Would You Hand-Wash an Hermes Silk Scarf?

A year or so ago, not long after returning from a trip to Kenya (see posts about that trip here: Africa) I was stalking Hermes scarfs on eBay and came across this beauty. The listing said that it was in perfect condition, no stains, tears, pulls, etc… I think the seller said it had belonged to his Mother. I’m a big fan of Hermes and their gorgeous scarves, and this one completely stole my heart.

I purchased it and a short time later it arrived. I was doing a lot of traveling back then. Two weeks after the trip to Kenya, I left on a trip to Italy for 16 days. Then a month later I set sail on the Property Brothers cruise. It was a busy time and several months passed before I pulled the scarf back out. When I did, I was shocked to see stains down in one corner of the scarf. How did those get there?

Photo from listing

 

I took this photo earlier today, do you see the stains there near the bottom corner? The bird’s beak is pointing toward them.

 

Here’s a closer view.

 

I took another look at the photos in the eBay listing and now knowing where the stains are located, I can see them. They had been hard to see before since they just looked like wrinkles in the scarf.

So much for the listing saying there were no stains or damage. It was way too late by this point to contact the seller. Besides, I loved the scarf and really wanted to keep it. I thought, perhaps, I could have it cleaned.

Photo from listing

 

I’ve done a lot of reading online regarding dry cleaning vs washing silk scarves and I’ve decided that I don’t want to take it to a dry cleaner for several reasons. One reason is, every time I’ve ever taken a silk shirt or silk-like shirt to the cleaners, it has come back with a dulled finish. It never looked the same afterwards. I don’t know what kind of chemicals they use, but I don’t like what it does to silk or silk-like fabrics.

Also, the hems on Hermes scarfs are hand-rolled and hand-stitched, so it’s a big no-no to press the hems. I just don’t want to take the chance of having a cleaner mess it up.

Several folks online claim to have hand-washed Hermes silk scarves with good results. The biggest risk seems to be that the dyes in older scarves are not always stable and sometimes run. I don’t think this scarf is really old.

 

A few months back I needed to wash a wool shirt that I really love. I used this product and it came out great!

 

See that post here: The Safe Way to Wash Wool & Cashmere. The Wool and Cashmere Shampoo is available here: Wool and Cashmere Shampoo.

 

Well, the same company that made the wool cashmere shampoo, also makes a shampoo for silk fabrics. It’s available here: Silk & Synthetic Delicate Wash. It has a rating of 82%, 5-star reviews, so not too bad.

I purchased it a few days ago and I think I’m going to give it a go. My plan is to hand-wash the scarf in cold water with a Shout Color Catcher sheet in the water to hopefully catch any dye, just in case one of the colors in the scarfs starts to bleed.

Next I’ll spread the silk scarf out on a big towel and gently roll the towel up to press the water out of the scarf. From what I’ve read, that’s supposed to be much better for silk garments/scarves than attempting to wring the water out. It’s also better in case of color-bleed. The towel-drying step can be repeated if the scarf is still pretty wet after the first rolling.

Then I’ll just lay it flat to dry. Apparently, silk dries very quickly.

 

So what do you think? I’m thinking about going for it and sharing the results with you for Metamorphosis Monday. Yikes!

By the way, Hermes’s standard reply when asked how to wash their scarves is to recommend having it dry cleaned, but I’ve been told that people do wash them for many of the same reasons I’ve already mentioned. What would you do?




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Comments

  1. Margaret Robinson says:

    Seems to me that if Hermes says to take it to the dry cleaners and that works, fine. If it doesn’t – well, you take it up with them.

    I’ve never had a problem with our dry cleaner, but they use a safer method (this is California remember) that is supposed to be ecologically friendly. The two (2) silk scarves I’ve had them clean have been returned to me in beautiful condition.

    If you like washing them and you’ve obviously found a “soap” that works, that’s fabulous. The site that is called Laundress is great and I’ll assume, so are their products.

  2. Have you checked your local dry cleaners to see if any of them advertise dealing in silk and/or fine fabrics? I find locally the cleaner that specializes
    in cleaning and storing bridal gowns to be best for fine fabrics. If Hermes says to dry clean, that is probably your safest route. I would be reluctant to wash. Can you try first on a silk item that you do not care that much about? I guess it all depends upon how much you really value the scarf; do you know if there are any more like this at eBay? If so, why not buy one in
    fine condition and then sell the one you have, mentioning the slight stain
    at corner. Seems slight to me but as you said, does not show plainly in the
    picture.

