How to Clean Silk Ties

When we talk about cleaning a silk tie, we’re actually talking about removing stains, because silk ties were never meant to be cleaned. Launder? Never! Dry clean? Not even that. These ties are extremely delicate and can fall apart easily. All you can do is keep the tie as clean as you can. If you’re good at that, the tie will be out of style and ready for the discard pile before it needs cleaning.

There are commercially available fabric pre-treatment sprays which can make your tie stain-retardant. Though some neckties are manufactured with a blocking agent, you must still defend yourself. 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.

Silk and Water Don’t Mix

Should an offending blob of something get past your defenses, act immediately. Remove the tie. Waiting any length of time will make removal of the stain virtually impossible.

Never, ever bring water anywhere near the tie.

 

  1. With a white paper towel, dab a small amount of stain remover onto the stain. If you are not in the habit of carrying paper towels or stain remover with you, get your wife or girlfriend to carry them in her purse or stash them someplace convenient.
  2. If you have no stain remover, try dabbing it with a clean napkin dipped in a little seltzer.
  3. Blot with the paper towel.
  4. For anything greasy, sprinkle a little talcum powder or corn starch on the spot as soon as possible and allow it to absorb what it can. After a few hours, brush off the remaining residue with a clean soft cloth. If the spot remains, repeat the process.

Caution: stain removers may discolor your silk tie.

Methods of Last Resort

If it’s a soft silk tie, you can try this:

  1. Hang a towel over a hot radiator (not an automobile radiator).
  2. Take the silk tie and rest it flat on top of the towel while still on the radiator.
  3. Then, take a cold water vapor sprayer and evenly spray the area of the stain, being careful not to soak it.
  4. Use some very soft and absorbent bathroom tissue to blot the tie.
  5. Leave the tie on the radiator overnight.
  6. The next morning when you get up, check the tie. If the stain is still there, repeat the process.

If you should get butter or grease on your silk tie, which pretty much dooms the tie, don’t do anything until you get home.

  1. When you get home lay the silk tie on a flat surface with a towel under it.
  2. Sprinkle talcum powder or corn starch over the stain.
  3. Leave the tie on the towel overnight or for as long as you have to. This gives the stain a chance to be absorbed by the powder.
  4. Take a clean soft cloth or towel and gently brush off the powder. If it is still stained, repeat the process.
  5. This can take up to three applications before you know whether the stain is permanent.

If you haven’t gotten rid of the stain, which is very likely, then have the tie dry cleaned. They’re not meant for dry cleaning, and chances are dry cleaning isn’t going to get the spot out either, but this is your last resort. Ask the cleaner to use the gentlest chemicals he has. This is still not a guarantee that the tie won’t be ruined in the process.

 

Comments

  1. Sonia says:

    I just read elsewhere on the web that some people have very successfully spot cleaned their silk ties using plain old alcohol and a blow dryer to quickly dry the cleaned spot (to prevent a ring). I have NOT tried it myself yet, so do not know firsthand how it would work, but it’s worth a try on a tie that might just be ruined anyway! Best wishes!

  2. D. Jackson says:

    If you notice a grease stain on fabric, try to treat it within a few hours. One thing to try is table salt or baking soda to absorb the oil or grease for about 30 minutes. Then brush off the salt or soda and then dab the spot with alcohol using a towel under the stain to prevent it from spreading. Let it sit for a few minutes then wash it right away. If the stain is still there, try alcohol again, then wash with Tide liquid detergent or Dawn dish detergent. If you still have a stain, then use it as a dust rag. Hopefully this will work, but only use this method on washable fabrics. If the fabric is not washable, only use alcohol and a blow dryer to prevent water stains. This works well on linen and micro fibers. Good Luck!

  3. Tie-de-spotter says:

    Better than talc or corn starch is diatomaceous earth or attapulgite, a very fine siliceous powder with a strong affinity for oil and grease. Simply blot the stain with a paper towel and then apply the powder to generously cover the grease stain. Gently pat the powder into the weave of the tie and allow it to sit overnight. The next day, gently brush away the excess powder, and then flick (not pick) at the fabric with your nail to dislodge the powder embedded in the weave. If the grease stain is still present, reapply the powder and try again the next day. Diatomaceous earth, and attapulgite are both in the class of substances known as Fuller’s Earth. Fuller’s Earth has been used for centuries to clean and degrease clothing.

  4. Lisa C says:

    I was looking for tips on how to remove stains from a silk tie tonight and came across this site. I tried the alcohol and blow dryer tip that Sonia posted and it worked perfectly. I purchased a Gucci tie from a thrift store that had a few small set-in stains and they are now gone! Thanks Sonia.

