The second most asked question right after, “what’s my scarf worth?”, is “how do I care for my scarf?”

I just recently wrote about some of the best ways to store your scarf and today I will try to answer the all important, how do I take care of this minor investment of mine?

Every scarf purchased directly from Hermes has one of those little reminders to only dry clean and also never to wear your new carre in the rain.

Hermes uses natural dyes that unfortunately may not be colorfast.  But do not let that discourage you.  Silk is one of the strongest natural fibers and many scarves, that I have owned and sold over the years have been 40, 50 years or older and the silk in majority of the cases has been fabulously strong and intact.  The colors more times than not have remained vibrant and stunning while some scarves have attained that slightly faded “vintage” look and feel.

And please do not be like me – wear your scarves and enjoy them.  Do not purchase a scarf and then be afraid to wear it –  it is meant to be enjoyed.  One of my dear customers wears one of her scarves every day.  Even while cooking or gardening, she feels elegant when she wears one of her Hermes scarves tied around her neck.

If your collection includes some priceless scarves, like my LES PROVERBES SONT LA SAGESSE DES NATIONS from 1945 for example, then not wearing it may be understandable.

Les Proverbes Extremely Rare Wool 70 cm Carre by Hugo Grygkar
Les Proverbes Extremely Rare Wool 70 cm Carre by Hugo Grygkar

Or an unfinished Etriers, that is missing several final print runs, including its name, then by all means, these may rightfully belong to the few that may never grace an outfit.

Etriers HERMES Unfinished
Etriers HERMES Unfinished

Understandably, you may prefer not to wear some of your special dear collector carres, but please do enjoy these pieces of wearable art.  And when you do, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Ok, fine, but what if my scarf needs to be cleaned?  What say you then?

My first recommendation is to follow Hermes care tag instructions and call your local Hermes boutique.  Find out, which dry cleaner they use and or recommend.  I have done this several times during my travels and have had excellent results. If that is not feasible, then I would ask around for recommendations from friends, perhaps a designer boutique in the area or a luxury hotel.  For example in Prague, the InterContinental Hotel used to have their own inhouse dry cleaner, which all the high fashion boutiques on Parizska (Prague’s version of Rodeo Drive) highly recommended.  The Hermes boutique recommended them as one of two.

I would still not subject my favorite scarf the first time I used a new cleaner, just in case something should go “wrong”.   After my list of dos and mostly don’ts, like do not staple a tag anywhere on my scarf, do not use a safety pin to attach a tag/receipt to my scarf, do not iron the hems flat!, do not use steam, etc., I have had drycleaners flat out refuse my scarf.  Or I had it returned to me saying, “our person in charge felt “uncomfortable” cleaning it.  Both happened to me, where I was desperate for a dry cleaner and did not follow my own recommendations above 🙂

One time in Germany,  I had to send my scarf to a cleaner because it was too far from where I was staying.  But this was the only cleaner, the Hermes boutique in Baden Baden had recommended – a week later my scarf came back as beautiful as new.

I cannot stress the importance of a good cleaner enough.  Some vintage scarves, that I have come across, will be very stiff.  This most likely happens when a scarf has been dry cleaned years ago and then stored for long periods of time.  I have seen almost a yellowish or brownish cast to them.  Almost like a film.  Many times there will be a distinct chemical “odor” present.  Sometimes airing out a scarf may be sufficient, however, most likely a cleaning will be necessary.  Also do not be surprised that it may take several cleanings to remove the built up dirt, which may have been collecting for years and sometimes decades.  I compare it to the peeling of an onion, with each cleaning your scarf will become cleaner, more vibrant and hopefully ultimately restored to its original splendor.

Also do not be afraid to ask about a cleaner’s policy, should the scarf get damaged during cleaning, or while in their care.  The bottom line is to choose an experienced reputable dry cleaner, who knows his craft and will not use chemicals, that will leave a build-up and ultimately just camouflage existing stains.

All in all, I have found some quite reliable and excellent dry cleaners.  Even if you have to pay a little more, in my opinion, it is well worth it.

