What is Mulberry Silk?

Mulberry silk is the highest quality silk you can purchase.  It is made from silkworms that are raised in captivity under exacting conditions.  It is also the most expensive type of silk.

What makes it so expensive and why is it superior to other types of silk? Let me start by telling how mulberry silk is made, a process the Chinese developed thousands of years ago and have perfected, making them the worlds experts in producing the finest silk.

silkwormMulberry silk is made from the silkworms of the Bombyx mori moth.  The moth has one job to do and that is to lay eggs.  After it lays about 500 eggs, its job is finished and it dies.  The tiny pinpoint size eggs are kept at 65 degrees Fahrenheit with the temperature slowly and carefully raised to 75 degrees Fahrenheit to hatch the eggs.

The tiny silkworms that are born are then fed an exclusive diet of mulberry leaves 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (mulberry leaves are the only food the Bombyx mori moth will eat).  After about a month of the constant gorging on the mulberry leaves, the silkworms will have increased their weight about 10,000 times and will have built up enough energy to start spinning their cocoon.  It takes anywhere from three to as long as eight days for the silkworm to weave the cocoon.

The cocoons are then kept in a warm place for several days.  Great care is taken to ensure the silkworms do not hatch into moths because that would damage the cocoon and break the silk filament it has woven.  To harvest the silk from the cocoons, they are placed in water to soften the filament.  The softened filament is then unwound from the cocoon.  One filament can be up to 1,600 yards long.  It takes 4-8 of the silk filaments woven together to create one mulberry silk thread.

The silkworms may have a short life with their only purpose to be providing silk, but those short lives are pampered ones.  In addition to the constant fresh supply of mulberry leaves available to them, their environment is strictly controlled to prevent them from being subjected to loud noises and strong odors such as those from fish and the human odor of sweat.

The resulting mulberry silk thread is the strongest natural fiber in the world, making it incredibly durable.  A silk fiber the same diameter as a fiber of steel is stronger than the steel.

The mulberry silk thread is also rounder, finer, smoother, and a lighter more uniform color than silk harvested from the wild where those silkworms have to eat whatever leaves and plants that are available to them.

Mulberry silk is also known as cultivated silk and bombyx silk but mulberry silk is the most commonly used term.  It is also sometimes referred to it by its type which is thrown or reeled silk.

If you want the most luxurious, most durable, and finest silk bedding, look for silk sheets made with 100 percent mulberry silk and for silk comforters made with 100 percent mulberry silk floss.

A few other features of mulberry silk include it being 100 percent hypoallergenic and also being odorless and not needing any “airing out” before use like some of the lower quality wild silks.gold silkworm

And although the type and quality of the silk is a major consideration, do not overlook the weight of it.  High quality silk bedding, should have a momme weight of at least 12, but more normally between 16 -19, and in the case of duvet covers as high as the low 20s.  The momme weight is a standard unit of measurement for silk and is indicated by the symbol “mm.” The larger the momme number, the heavier the silk, and the more silk that was used in that fabrics construction.  Any silk with a momme weight lower than 12 isnt suitable for bedding, although there is a lot of it out there that does have a momme weight under 12.  The lighter weight bedding wont be as durable.

Dont overlook thread count although check the momme weight first.  Thats the more important consideration, but do opt for silk bedding with a thread count of 400 or higher to ensure you are getting the finest quality mulberry silk that will last for many years.

What is Momme Weight?

For a long time silk sheets were thought of as a luxurious purchase that only the very rich could afford to indulge in. While it is true that silk sheets are expensive, it does not mean they are out of reach for everyone.

The best silk sheets are made from 100 percent mulberry silk; have a thread count over 400 threads per inch; have a momme count of about 19, and are woven in way that gives the silk a satiny appearance that is pure luxury against the skin.

Momme? What is that? I wondered too when I first delved into the world of silk and silk sheets. I always thought the best way to judge the quality of sheets was to look at their thread count. The higher the thread count the better the sheets which makes sense because thread count measure how many threads are in every inch of material so a high thread count means a better quality fabric that will hold up well over repeated laundering. But when I first read that momme weight needed to be considered too I was perplexed because I had no idea what it was and why it was important.