  3. You may want to look for a cleaner considered “Green Earth”. No harsh chemicals are used and much safer for delicate and fine fabrics. I have taken silk blouses to such a cleaner (in Massachusetts) and been pleased. I would think even rolling the scarf in a towel may cause it to wrinkle. You could steam out the wrinkles. Risky doing it by hand with such a valuable scarf.

  4. franki says:

    Hmmmm….I ordered from “The Laundress” after your posting (and luv it)…think, if the scarf was mine, I’d launder just that corner before doing the entire thing…it’s a gamble whatever you decide…are you going to walk away…or run..(probably NOT a good analogy/word to use…franki

  5. I don’t own a Hermes scarf, but I’ve sent silk dresses and blouses to dry cleaners and I’ve also hand washed them. I had success with both. Definitely don’t wring out the water if you wash it. Rolling in a towel is the way.
    Good luck. It’s a beautiful scarf.

  6. Check out. http://www.maitaispicturebook.com/ and her listing from April 11, 2017. She has a vast collection of fabulous Hermes scarves, bags, and jewelry. She just posted directions for hand washing those stunning scarves. I have several myself, haven’t tried it yet, but will when the need for cleaning arises. Good luck, gorgeous scarf – but aren’t they all?!

    • Thanks for that link, Laura! That was just the info I needed and apparently the shampoo I have is one that she recommends. She talks about the same bad things I’ve heard that happen when you send it to a cleaner, so I feel safer washing it myself with her instructions. Appreciate that link!

  7. I too was going to recommend Mai Tai. She has many silk scarves and seems to be an expert. You might enjoy her blog.

  8. Marlene says:

    Hi Susan, my 2 cents: If you have a friend who can refer a good dry cleaner in your area who has sent them a similar item with good results, then and only then would I trust a dry cleaner with a Hermes scarf.

    Early in my work life, I bought a lovely silk blouse at Saks on 5th Ave in NY. One color (teal), no design. I hand washed the blouse many times in cold water and Woolite (in those days, a powder only — dissolve first), rolled it in a towel until just damp, and then hung it on a terry hanger to dry, out of the light or the sun. Always came out beautiful; never shrank. A very, very cool iron with a piece of white cotton over the blouse, if necessary. (Some silks tend to wrinkle like crazy.)

    Only one caveat: After a number of years, I noticed that the sleeve on the blouse that faced out in the closet had faded, just from turning on the light in the closet! So I’d store your lovely scarf in acid free tissue in a drawer.

    2 cents turned into 10 … Best wishes, I think it will turn out fine.

  9. Joyce Howe says:

    Another thought for something I have used on silk fabric. I had a silk tunic top which got some grease on it (child’s greasy hands) and I used just a touch of Dawn on the spot area before hand washing as I always do. It worked fine and took the greasy/oily residue out without damaging the fabric. I just rubbed it very lightly between my fingers and rinsed it. Took the oily stain out and washed beautifully after.

  10. I trust all Laundress products. It should be fine. Your color catcher sounds like a good idea to me, too.

  11. Theresa says:

    I wash silk tops that have dry clean only labels I have never had a problem. I had a bright pink silk t-shirt that I got butter on. I threw the shirt away. LAter I retrieved it from the trash and washed it in dawn It worked great

  12. Sharon Bernstein says:

    I would wash it with the products you mentioned. I have a Hermes scarf my husband gave me from his trip to Paris 20 years ago. I realized the quality and value of the scarf and have never worn it. Basically I didn’t know how to wear it. It is a large square scarf and I am only 4’10” and feel it over whelms me. It is still in the original box. I will be anxious to see how you make out with your scarf.

  13. Depending on how much you paid for the scarf, I myself would not try and handwash it; given that the stain is barely noticeable, I don’t think I’d worry about it at all.

    Or I’d use the stain as an excuse to go to France to find it a dry-cleaners accustomed to cleaning Hermes products! :o)

  14. Nancy of Lake Stevens says:

    Susan, I understand your dilemma. But I must tell you that I have alway wondered how the Chinese cleaned their silk garments 1000 years ago. Seriously, the stains on the scarf look greasy or from perfume. Now when I get greasy stains on clothes or when dryer sheets leave a spot on my Pima cotton shirts I put one or two drops of original Dawn liquid dishwasher soap just on the spot. Then I carefully rinse just where the spot is. If Dawn can clean oil covered birds then it can get out the oil on my clothes. Whatever you decide, good luck.

