Have you ever spilled a drink or dropped some food onto your precious silk kimono and wondered if you can rescue it? We’ve had a few questions recently asking how to clean and store your silk kimono and haori jackets so we thought we’d write a quick blog post about it. Due to the delicate nature of vintage kimonos, we first and foremost recommend taking them to a trusted dry cleaner who works with vintage textiles. Since a lot of our silk robes were made in the 70’s or earlier, the stitching is very delicate and any rough handling could cause the seams to tear or come apart which is exactly what we don’t want! A dry cleaner who knows their stuff will be able to adequately care for your kimono without any damage to the material or seams. In saying this, if you’ve spilled something on yourself; I’m clumsy it happens to me literally ALL THE TIME, then fear not you’re kimono isn’t ruined and you can clean it at home (but only gently).
A step by step guide to cleaning your Kimono
Start off by filling a bucket with water, you don’t want it to be warmer than 30 degrees Celsius because hot water can damage silk. Check the temperature with your hand, our body temperature runs at about 37 degrees so 30 degrees should feel like skin temperature or even a little colder.
Add a small amount of detergent, preferably one specially designed for silk but a baby shampoo will work as well, we've used both the options below and found them wonderful.
If you’re using a granular detergent, make sure that all the granules are fully dissolved so that you don’t end up with a patch of silk with detergent marks on it.
Put your kimono in the bucket and swirl it around for a few minutes, focus on the marked area and very gently try to remove the stain. Make sure that you don’t scrub it or leave it in the water too long as this can affect the silk and stitching.
Pour out the water and add fresh cold water to rinse your kimono.
Be very careful when removing the kimono from the water as it will be much heavier when you take it out and lifting it in the wrong way (for example from the sleeves) can cause damage to the seams because they aren’t made to support that much-added weight. I’ve managed to rip one of mine doing this and I was very sad :(
To dry the kimono, carefully hang it on a bar so that the weight is very evenly distributed and let it drip dry, if you’re in a rush you can lay it down between 2 towels and try to get some of the moisture out faster.
Check your water temperature, it should feel a little cool on your skin. Add your silk detergent or baby shampoo
Gently put your kimono in the water
Carefully swirl your kimono in the water
Very carefully try to rub any stains or marks out of your kimono
Be very careful when lifting your kimono out of the water. Lift it from under the collar, close to the center seam
This is the point when the water logged kimono is most likely to be damaged as all the weight is now on the points where you are lifting it from. Make sure you aren't lifting from the sleeves as they are often quite fragile
Hang your kimono on a rail, this means that all the weight is even distributed. Here we've used an extendable shower curtain rail, these are a wonderful option as you can customise them to fit your space
Try to keep your robe out of direct sunlight as this can cause the silk to fade and absolutely don’t tumble dry!!
If you find that your kimono has lots of wrinkles, you can iron it on a super low setting but we suggest putting a thin cotton sheet between the iron and the silk as too much direct heat will make the silk shiny. Also iron on the reverse side, so that the outer silk doesn’t come in direct contact with the iron. We’ve steamed some of our kimonos but do this with caution as steam irons can spit and this will leave instant watermarks all over your precious silk which is heartbreaking. I’m speaking from experience, I sound like a kimono serial killer I know, but let my failures save your silks!
If you plan on storing your kimono for a while, make sure to keep it out of direct sunlight. We had a shop in central Berlin for a while and thought we would make a nice window display with some folded kimonos and flowers in some of our handmade ceramic vases. It was a good idea in theory but when we changed it a week later and went to rehang the kimonos all of them had a sun-bleached streak where they had been folded and were facing the window. It happened super quickly and we were surprised at how much the silk was affected in such a short space of time. Luckily we have nice friends and the kimonos went to good homes but it was such a shame to have essentially ruined a couple of beautiful pieces.
If you’re wondering how to store your kimono for a lengthier time period, fold like this (it’s the traditional folding technique):
How to best fold your kimono for storage. Diagram courtesy of Yoshi Jones
Place a sheet of acid-free paper in between the folds if you’re being extra careful as this minimizes the threat of mould and damp damage and store in a dry, dark cupboard with a few anti-moth traps because those suckers LOVE silk.
If you want to know how to wash a cotton kimono, it’s much easier, YAY! Just wash them on a gentle cycle like you would a normal cotton garment, preferably at 30 degrees and off you go :) Obviously be careful depending on colours, yukata are often dyed with natural indigo which has a tendency to run so you don’t want to wash it hot or it’ll stain itself and everything around it.
All this being said, silk is super delicate and we definitely recommend a good dry cleaner over hand-washing, so be warned and wash at your own risk!
Do you have any questions? Anything else you need to know about caring for your Kimono that you feel we've left out? Send us a DM on Instagram and let us know about it :)
Modern Archive xx
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Modern Archive is an online space for textile lovers. We're especially obsessed with everything to do with Japanese Kimonos, Ai-zome and Shibori - We write about things that we like in our kimono magazine and occasionally host pop-up events. Find us on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook. Send us an email to hellomodernarchive@gmail (or blow us a kiss).