Can You Steam Silk? A How-To Guide for Fabric, Dresses, Scarves, Ties & More

Silk, commonly made from the mulberry silkworm, is one of the most delicate fabrics in existence. It’s no wonder why so many people ask the question: “Can You Steam Silk?

This article will discuss if it’s safe, how it’s done and some extra tips and tricks to keep your silk safe while you steam it.

Can You Steam Silk?

Yes. Silk ties, dresses, drapes, scarves, shirts, blouses, and even 100 silk and satin can all be steamed. In fact, it’s the preferred method of getting wrinkles out of silk because there is no direct contact with the clothes steamer. Hang the garment and gently pull it straight while applying long, smooth strokes with the steamer to remove the wrinkles.

For DIY silk projects like scarves, ensure that any colored dyes have been set completely and will not run out due to the hot steam. You can test the steam on a small corner of the garment if you are unsure about colors running.

Can you Steam Silk Ties?

Yes. Steaming silk ties is by far the best option because it retains the “rolled edge” along the sides of the tie, giving it a fuller look. Ironing will flatten the edge into a crease and it will lose its fullness.

See our review of the Best Clothes Steamers money can buy.

How to Steam Silk

Even though it’s safe to steam silk clothing, we’re going to take some extra precautions to minimize the risk of any damage to the fabric.

Always check the label and care instructions first!

1. Wash the Silk

Ideally, a washed garment will be better at steaming wrinkles out. Silk will often require that it be hand-washed. It’s not 100% necessary but it helps. Drying it on a quality hanger will also remove a lot of the wrinkles.

2. Turn the Garment Inside Out

This is optional but will add just a tiny bit of protection against accidental touching of the steamer to the garment. If you’re confident in your technique, it’s not necessary.

3. Hang the Silk Garment

If possible, use a suit hanger with broad shoulders to protect the clothing from stretching at the shoulders. Ties and trousers can be placed on normal hangers but will have to be secure enough to allow you to gently pull on the bottom of the garment while steaming.

4. Set the Steamer to its Lowest Setting

Even though the steam temperature is a constant 100C / 212F (at sea level), some steamers allow you to adjust the heat of the steamer itself. Make sure to use the absolute lowest setting for silk.

5. Steam a Tiny Part First

If this is the first time you’re steaming this garment, find an inconspicuous section to test the steamer on first. Allow some time to see if there is any running of colors or deformation of the silk. It might take a little time to notice it so be patient and careful if this is your most favorite silk blouse.

6. Steam the Silk Garment

With the item hanging securely, use one hand to add some tension to the bottom of the garment while you gently steam it with the other hand in long, even strokes. It’s not necessary to over-saturate the silk with steam. You just need a little for it to work.\

You should be able to observe the wrinkles disappearing. If not, you may need higher heat, slightly more tension, or a proper wash.

7. Allow to Hang-Dry

Leave the clothing hanging and allow it to dry. Silk dries fast in a warmer, well-ventilated area.

How to Steam Silk Without a Steamer

Here are a few “hacks” you could use to steam silk without a steamer…

1. Shower

Use steam from the shower, while hanging the garment in the bathroom.

2. Kettle

Use the steam from a kettle at boiling point. (Don’t hold the kettle button down too long!)

3. Hairdryer

Use a water spray bottle in combination with a hairdryer. This method also dries the silk. Just be extremely careful not to burn the silk with the hairdryer!

Better to Steam or Iron Silk?

Steaming silk is safer than ironing because the direct contact with the iron’s soleplate has a much greater chance of damaging the delicate silk weave. You can of course also do vertical steaming with an iron for the same effect (while not making any contact with the silk) but an iron is much heavier.

Wrinkles not Steaming Out?

If you’ve tried everything above and your silk is still wrinkled, you may need to switch to iron it. You’ll need to use a protective sheet-like brown craft paper or cotton and use the very lowest setting on the iron.

How to Steam a Silk Dress

A wedding dress or bridesmaid’s dress made of silk can have such intricate detail that it’s impossible to iron. Steaming might be the only option!

If you follow the steps above, you will be able to steam even the most complex wedding dress. You just need more time and possibly a larger, more secure hanger to hang the dress.

Silk cocktail dresses are easier to steam and will also respond well to the steps given.

Definitely check your labels too!


Steamers are safer at removing wrinkles from silk than irons are. It works for silk ties, dresses, drapes, scarves, and even silk flowers. You just need to be really careful and use the lowest heat settings. Test smaller sections if you’re not sure and make sure to follow any laundry instructions.