for a while now, i've been thinking about alternatives to dry-cleaning.
longtime readers know that i've always been an advocate of buying natural fibers: cotton, silk, wool, linen. nothing irks me more than finding a beautiful garment on the rack that turns out to be 100% polyester. i will make an exception for rayon jersey now and then. but in general, nothing rivals natural textiles for quality, breathability, and feel.
silk is a particular favorite and there's a lot of it in my closet. unfortunately, 99.9% of all the silk garments on the market these days are tagged 'dry clean only'. several years ago, i didn't give a second thought to dropping off a pile of clothes at my trusty dry cleaners'. recently, however, i've become more selective about buying DCO garments. obviously, the environmental/chemical toxicity of the process and its after-effects are major factors, but it's also about the cleanliness. maybe i'm old-fashioned, but i just don't feel like something is truly 'clean' unless it has gone through a sudsy washing.
i doubt i'll be able to avoid dry-cleaning entirely (fine tropical wool suits and certain very delicate garments no doubt will still require it). that said, i am very interested in budget and eco-friendly alternative methods, particularly for my silk blouses that get a lot of wear throughout the year.
so i'm curious – how do you clean and care for your silks? have you had success with hand-washing / line-drying? do you use a gentle detergent (ie: Woolite), or a DIY household solution?
update 6/16/2014: i just wanted to thank everyone for chiming in with such helpful and detailed recommendations! will certainly try out the hand-washing methods. stay tuned for more in this series :)