  5. Sue says:

    I was skeptical, but Sonia’s tip above using alcohol and a blow dryer really worked for me on a milk stain that ran down the entire length of my son’s light-colored silk tie. JUST KEEP REPEATING. After the first couple of applications, it may not look like it’s working, but eventually it will. Hooray!

  6. Herzco says:

    “If you are not in the habit of carrying paper towels or stain remover with you, get your wife or girlfriend to carry them in her purse or stash them someplace convenient.”

    Right. I’ll begin carrying around stain remover for “my man” when he starts carrying tampons for me.

  7. Bill says:

    I couldn’t get to this tie for five hours. When I got home, I dabbed the stain lightly and repeatedly with spray and wash with plain white paper towel. Knowing that you can’t touch or do anything else with fine silk and knowing that this treated area would show a shadow where the spray and wash dried, I proceeded to spray the entire length of the front of the tie till it all was wet. In the morning, I had a dry tie, stain perfectly removed and the tie was only slightly darker than originally. If it were new, you wouldn’t know the difference. Just a slight color change.

  8. Joe says:

    After two attempts of cleaning a stain at a reputable dry cleaner, I tried Sonia’s rubbing alcohol suggestion, which worked great. Warning, though – on my stain, I needed to rub and soak it for it to lighten, which it did, but my repeated process also lightened the base tie as well – the tie can now be used, as my wife could not find the stain nor the lightened area upon inspection until I told her where it was. So the idea works GREAT – but I did this “extreme” by soaking and rubbing really hard five (5) times. Thanks Sonia – your idea saved my tie to be usable as a tie and not as dust cloth.

  9. Paul says:

    I first used alcohol and powder to remove stains from two rather expensive silk ties. It did not work. I already knew taking them to the dry cleaners would not work. As a last resort, I bought some club soda and wet the areas thoroughly. The club soda fizzed a little when I poured it on. After some light rubbing, the stains disappeared. I was skeptical so I poured on more club soda. Then I let them dry naturally. Now, the ties are dry and there’s no sign of the stains. I just saved about $150 worth of my favorite ties. Amazing.

  10. Steve says:

    RE: I thought this kind of sexism was dead…
    Herzco: Not everything is sexist; asking the girlfriend or wife to carry the stain remover in her purse has nothing to do with sexism. My girlfriend generally carries many emergency items in her purse. It is a matter of being practical. Most men do not carry a bag; storing these items in our wallets is not an option. My girlfriend would gladly carry this item for me. Just as I would gladly carry a pad or tampon for her in my jacket pocket. Assisting your life partner is not sexism, it’s called a healthy relationship. By the way, I still open doors and pull out chairs, also not sexism; it’s called basic manners. It is a shame that in this day and age simple co-operation can be viewed as sexist. No wonder so many of today’s relationships do not work out.

    Truly Sad

  11. Moxamomma says:

    I am going to try the suggestion posted here, but first, answer this question: If water should NEVER be put on silk ties (I read online), then how can SELTZER (a.k.a. Carbonated WATER) be safely used to clean a silk tie? Need an answer please. Thank you.

  12. Simon says:

    Moxamomma… it is entirely possible that a weak solution of carbonated water does not damage silk in the same way as tap water. Silk is a protein with tertiary structure held together by hydrogen bonding between amines and carboxylate groups – water disrupts the hydrogen bonding by bonding to the groups itself. Changing the pH of the water may well modify the hydrogen bonding nature in silk so that it is not disrupted.

  13. Jorge says:

    The alcohol tip works wonders. Just saved a $150 Burberry tie from years at the back of my closet! I didn’t have a blow-drier, but a fan on a really high setting worked amazingly. Thanks!

  14. Cliff says:

    “I’ll begin carrying around stain remover for “my man” when he starts carrying tampons for me.”

    I suspect you will never have to worry about this.

  15. Ken says:

    For years, I have had great success removing spots from silk ties using contact lens cleaning solution–not the “all in one–cleaner + soaking solution + saline” kind, but the kind that was used by everyone with soft and hard lenses back in the ’80s and ’90s. Not terribly easy to find, but still out there.

    1. Spread a thick, dry terry cloth trowel on the floor.

    2. Squirt the lens cleaner on the tie to cover the spot.

    3. Lay the tie smoothly on the towel and fold the towel over so that the tie is sandwiched between two layers of towel.

    4. Not kidding here–stand on and jump up and down on the towel where the tie is. The pressure forces all the cleaning solution into the towel, bringing the stain with it. Remove the tie and spread it flat on a smooth surface to completely dry if necessary.

  16. Jennifer says:

    Wow! I followed Sonia’s idea of alcohol and a hair dryer, and it worked! I wiped the stain with an alcohol wipe, then used the hairdryer to dry it, then I used my finger nail to kind of scrape at the stain. I then used a white paper towel and scrubbed the stain. I repeated it three times with three alcohol wipes. Thank you Sonia for the idea!

