SILK... An Age-Old Favorite
While silk is coveted for its elegance, texture, luster, etc., it must be used in the proper settings. It is important to consider the various factors that may degrade the quality of this fine textile.
A Natural Fiber
Silk is a protein fiber that is extruded by the silk worm when constructing its cocoon. With individual strands sometimes over a mile in length, silk is the only natural filament fiber used in the manufacturing of fabric.
Location! Location! Location!
While silk is coveted for its elegance, texture, luster, etc., it must be used in the proper settings. Lighting is one of the critical factors to consider before using silk as a floor covering or an above-the-floor fabric. Most silk has a marked tendency to fade in sunlight (both direct and indirect). Thus, the robins egg blue sofa that is exposed to the light coming from the picture windows might change to a shade of light gray. Turning the cushions will only reveal how much the silk has faded. The pictures hung on the red silk wall covering can never be moved because the area behind the frames is still the original color while the exposed silk has taken on an orange appearance.
White silks tend to undergo a natural yellowing with age. This color change is sometimes referred to as a natural patina. Unfortunately, this change accelerates when the fabric is exposed to light and the new color is not always welcome. A white silk sofa in a contemporary setting can turn an interesting shade of yellow/tan and ultimately ruin the essence that was originally created. If this same sofa was placed where it was exposed to direct sunlight this scenario could happen in a short few weeks
The key is to be cognizant of the light sources and how they may affect the silk fabric over the short and long term.
Contrary to what many people think, silk is one of the most cleanable fabrics available. Most silks can be either wet or dry-cleaned, however, testing is a must, especially if the fabric contains surface finishes or multiple colors. Moiré silk, for example, can only be dry-cleaned. Water-based cleaners will cause the moiré look to disappear with no hope of restoring it.
Spot Cleaning Silk Can Be Difficult
While cleaning an entire silk sofa may not present a problem, spotting the same sofa can be extremely challenging. This is largely due to the ringing problems associated with silk fabrics. Sericin, or silk gum, is a major contributor to the ringing problems. The sericin is drawn to and dries at the outer edges of the spotted area, usually leaving a dark-colored ring. This problem can be avoided by feathering seam-to-seam around the spot.
Alkaline Chemicals Should Be Avoided On Silk!
Although silk is somewhat resistant to acid, alkaline chemicals can easily harm it. As with all protein fibers, silk is dissolved by chlorine bleach.
General Care Of Silk
It is extremely important to reverse cushions on a regular basis so that any fading or yellowing that may occur will do so in a more even manner. Saving the good side for company is no longer an option since this will only accentuate the fading or yellowing problems. When spotting with chemicals, the area should be feathered to prevent possible ringing. Carpet beetles are very fond of silk and can cause unsightly damage. Timely cleaning can prevent these tiny pests from becoming a big problem.
Fiber-Seal continues to receive information about UV-inhibitors or fade resistant treatments for upholstery fabrics. As of this date, we have seen no information whatsoever to corroborate these claims. If you have information on a company that offers a fade resistant treatment and would like us to research it for you, we will be glad to help. Simply contact your local Fiber-Seal Service Center and they will pass the information along to our laboratory in Dallas.
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