This delicate natural fiber is usually only used within the finest and most expensive clothing and decor. While it is usually associated with the finer things in life, many are surprised when it develops and odor all of its' own.
Though this fragile textile can present a special set of deodorizing challenges, by using the below tips and tricks, you can get the smell out of silk and return the precious textile to pristine condition.
If you want to get BO smell out of silk in a hurry and you don't have time to wash it, here is a trick that has worked in theater costume shop owners and back stage managers have been using for years. Mix up a half-and-half solution of vodka and water in a spray bottle. You probably don't want to use the expensive stuff just to freshen up you clothes, but go with whatever you have on hand in a pinch.
Steam will get rid of offensive odors coming from silk. You can try holding a steam wand a few inches from the fabric to deal with this issue. If you still own a steam iron, fill it with water, plug it in and let it warm up. Hold it a few inches from the item and let the steam penetrate the fabric.
Fill your sink with lukewarm water. Add half a capful of Woolite. Gently wash your item; you don't need to scrub it hard; just dip it in the waster and move it around instead. Let the water out of the sink and refill with clean, lukewarm water. Add two Tablespoons of distilled white vinegar and rinse thoroughly. Once the fabric has been rinsed out, empty the sink and fill with cool water. Rinse the garment a third time. Squeeze out the water and lie flat to dry.
Take your silk item outside and let the air get at it to remove the distinctive aroma of mothballs. You will want to avoid placing it in direct sunlight, however. Find a shady spot where you can hang up your item. You can also place it on a clean sheet or towel on the grass if you wish.
You can freshen up your silk clothes quickly and easily by placing them in the dryer. Instead of running it on the normal cycle you would use to dry a load of clothes, set it to "Fluff" or "Air" instead. The exact cycle may not be called by either one of these names. You want to look for the cycle that doesn't use any heat. Run the dryer for a few minutes to freshen up the item and get rid of the stank.
Baking soda will get rid of the smell of moth balls, but you will need to give it at least a few days to work. Place your piece of clothing in a plastic bag or a box. Pack it with enough baking soda to cover it completely. Leave it in place for several days before removing from the container. Sniff it to see whether it carries the tell-tale smell of moth balls. If you still smell the stale smell, put it back in the baking soda for a few more days. Over time, the baking soda will eventually absorb the smell, but you need to be patient.
Another way to get the smell of moth balls out of silk clothing is to buy some activated charcoal. You can find it at home improvement or pet stores. Place it in a shallow dish at various points around a room. Hang up your silk item and leave it for at least a few days. The charcoal will absorb odors from the room and get the smell out. This isn't the best option if you want to wear the item right away but if you have some time before you plan to put it on, go ahead and let the charcoal do its work.
Silk fabric that has been in storage too long can take on a musty, dank smell. To freshen it up, pour one cup of white vinegar into a gallon pail of warm water. Place the item into the water and soak it completely in the vinegar and water solution. Leave it overnight. Wash it with a mild detergent and hang to dry.
If you have musty silk flowers you need to treat, whip up a batch of homemade funk buster. It will get rid of the hold and fungus that is causing the stink issue. You could probably stray it on clothing too; just try it on a test spot before you use it on a full outfit in case the lemon juice bleaches out the silk.
Combine a cup of water with 1/2 cup of vinegar, and 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice in a spray bottle. Shake it to mix the ingredients thoroughly. Spray the mixture on the flowers or the fabric you want to freshen up. The acid in the vinegar and the lemon juice will kill any odor-causing hold or fungus. Allow the item to dry before giving it a sniff to see whether you need to spray it again.
This solution will work well with smaller items like vintage silk scarves that tend to pick up musty odors over time. Place the item in a box with an unscented dryer sheet. Close the box and leave it for a week before checking to see whether the smell is gone. You can place a piece of tissue paper between the dryer sheet and the scarf if you are concerned about wax from its surface transferring from the silk and causing damage to your clothing.