  15. Katherine G says:

    It looks like an oil stain, so I’d have to agree with above comment on using Dawn (diluted) just on the area, and immediately rolling in towels. Using a white towel, you will know immediately if the color is not fast. Just keep rolling in towels, and get it dry right away – then iron with a pressing cloth on the lowest possible heat. Hermes scarves are really well made, and water has never caused color run for me. Very few dry cleaners actually do their own cleaning, so you might want to search one out where they do their own work and can actually talk to you about how they will remove the stain.

  16. Cynthia Raines says:

    Hi Susan,
    I just read all the very detailed instructions from the site mentioned and Jerrine sounds like she really knows what she is talking about. I think I would go with her instructions over dry cleaning. I agree with you regarding the harsh chemicals and the concern over the hem. I’m sure you will not be happy until you get that stain out and knowing how detail oriented you are, I’m confident you will succeed following her exact instructions. Take a deep breath, say a little prayer and I’m sure yours will turn out just fine. 🙂 It is a very pretty scarf.

  17. Your lucky the scarf is a flat one and it dos look like grease. I have many Hermes scarves but they are all pleated…talk about a problem is you get a stain on one of those. I had a Burberry pleated one in silk and had to get a mark off of it. I used just water and it took the pleats right out of it…My Hermes stay nice and safe in their little round boxes….But post after you try washing yours. Would love to see how it comes.

  18. I’d sure give it a go. Keep us posted!

  19. Sonja Enright says:

    I would try just spot washing. Stain is on corner and easy to get at. Try this before submerging entire scarf. Good luck
    Sonja E

  20. I’d contact Janice at vivienne files. She’s an expert on Hermes scarves. She’ll give you tried and true advice.

  21. Hi Susan,

    I’m glad this is your decision and not mine!!! I’d like to say I would live with the stain to prevent further damage to your beautiful scarf, however, knowing me, I would wash it! I’ve inherited my moms “gift” of stain removal. It’s a delicate process! Best of luck! Love your scarf!!

  22. Antoinette says:

    Hi Susan, I don’t have a suggestion on how to clean your lovely Hermes scarf; instead I have a question and I was wondering if you or anyone else might be able to answer it: I have several old framed embroidery pieces (some are quite large) that I made a long time ago when I used to embroider (the stitches are made of both silk and crewl yarn). I have dusted them over the years, but I would like to actually clean them with water and detergent (if possible), but I’m afraid to ruin them. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks in advance and I love your blog!

  23. Carol Liebst says:

    I can’t see the picture too well, but it looks like a bit of grease or oil. Have you tried rubbing the area with a bit of baking soda? That might just do the trick!

  24. Hey Susan I know nothing about silk scarves but I do know about setting dyes so they don’t run. I do quite a bit of embroidery and I use Sticky Fabri-Solvy to stabilize my work and to copy the pattern onto so I don’t have to hand draw it with a light box. The threads I use are dark red or almost a navy blue and they will run. To dissolve the stabilizer when I am done I fill my bathroom sink with warm water and I add a little vinegar. I let my work sit in this for about five minutes then rinse two to three times. It comes out perfect every time. The vinegar sets the dyes.

  25. Beautiful scarf!!
    I would suggest trying the cleaner on another piece of silk (less valuable) and see how it comes out before applying it to the Hermes.

    Best wishes!

  26. barbara gehrig says:

    DON’T HAND WASH IT!!!!!!
    I hand washed one of my Hermes scarves and there was some slight bleeding. I took it to Hermes in NYC and they said there was nothing they could do once the bleeding occurred.
    They said never hand wash their scarves – ONLY DRY CLEAN!.
    I am a big fan of the Laundress products and use them all but when it comes to Hermes it will strictly dry-clean only.
    If you don’t trust your local dry cleaner you can send your scarf to Hermes in NYC for cleaning.

  27. I would try Jerrine’s method of washing myself instead of risking losing the sheen of the fabric and having the hem flattened. Let us know how it turns out!

  28. Patricia says:

    I have hand washed a Hermes scarf and all my silk clothing. I pre-treat stains that with a small amount of Dawn and then soak with Laundress and more recently a Color Catcher. Ihave been using Magic Sizing since forever as it makes everything feel new. Yellow is one of the most unstable colors and not knowing the ph of your tap water, I would play it safe and wash in distilled water which is closest to a ph of 7 ( neither alkaline nor acid).

  29. Ouiser says:

    . . . “old lady” here. . .had several silk dresses/blouses when I was in college in the early 60’s. My Mom handwashed them all and carefully ironed. Agree with pre-treating with Dawn. As others have mentioned. . .gently roll in big soft terry toweling (might have to do more that once). Lay flat to dry and carefully hand press on silk setting, avoiding the rolled hems. Pls don’t dry clean unless you have a very good personal relationship with your dry cleaner!!

