable and extremely difficult to look after. Add hand painted designs to the mix and fears increase that the item would be highly impractical and therefore represent poor value for money.
As with any item that is worn about the body, silk scarves and shawls need to be cleaned regularly to get rid of stains, the residue of perfumes and air-borne pollutants that can affect the look and feel of the material. Washing not only refreshes the colors, giving them a new lease of life, but also gets rid of the odors which can cling to any type of fabric. Far from shortening the life of the item, it keeps it in tip-top condition so that your precious and unique scarf or shawl continues to provide value for many years. Here are a few quick and easy tips to bear in mind to extend the life of your wearable canvas.
1. Hand wash the item. The dry cleaning process uses harsh chemicals which can not only have an adverse effect on the silk material, but also on the colors and dyes used to create the unique designs on your hand painted or hand dyed scarf or shawl. The agitation and rapid temperature changes which machine-washed garments are subjected to can also damage hand painted or dyed silk. Hand washing is quick, effective and safe, and also, of course, cost-efficient. Use lukewarm rather than hot water, and always make sure that you use a gentle detergent or, better still, a soft baby soap or shampoo. The nature of the material is such that this should be sufficient even to remove stains, but it is important not to rub the material hard as this could cause worn spots to appear. Ordinary household table salt, when added to the soap and water solution will prevent the colors in the item from bleeding, but never, under any circumstances, should bleach be used.
2. Add vinegar during rinsing. Once your silk scarf or shawl has been washed, you then need to rinse it in clear, cool water, making sure that you do not wring it in the process. When all the soap has been removed, rinse again, but this time add some kitchen vinegar to the water. This will not only neutralize the soap, but it will also brighten the fabric and restore its natural shine. Finally, rinse again in clear, cold water to remove the vinegar, being careful to ensure that no odor remains.
3. Use clean towels to dry your scarf or shawl. Silk should never be wrung out as this can cause it to become stretched and misshapen. Instead, lay your scarf or shawl flat on a clean, dry towel and then roll it up. This will effectively squeeze the excess water out without causing any damage. Once this has been done, simply lay the scarf or shawl on another dry towel and leave it to air-dry.
4. Iron with care. When it comes to ironing your silk scarf or shawl, it is always preferable to work on the reverse of the fabric, but do make sure that the iron is on its lowest setting. Alternatively, you can use a slightly higher setting, but place the item underneath a clean cotton cloth or towel so that it does not come into direct contact with the heat.
Hand painted silk scarves and shawls are a delight to own, and by following these few simple steps, yours will give you pleasure for many years.