Momme weight is a way of measuring things developed by the Japanese. Momme weight is a standard way of measuring the weight of silk as well as a common way to measure pearls. Momme is pronounced much like the word “mummy.”

For silk sheets a momme weight of 12-19 is considered good quality with silk sheets in the range of 16-19 being very high quality. Anything lower than 12 will result in sheets that are not as durable as they should be which means they will be more prone with damage and tearing.

To standard for measuring momme weight is by using a piece of fabric that is 100 yards long and 45 inches wide. If that piece of fabric weighs 19 pounds then the momme weight of that silk is 19.

The higher the momme weight the heavier the fabric which means a greater amount of silk was used in the weaving process.

While silk sheets are typically in the 12-19 momme weight range, the covering on an ultra-luxurious silk comforter is usually in the 18-22 momme weight range. Silk clothing if often in the 8-12 momme weight range. A piece of silk with a momme weight range of 22 is suitable for a mans suit.

The typical momme weight range for a few of the different silks are as follows:

Habutai silk – 5 to 16 momme weight
Raw silk – 35 to 40 momme weight
Chiffon – 6 to 8 momme weight
Gauze – 3 to 5 momme weight

Momme weight is usually shown as “mm.”

When you are shopping for silk sheets and the salesperson starts talking about “momme weight” you will know exactly what they are talking about. And if he or she tries to sell you silk sheets with a momme weight of 8, you can educate that salesperson and tell him or her that 8 momme weight sheets are too lightweight to be a good choice for silk sheets and that they can try and sell their inferior product to someone else because you are not buying them. You are going to look for higher quality silk sheets that will last you a long time.

Caring For Your Silk Sheets

After spending several hundred dollars on high-quality silk sheets, the last thing you want to do is ruin them by not caring for them properly although it is not as hard as many people think.

Did you know that besides the cost barrier, the misconceptions about the difficulty to care for them are the biggest reason why people do not purchase silk sheets. While it is true that silk sheets are expensive and are an investment, caring for them shouldn’t scare you or stop you from purchasing them.

The care tips listed below are general for most types of silk and satin-silk sheets. For the specific sheets you have purchased, refer to the care instructions that came with them. If you are not sure how to care for them or are confused by the instructions do not hesitate to contact the place of business where you purchased them or write the manufacturer. And just as a side note, in the case of silk sheets the manufacturer is often who you are buying directly from because high-quality silk sheets are typically made only after an order for them has been placed.

What To Wash Your Silk Sheets In

Keep in mind that silk is a very strong natural fiber. To keep that fiber strong, avoid subjecting it to harsh detergents and soaps that will break those fibers down and strip it of its natural properties. Woolite is a mild detergent that many people use to successfully clean their silk sheets but I have found a few manufacturers who do no recommend it. A commonly recommended soap is Charlies Liquid Laundry soap which can be purchased online. It is non-toxic and completely biodegradable soap.

When you first purchase silk sheets, wash them by hand for the first few washings. Doing this helps to preserve the sheen of the silk and soften the silk fibers.

After hand washing for the first few times you can switch to machine washing if you want to, but always wash the sheets on your machine’s delicate cycle After hand washing for the first few times, you can switch to machine washing the sheets, but always wash them on the delicate cycle and never use hot water. Experts recommend washing silk sheets at 30 degree Centigrade (86 degrees Fahrenheit) which is water that is barely lukewarm.

If your machine has an option to allow an extra spin cycle to wring as much water out of your fabrics as possible, resist the urge to use it. Use the spin cycle sparing on silk sheets because it is hard on their fibers. That is why it is important to use the delicate or hand washable cycle on the machine.

It is okay to use fabric softener if you would like to. My personal favorite is a lavender scented fabric softener.
Do not use bleach, even color safe bleach – ever, not even if you have stains.

Also, resist scrubbing the fabric vigorously to remove a stain.

Let the sheets hand dry, if possible, but keep them out of direct sunlight and away from heating vents because that is just like putting them in a hot dryer. It is especially important to keep dark colored silk sheets out of the sunlight because it will visibly fade them in a very short amount of time. But, because finding a safe place to air dry large silk sheets, such as king size sheets, can be difficult, some people have had good luck drying their sheets using the lowest temperature setting on their dryer, the one that is just barely higher than “air dry.”