  30. Kathryn says:

    Years ago, I worked with a woman who was from Taiwan. I was complaining one day about the cost of dry cleaning my silk blouses. She had kind of a surprised look on her face when she asked me why I didn’t just wash them. I, of course, said that all silk blouses needed to be dry cleaned. She laughed and said “How do you think all those silk pieces are cleaned in Taiwan and China? We didn’t have dry cleaners!” From then on, I washed every one I had with fine results!

  31. I have hand washed many silk items with great results…I agree about the dry cleaning…

  32. bobbi duncan says:

    Our cleaners is eco friendly and, so far, no problems with our silk garments. Item, like cottons, that looked dull from our old cleaners hasn’t been the case with our new one either. And I like that no bad chemicals are touching our skin or polluting our environment. I used to feel angst every time when dropping off anything with any of my old cleaners. Hope all turns out well with your lovely scarf. Hugs!

  33. Suzanne says:

    Hand wash in cold water and DO NOT USE ANY FABRIC SOFTENER!! Especially dryer sheets. Those are oil stains, maybe from make-up or lipstick. Just don’t get any oil based products on it. I washed my Hermes scarf and I did hand roll it (wringing will set permanent wrinkles) in a WHITE bath towel. I will probably bleed a little bit. Just don’t let it touch itself anywhere to dry. Gently Hand press it on a towel. I have one that has a black background and it bled a little on the towel. I used Woolite for dark colors on it. Do Not dry clean – those chemicals will leave teeny tiny holes, weakening the fibers and eventually cause a tear. Good luck!!

  34. Kathleen says:

    If you are in charge this project is going to turn out perfectly! Love Dawn for grease stains!

  35. Elizabeth Roderick says:

    I was raised by the woman who did everything by hand and with perfection. She hand washed delicate fabric and ironed with cheese cloth or those thin cotton dish towels. Her ironing was next to none. I did not inherit her talent. Boo. I think it will turn out just fine and you will be pleased with the outcome.

  36. My aunt hand washed all of her silk scarves and blouses and taught me how to do mine. They have always turned out beautifully. She used a procedure very similar to the one outlined in Jerrine’s method at http://www.maitaispicturebook.com. I would definitely hand wash over dry cleaning.

  37. Hi Susan,
    I have not paid for dry cleaning in decades. I use a good quality shampoo like Pantene, for silk, cashmere, wool and linen. I use a large glass or plastic bowl and cold water. I use just enough shampoo…about a tablespoon…to make a bubbly solution. I soak the garment for a few minutes and then gently pounce it with my fingers. I rinse well with cold water until no suds and then fill the bowl again and add about 1/2 teaspoon of fabric softener…usually Fleecy. I pounce the garment gently with my fingers and then very gently lift the garment and push my hands together with the garment between and squeeze the water out. Then I gently place the garment onto a clean dry towel and roll it gently in the towel. That action alone removes quite a bit of water. I then use another clean and dry towel and lay the silk scarf, blouse, cashmere or wool sweater onto it and gently reshape it. It takes a couple of days for the wool and cashmere to dry. Linen blouses I hang on a plastic coat hanger and allow to dry.
    I have been doing this for decades. I have a couple of Hermes Scarves that I was fortunate enough o find in thrift stores for $1. each!! After washing them a couple of times over the years they still look spectacular! I have many cashmere sweaters. I wash then once per year, in the spring. They are still soft, supple and exquisite!
    I hope this helps!!
    Kind regards, Laura

  38. Juanita in OH says:

    Look how many people are so willing to help you. I think it is wonderful!! I feel the comradery amongst bloggers is an amazing connection. First, let me congratulate you on an enormous score with that beautiful scarf. You sound as if you are like me…all out war on stains, lol. I LOVE doing laundry as long as all the stains are removed. I truly appreciate all the information you share about keeping things clean. TFS.

  39. I would try washing it.
    I love the scarf. We just retired home from Africa and that scarf is calling my name!
    Carol Roger

  40. I have many (60+) silk, cashmere, cotton scarves, most from thrift and vintage stores, many from markets in Beijing, Paris, Dubai and other cities. I have a slight (lol) scarf problem… I have hand washed all of them. They look great. I would love to know how it turned out.

  41. I own a lot of silk scarves and they are all washed by hand in dishwashing soap. This is a pH neutral soap and I have ways gotten good results. I have a red black and gold on cream Hermes. There was no bleeding or other problem with the wash.

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