Silk Cleaning at Battiston's

Silk is a natural fiber that looks and feels soft and luxurious. Silk once was indeed a luxury, produced only by high-end designers and affordable only to the wealthy. But technology has allowed silk to become commonplace - both men and women can fill their closets with silk shirts, blouses and sweaters and afford to wear them every day.

But silk is still very delicate. A dry cleaner like Battiston's has to take extra special precautions with this fabric, even more diligent and delicate care than we use when we're handling the rest of your precious wardrobe.

Should You Wash or Dry Clean Silk?

We know that silk responds well to dry cleaning. Washing silk at home may result in shrinkage, limpness, and considerable fading. We recommend following the manufacturer’s care label instructions with a reminder that, in almost all instances, a garment with a care label recommending washing can also be safely dry cleaned. And if you're ever unsure about a garment, you should trust our expertise.

You may already know that most men's shirts are best laundered, not dry cleaned. But not silk shirts. Silk shirts should always be dry cleaned. If you were to launder a silk shirt, you would risk significant fading and color loss, and the shirt would lose some of its softness.

Most men's silk shirts that we see, like the Tommy Bahama clothing line, are specifically designed to be casual and loose-fitting. So it may seem a bit ironic and annoying that you would have to spend more to dry clean these casual shirts than you'd spend to launder your more formal shirts for the office. But if you want to retain what makes those shirts unique - their bright colors, soft feel and loose draping over your body - then you need to dry clean them.

What If You Were to Accidentally Wash It?

Even silk and rayon items with a care label that says to wash the item may not react well to water after all. Depending on the color of the dyes used on the garment, those colors could fade or colors may run into another garment or into other areas of a multicolor garment. This is especially true of darker colors, so make sure to keep your darker colors separate from lighter ones. (Your mother should have taught you long ago to wash dark colors separately.) We routinely double-check colorfastness before we begin any cleaning process. You should too when washing at home.

If a garment suffers color loss during washing, it may be possible to employ a special restoration process to try to restore the original look. But that would be pricey and not practical for most garments.

Stains and Discoloration

Stains on silk are especially tricky because while a garment must by Fair Trade Commission law stand up to the recommended care process (dry cleaning, wetcleaning or laundering), there is no requirement for how the item may stand up to stain removal agents. If you have a silk garment with a stain on it, bring it to our attention when you drop the item off, and be sure to try to remember and be specific about what the stain is. If we don't have to guess what the stain is, we can avoid exposing your silk garment to stain-fighting chemicals it doesn't need to be exposed to.

Color loss is the greatest threat to silk. Dyes can fade easily, due to a number of reasons. Washing would be one reason. Another is friction. The areas on your garment that see the most abrasion, such as the underarms, elbows, neckline, seats of pants, inner thighs, and the bottom of a shirt that is tucked into pants, are most at risk.

One major concern with silk garments is the possibility of color loss from coming into contact with alcohol products. Not just warms-your-tummy alcohol - it'll be more apparent if somebody spills a drink on you - but also half the products in your bathroom. Products containing alcohol include mouthwash, hair spray, antiperspirant, hand sanitizer, perfume and more. You may not notice that you got any on you, and suddenly there's an orange spot on your navy blue silk tie. Color loss and color change are a scary possibility, and may not actually be immediate, only revealing themselves with time. If you have a silk item that may be threatened by an alcohol stain, bring it to us for a thorough cleaning as soon as you can.

Dyes on silks can also be threatened by exposure to direct sunlight. The brighter the color - especially blues, purples, reds and greens - the more sensitive it can be to bright light. Don't allow silk items to be hung for too long in either sunlight or harsh artificial light.

Perspiration may also result in a permanent color change. If you sweat on your silk garment, clean it as soon as possible. This may help avoid permanent staining or color loss.

Rayon, Polyester, Acetate and Satin

While silk has become more affordable over time, it may be more affordable still to purchase items made of manmade rayon or polyester where the manufacturers have attempted to replicate some of the look and feel of silk. But since these materials are more cheaply made in the first place, you still need to be vigilant about how you care for them. These items will often require dry cleaning, just like their silk counterparts, and if you were to wash them, you would be likely to lose some of the fabrics' softness and bright colors.

Acetate is another soft, shiny manmade fiber. You're more likely to see acetate on the inside of a garment than the outside. That's because it's been proven to have better moisture absorption capabilities than other linings, meaning it'll wick away sweat better and you're not going to have the item sticking to you. But acetate is sensitive to high temperatures, and the fabric can lose strength with prolonged exposure to water. So acetate must be dry cleaned. We often see ladies' pants where the outside of the garment is cotton, a fabric that usually calls for laundering, but since there is an acetate lining, the entire garment must be dry cleaned.

Satin is a type of weave, not a type of fabric; it is most commonly associated with silk, though the satin weave can also be found in rayon, polyester or acetate that is supposed to mimic silk. Satin is a particular weave where, instead of criss-crossing yarns going up-down-up-down, a horizontal or vertical thread will pass over four or more threads in the other direction before weaving up and down. What that ultimately means is that satin is even more delicate, with loose threads prone to snagging or chafing. Satin requires extra special handling in your everyday wear and in cleaning.