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Caring for Your Hermès Scarf

Hand wash, machine wash  or dry clean?  Most, though not all collectors, hand wash their silk scarves. Still others go back and forth or take a break as I once did after ruining a 1956 first issue of Les Bles by Hugo Grygkar. Whatever you decide, at some point you will have to clean your carrè - here are some suggestions.
Silk has been worn and used in home furnishing for almost five thousand years.  And for just as long  - silk has been hand washed. Dry cleaning by contrast, is a relatively new method of removing soil and not always the best for this natural fabric. Just like hair, silk is made up of protein and responds in the same way to repeated chemical exposure. After only a few trips to the cleaners, silk begin to look dull and takes on an almost matte-like finish. Even the texture changes - after dry cleaning silk begins to feel dry and brittle. 
There are so many reasons to hand wash your silk scarves.  It's better for the environment; better for your silk, and certainly better for your bank account!  Hand washing plumps up the hems  - the entire fabric is renewed.  If you like a crisp silk, simply use a little spray starch as you iron and voila - a store fresh press appears. 
Though generally not recommended by collectors, I have also included a section on machine-washing your silk scaves - with a proviso or two!
Tip:  Use a soft facial brush to work a pre treatment solution into the silk. These are available at any drug store.
Many vintage scarves have unstable dyes.  Before using any stain remover, do a spot test to see if the colour will run.  A good rule of thumb is to begin with the mildest product, first.  As the centre of the carrè is rarely seen when worn, this is a good area for a spot test.  Almost any pre wash or stain treatment available at your grocers is safe to use on silk, however, do read the product labels before application.  Also try rubbing a little liquid dishwashing detergent directly onto the soiled area prior to wash - sometimes that's all it takes.   I have had the best success with carpet cleaning solutions.
Some of the products I’ve tried include:

· No name spot cleaner / pre wash
· Carpet cleaner
· Spray & Wash
· Shout
· Lemon juice, salt and water
· ASA paste
· OXY Clean

· Using a cotton swab, gently dab a small amount of the stain remover, checking the swab for colour transfer. If there is colour on the swab, stop and try a milder product. If there is no colour transfer, proceed.
· Open the scarf up completely and apply a liberal amount of the stain remover to the front and back of the stained area.
· Gently work the treatment into the silk using a soft facial brush and leave on for three to five minutes. 


· Examine your silk for stains in sunlight, front and back.
· Experiment with a variety of spot cleaners.
· If the stain is oil based, try a paste of sugar and water and rub it into the stain for a minute or two, then rinse and proceed with wash.
· Brush a little spot cleaner diluted with water onto the hems, an area that often picks up soil and grime.
Tip:   A double sink is ideal for hand washing, but not necessary.

· Make sure the face of your iron is perfectly clean.
· Ensure there is no water in the iron from previous use.
· Turn off the steam setting.
· Fill two sinks half way - one with tepid water and one with warm water to use as a final rinse. 
· Lay out a large plain towel for rolling and air-drying when done. 

Tip:   Don’t panic if you see some colour in the water. This is normal, especially with a new scarf.

· Pre treat or spot clean your scarf if needed.
· Squirt a small amount of liquid dishwashing detergent into the sink of tepid water. I prefer Ivory or Sunlight over delicate fabric wash as it removes oil based stains such as make-up and food. 
· Place the scarf in the sink and begin rolling, swishing and moving it about for a full five minutes.  Do not let the scarf stand in the water as colours may transfer.
· Gently squeeze out any excess water and plunge the scarf into the second sink, moving it about again.
· Begin rinsing your scarf by alternating between running the scarf under the tap and filling up the sink for another quick dip and swish. This takes some time so don’t be surprised if you spent another five minutes just rinsing.
· You must rinse until you remove all soap residue.


· Gently squeeze out any excess water and place on the towel.
· Roll the scarf up inside the towel and squeeze to remove more water.
· Let the scarf partially air dry on the towel for  10 – 15 minutes.
· Set your iron to the tempertaure necessary to iron silk (cotton, high?) .
· When the scarf is approximately 50% dry, begin ironing the backside of the carre.  Never iron the roule (hems).
· If you like crisp silk, use a little spray starch.
· Fold and store away from moisture and sunlight.


· Unsure about hand washing? Practice on an old carrè or any piece of silk lingerie.
· If the carre feels waxy or oily when dry, you have not removed all of the soap. Rinse again.
· When travelling,  plain shampoo works just fine for hand washing silk.
· A dash of table salt in the water will help prevent colours from running.
· 1/4 cup of vinegar mixed with 1 cup of water used in the final rinse will help take out smells, brighten whites,  remove yellowing and reduce soap residue.
· Gentle is a relative term - don't be afraid of your silk!

Let me begin by stating that most collectors and fabric sites would never recommend machine-washing  Hermes silk -  or any silk at all.  Although I agree that it is not the first choice for a new carre, I have  machine-washed many scarves and lingerie with excellent results.
If you have a very gentle delicate cycle, and a carre that is less than perfect,  you may consider machine-washing your silk. 
Proviso    Please understand that by machine-washing your scarves, you may increase the risk of  thread pulls, opening the roule and colour transfer. I do not recommend machine-washing a vintage carre unless you are absolutely certain the dyes are stable and the piece has been washed many times before.
Tip:   You may wish to use a "net bag"  for machine-washing lingerie  available at most department and dollar stores.

· Pre treat or spot clean your scarf if needed.
· Lay out a large plain white towel for air-drying when done.
· Set the washer to delicate with an extra rinse cycle if available.
· Fill the washer 1/3  to  1/2  full with tepid water.
· Squirt a small amount of liquid dishwashing detergent into the washer. You may also use a plain  laundry detergent.
· Close the lid and let the soap mix with the water for a minute.
· Place one scarf into the lingerie bag.
· Open the lid and plunge the bag directly into the water, ensuring the silk is completely immersed. Close the lid
· If an extra rinse cycle is not available, after the first cycle is completed, run the scarf through another wash cycle without detergent. This will remove any left over soap residue.
· Let the scarf partially air dry on the towel for 5 - 10 minutes.
· Proceed with ironing instructions above.


· A net bag is helpful, but not necessary.
· Never wash more than one scarf at a time.
· You must remove the scarf immediately when the rinse is done or the colours may transfer.
· If the carre feels waxy or oily when dry, you have not removed all of the soap. Rinse again.
· The scarf will air dry after machine-washing much faster than after hand washing.
· If you can find it, liquid starch /sizing may be added to the final rinse. Ask your dry cleaner if this product is available.

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