Silk ties are not only a delicate material, their very design is delicate. From the multiple layers to their rolled edges, silk ties are unlike any other item of clothing, which is why traditionally they are not meant to be cleaned. Launder? Never! Dry clean? Not even that. However, there are some tricks you can try to clean the tie, freshen it, or remove stains.
If your tie absolutely needs an all-over cleaning, you have two options. Select an option below based on what is best for your tie.
- Home Dry Cleaning Kit.
These kits are much gentler on your tie than a commercial dry cleaner. They can be found in the laundry aisle of your local supermarket. Two common ones are Dryel and Woolite At-Home Dry Cleaner. Follow the instructions on the label of your selected product.
- Air steam it.
Bring your tie in the bathroom and hang it on a towel rack. Take a hot shower with the bathroom door closed. The steamy bathroom air will freshen up your tie.
- Wash it.
Older silk ties are not meant to be washed at all, but some new ones have features to help them withstand washing. Test a small hidden area on the fabric to look for any dye bleed or water stain (let the tie dry to determine if there is a water stain). If you think your tie can get away with a washing (by which we mean a very gentle hand wash, not machine laundering), use the guide How to Wash Silk.
Immediate Stain Removal
Should an offending blob of something get past your defenses, act immediately. Remove the tie. If you drop a glob of something like mustard or salad dressing on the tie, first scoop it off with a spoon or dull knife. After that, choose one of the options below.
Use absorbent powder.
This process works especially well for grease stains like salad dressing, as well as for red wine.
- Sprinkle salt over the area. (You can also use corn meal or corn starch, baking soda, or even a little flour instead of salt if needed. Basically any absorbent powder will work, even sawdust. Do not use sugar though, which could dissolve and add to the stain. Also avoid powders like coffee grounds that could leave a stain.)
- Leave the powder on the stain for 30-60 minutes, then brush it off. Hopefully, the powder will have absorbed the stain. If not, you can apply more powder to try again.
Keep in mind that water can also stain a silk tie or cause the dye to bleed. It’s best to it on a hidden first area to look for dye bleed. Use the tips below to avoid water stains as well.
- Put a small amount of seltzer or club soda on a paper towel or white napkin and dab the stain with it. Do not use plain water. It is the carbonation in the seltzer that enables it to remove the stain.
- After you blot off the stain with the seltzer, press a dry towel onto the area to soak up as much of the moisture as possible. This will reduce the possibility of a water stain.
- If there is any cool air you can use, such as a hair dryer on the cool setting or a fan, put the tie in front of the cool air stream to help it dry as fast as possible, which can also help to avoid a water stain.
Many people have left comments on this page over the years saying that they successfully removed stains by dabbing the spot with some alcohol (isopropyl or vodka), then drying the area with a hair dryer. However, several people have mentioned that the alcohol lightened the entire area, so if you decide to try this, don’t use a lot of alcohol and don’t rub the area too hard. (Thanks for posting this tip Sonia!)
Use a stain remover.
Keep in mind that ANY stain remover could discolor or damage your tie, so it’s always best to test a product on a small hidden area first.
- Dab a small amount onto the stain with a cloth or paper towel.
- Follow the instructions on the label of your selected product. If the stain remover needs to be rinsed, use as little water as possible and soak up as much as you can with a towel afterward to avoid getting a water stain. Drying the tie with a hair dryer on the cool setting or if front of a fan can also help prevent a water stain.
- One of our site users (thanks!) says that they have used Spot Shot Carpet Stain Remover to successfully remove stains from a silk tie. The benefit of using a carpet stain remover is that they usually do not need to be rinsed.
- If you don’t have any stain remover available, you can use white foam shaving cream instead. That also does not need to be rinsed.
Overnight Stain Removal
If you have more time to treat the tie, you can still use one of the options above, but here are two more options to consider as well.
Use a radiator.
This process also works well to remove wrinkles.
- Hang a towel over a hot radiator (not an automobile radiator).
- Take the silk tie and rest it flat on top of the towel while still on the radiator.
- Then, take a cold water vapor sprayer and evenly spray the area of the stain, being careful not to soak it.
- Use some very soft and absorbent bathroom tissue to blot the tie.
- Leave the tie on the radiator overnight.
- The next morning when you get up, check the tie. If the stain is still there, repeat the process.
Use a dry cleaning stain remover.
- Some of the home dry cleaning kits, such as Dryel, contain a stain remover. There are also dry cleaning stain removers you can buy directly, such as Guardsman Citrus Dry Cleaning Fluid or K2r Spot Lifter. These products can be found online if not at a local hardware store or home goods store. Use the stain remover, following the instructions on your selected product.
- If you want to take the tie to a dry cleaner as a last resort, ask them to use the gentlest chemicals they have. This is still not a guarantee that the tie won’t be ruined in the process though.
- Never iron a silk tie. This is similar to the pressing method at commercial dry cleaners that can leave ties with flattened edges (as opposed to rolled as they are intended to be), crush the tie’s layers, or even damage its luster.
- If you need to remove wrinkles from a silk tie, use the air steam method in the General Cleaning section above, or use the radiator method in the Overnight Stain Removal section.
- There are commercially available fabric pre-treatment sprays which can make your tie stain-retardant. Some neckties are manufactured with a blocking agent already added.
- Use a tie restraint such as a clip or tack, and tuck a napkin in your shirt collar when you eat. Then you won’t need to worry about stains. Remember your necktie is a thing of beauty, not a bib.
- Always remove a tie by doing the steps of tying it in reverse. If you try to pull out the small end, it will twist and stretch the fabric, causing the fibers to weaken over time.
- Clean It Fast, Clean It Right by Jeff Bredenberg
- Haley’s Cleaning Hints by Graham and Rosemary Haley
- The Spot & Stain Remover Handbook by Jean Cooper