My favorite place to dry silk sheets is outside on a clothesline that is protected from the sun, but because I live in a cold climate it is not feasible to hang out my sheets year around so I utilize my dryer for several months a year.

If you think the sheets need ironing, although I admit I have never ironed silk sheets, you can use a cool iron on them while they are still slightly damp, making sure to iron on the reverse side (the non-shiny side). But I will tell you I have never found it necessary to iron silk sheets. If they are gently washed and dried (translation: not twisted and wrung and beat up), they don’t need to be ironed.

One other note about washing silk sheets – do not put anything else in the washer with them. Wash them separately from your other laundry.

Take Care of Yourself To Help Prolong the Life of Your Silk Sheets

Silk, while durable, can unwittingly be damaged by you. If the heels of your feet get as dry and rough as sandpaper, it is like rubbing your sheets with sandpaper every time you get into bed. The same goes for sharp broken fingernails or toenails. They can pull the threads in your sheets, breaking them. So taking care of your skin and your nails is not only beneficial to you but also beneficial to your skin!

Some Shrinking of Fabric is Normal

It is normal for most silk sheets to shrink a little during the first few washings, usually about three to four percent. It is a normal occurrence and should not make you feel like you are doing something wrong. The manufacturers take shrinkage into consideration when they make the sheets so they should still fit your bed just fine after those first few washings.

As a recap, gentle washing and gentle drying is what your silk sheets want to do to help them last a long time and give you many years of happy dreams on them.

remove blood

Removing Stains From Your Silk Sheets

You have purchased soft, luxurious, and oh so dreamy to sleep on silk sheets. You treat them with loving care, washing them often but washing and drying them gently. But now the unimaginable has happened. You have a stain on your silk sheets and do not know what to do.

Here is a list of common stains and tips on how to remove them. But there is a word of warning with this list. It is a general list for removing stains from silk, but you need to remember that not all silk is created alike. There are many different kinds which means that a method that removes a stain on one type of silk may not work on another type of silk. Always test the method on an inconspicuous section of the sheets first, like on a corner of the fitted sheet that does not show when it is on the bed.

Blood – This is probably the most common type of stain. The earlier you treat it the easier it is to remove it. If it is still fresh, sponge the stain with cold water that has salt in it (1 teaspoon of salt per cup of water). Then rinse with clear water and repeat if necessary.

If the blood stain has set, still try the salted water method before trying anything else since it is the least harsh method of removing the stain. If it does not work, try making a paste out of meat tenderizer and applying it to the stain. Pat gently to work the paste in and then rinse. How does meat tenderizer work on blood stains? It breaks down the proteins in the blood which should release them from the fabric.

A rather unorthodox method recommended by one silk expert for removing dried blood is to use saliva. Put saliva on a Q-tip and dab at the stop until the blood disappears, using a fresh Q-tip for each application of the saliva. Rinse with water.

Coffee and Tea – sponge with lukewarm water. Then apply glycerine (readily available online and at many natural products stores) and gently rub the fabric between your hands. Let it sit for half an hour; then rinse with warm water.

Perspiration Stains – use diluted ammonia (equal part of ammonia and water). Rinse well.

Lipstick and Makeup – try the laundry soap you use to regularly clean the sheets but in a little more concentrated form. If that does not work, try ammonia but be careful if the sheets are a dark color. Test in an inconspicuous place first and use as little as ammonia as possible. Start with 1 part ammonia to 3 parts water. If that doesn’t work increase the strength of the ammonia but never use anything stronger than 1 part ammonia to 1 part water.

Oily or Greasy Stains – try some liquid dishwashing soap letting it sit for few minutes. Rinse with water.

A Few Things To Never Use on Silk

Although many people reach for Biz or Oxi-Clean when they have a stain on something, do not use either of those products on silk. They will damage them.

So will bleach – it will turn your silk an ugly yellow color.

If you do not want to take any chances with stain removal on your silk sheets, take them to your local cleaner and ask if they can remove the stain for you. Or contact the manufacturer of the sheets for tips and help.