I know, I cannot write a blog about the care of an Hermes scarf without addressing THE handwashing.  I realize, there are two schools of thought, dryclean and hand wash.  I have a dear client, who, an avid collector, handwashes all of her 100 plus Hermes carres.  To my knowledge, she has not “ruined” a single one.  She loves the feel of the silk after she gives a scarf what she calls, a “bath” :-).  She has done this to brand new scarves as well.  She really loves the softness that comes from washing her scarves.

Having handled hundreds and hundreds of scarves, I can tell almost immediately when a scarf has been washed in the past.  The silk just has that soft, “vintage” feel.

How do I care for my own carres?  You ask…

I like to leave the cleaning to the pros.

But I will say that,  I have about a handful of scarves, that are my old “go-to” scarves and the ones I wear a lot.  These are my every day scarves, that still look good but have some issues, like bad hem, small hole, etc. – these I wash by hand.  A couple of them have such delicate silk that I have been told, they no longer can be dry cleaned.

To wash them, I do not let them get too soiled, especially when I have a spot or stain, I like to clean my scarves as soon as practical.  This is true as I mentioned above, whether I am having them dry cleaned or whether I wash them by hand.  I use baby shampoo, it is strong enough to remove body oils, but gentle enough not to strip the colors.  I avoid any perfumed detergent and fabric softeners.  I use a new, soft bristle toothbrush and apply some of the shampoo on a stain first, gently brushing the spot.  Please be careful here as not to push too hard, which might damage or distress the silk.  I wash my scarf in the sink in tepid sudsy water by quickly “squishing” it with my hands. I do not allow this process to go too long.  I then quickly rinse it under cold running water using my same squishing method.  I never wring or twist my scarf but remove excess water by, yes, you guessed, more squishing and then finally by laying it onto a large, clean, white towel into which I then roll the scarf. Careful not to have the silk touch itself in order to avoid any potential color transfer.  I unroll it and face down let it air dry a little.  I finish by carefully ironing (dry, no steam) the scarf still face down from the center out towards the hem, taking care not to iron the hem at all.

The first time I gave one of my scarves a bath, my heart was beating like that of a 100 dash sprinter.  When I finished the job, I had to celebrate with a glass of Bordeaux for not having ruined my scarf. 🙂

Please keep in mind that because the hem is rolled it takes longer to dry, so I let the scarf dry overnight, again laid out flat.  I must say that the ironing takes the longest, but for someone, who has loved ironing since my grandma allowed me to iron her hankies (with a cold) iron, I do not mind that it takes a while, after all, believe me trying to get creases out of a hanky with a cold iron takes its time too! :-).

Here is one of my scarves, that takes the occasional “bath”. This Eperon d’Or is one of my favorite scarves.  I love how it feels – the silk is soft and flows just beautifully.  I also love the soft muted colors.  I thinks she still looks fantastic after all these years, don’t you?

Although, I prefer the hand washing method for several of my scarves for the reasons above, I do want to expressly caution you as one wash has the potential to ruin your scarf for ever.

So after all this, I do agree with Hermes and with my handful of exceptions, I too leave the cleaning to a professional.

Curious how you take care of your scarves…

Please do share with us how you keep your scarves clean.  Do you wash them by hand or do you have them professionally cleaned?

Eager to hear from you…




8 Responses

  1. Thank you for this. I’ve found it really helpful. I handwashed one of my Hermes scarves this morning, I used a bar of bog standard laundry soap, and was amazed by the results. However, I do have some “blotches” of discolouration, mostly around the edge that don’t seem to be related to sweat/perfume/food or anything else obvious. They are several cms in diameter, they only seemed to have occurred in the pale pink area around the edge. It rather reminded me of some yellowish marks that appeared on a 1930s white silk wedding dress, that I bought up in a charity shop in the 80s for a ball gown.
    The scarf is “hommage to Charles Garnier”, the pale pink version. It was bought for me about 27 years ago and, to be honest, it’s been sitting in it’s box together with a couple of others for probably far too long.
    I know absolutely nothing about fabrics and fabric care, so just wondered if you had any idea what these could be.
    Tomorrow I am going to wash my others…….

  2. Hello! Thank you for such great information. My question is regarding how to identify if a scarf is authentic. My mother-in-law left several Hermes scarfs in her estate but, they do not have labels.

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