  17. Steve says:

    That product mentioned above is actually sold at auto parts stores and Walmart as an oil drying compound. It is used to take oil spots off of driveways, and works quite well on nasty, dirty motor oil. It is also used in some aquarium filters to suck out impurities. Combined with heat from an iron, this stuff works quite well on silk ties in about five minutes. I just saved my favorite $50.00 silk tie this way. I think this stuff is in kitty litter, also. That might also be worth a try.

  18. Brian says:

    Tried Sonia’s suggestion on a bright blue silk tie. There was a little spot showing where I spot treated it, so I blotted the rest of the area around the spot with alcohol, then dried it with a hairdryer and now the spot is gone. There really isn’t anything that you can see now.

  19. Brian says:

    I also tried Sonia’s alcohol stain removal technique on a nice Hermes tie I purchased at a local thrift store. I blotted using Q-tips, and dried it with the hair dryer. The spot is gone.

  20. C says:

    I didn’t have any rubbing alcohol or stain remover, but I managed to save my favorite Kenneth Cole necktie with vodka. Alcohol definitely works, probably with less risk than stain remover. Thanks Sonia!

  21. J. says:

    I didn’t have rubbing alcohol either, so I also used vodka. Three drops and a light rubbing with a Q-Tip (and immediate drying with a hair dryer), and the stain is completely gone. Much better than paying a dry cleaner and hoping for the best. Thanks!

  22. Dawn says:

    Sonia! It looks like you’re the star of this show!

  23. Phil says:

    Vodka with a hair dryer made wonders.

  24. Violet says:

    This is extremely silly–water by no means ruins a silk tie. Trying to spot clean with water will likely leave a mark, but please use common sense. Silk fabrics are some of the oldest and they have needed to be cleaned since long before dry cleaning or other lab-created chemical concoctions existed.
    I know that silks can be washed because I do this myself, as someone who makes their living off of restoring and reselling vintage clothing. I have worked with silk, satin, velvet, crepe, jersey, chiffon, dupioni… the list goes on. I have successfully cleaned all of them, and rid them of many serious and often decades-old stains. Some are much tougher to clean and restore than others, and none ever look quite as perfect as before its first wash, but it’s certainly better than a dingy or stained garment and no one but you who saw that silk item before its wash will truly know the difference (if you clean it carefully, of course!).
    If your silk tie is gross and a simple spot treatment won’t do it, you don’t have to lose it! Get a jug of distilled water and a small container (or wash out your sink and plug the drain), then soak the tie in it for at least an hour. If you’ve had the tie for a while, or it is vintage, you might just be stunned at how gross the water gets with this soak. Drain that water, add a soap made for delicate clothing, and let it soak for ten minutes. Drain that, then fill the container with water again until the suds are gone and the water is clear. Rinse with white vinegar to restore the luster of the silk and rinse until the scent of vinegar is gone. Then, lay it flat to dry. It will probably be a bit stiff when it dries, so if you have a steamer, steam it from a few inches away; otherwise, hang it near your shower, turn on the hot water, close the door, and let it get steamy in there for 5-10 minutes. Ta-da; you have a fresh, clean silk tie that still looks incredibly handsome.
    I promise this works. If it didn’t, I’d be broke and wardrobe-less (given that I’m somewhat of a hedonist and much of my own closet is filled with silk).

  25. JS says:

    I tried the rubbing alcohol wipe method and it worked somewhat. My stain was on a silk tie; it set in for about an hour and had been gently wiped with a dry paper towel at the restaurant. The alcohol removed about 70-80 percent of the stain after 2-3 alcohol wipe and dry cycles. I wanted to get the rest out, so I wiped a little more aggressively once more. After drying that time, I noted some fading of the material, especially evident since the tie has a bit of a sheen to it. Be conservative with how many times you wipe and with how much pressure. Otherwise, you can end up bleaching the fabric. In this case, better was the enemy of good. I should have just left it alone at 80%.

  26. Ben says:

    Another vote for Sonia! My stain was very caked on and several months old at least. After each time I applied alcohol and dried with the hair dryer, I very gently used a toothpick to scrape along the grain of the tie to get out the caked-on stuff that the alcohol had loosened. Then several more times with the alcohol, and the stain lightened up a little each time. Thanks!

  27. Al says:

    Alcohol wipe and a hair drier are definitely the way to go. It just saved one of my favorite ties from the rag bag. Thanks Sonia!

  28. Ellen says:

    I was nervous about trying the alcohol, however, I figured the tie was trashed anyways, so why not. I agree with y’all that it is the way to go. My husband’s tie looks new again! Wish I would have known sooner. Previously I would have thrown it out. I encourage everyone to give it a try.

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