Natural mulberry silk is prized over all other kinds of silk. It’s survived thousands of years for good reason. Here’s a helpful mulberry silk guide with questions and answers.
Natural mulberry silk is the most common silk. It comes from silkworms that eat mulberry leaves. Some silkworms are boiled alive in their cocoons to harvest silk threads for fabric. Mulberry silk is lightweight, somewhat breathable, and a good insulator. Some manufacturers let the worm develop and break free from the cocoon before unraveling the silk.
You’ll find a great resource full of helpful information on mulberry silk below.
What is mulberry silk?
Mulberry silk comes from the worms of a moth species known as Bombyx mori. Silk is made up of 2 main proteins 1 :
- silk fibroin (makes up about 75% silk)
- sericin (makes up about 25% silk)
Mulberry silk is 100% natural and contains zero artificial fibers. The threads of this fabric are secreted from silkworms. These worms feed on mulberry leaves until they’ve grown fat and full. Then they go and build a cocoon around themselves by spinning a very thin and long silk thread.
When the worm is finished spinning a beautiful pearly-white cocoon, silk-makers take the worms in their cocoons and boil them alive. This process softens the goop on the outside of the cocoon that gums up the silk threads. Boiling helps unravel silk from the cocoon. The worms are killed in the process and never get to transform into a beautiful moth.
What is natural silk?
Natural silk is a kind of silk that contains no artificial fibers, dyes, or chemicals in the production process. It’s sourced from silkworms that eat a pure plant-based diet and should be composed of 100% pure silk threads.
Natural silk that’s organic should only come from silkworms that feed on a pure diet of organic mulberry leaves without exposure to any pesticides, toxins, artificial feeding boosters, synthetic medication, or genetically-modified food.
Mulberry silk is the most common natural silk on the market today. In order to be natural, it shouldn’t contain any synthetic blends, chemicals, or artificial dyes in the manufacturing process.
Is mulberry silk natural silk? Mulberry silk isn’t always natural. Often, synthetic dyes and artificial chemicals are used in the production process. Make sure to check with the company to ensure purity of product. To be safe, look for organic mulberry silk. To be natural, it shouldn’t be dyed or treated with anything. Look for raw silk.
What is pure mulberry silk? Without any artificial dyes or chemicals added in the production process, mulberry silk is considered 100% natural, if not blended with any other fiber. Pure mulberry silk will have a minimum of fabric inconsistencies and should be very smooth. The best grade to look for is 6A. This grade is known for high silk purity.
Natural silk should come from worms that are raised in a humane natural environment with fresh air, abundant healthy leaves, and ethical living conditions.
In alignment with natural standards, a few silk manufacturers allow the moths to naturally break free after development in their cocoons. This supports the natural cycle of life and promotes cruelty-free business practices. Modern companies are trending towards this evolved and rational approach. This type of silk is a bit more matte and coarse.
Where does mulberry silk come from? Where is it found?
Where is mulberry silk made? Mulberry silk is primarily produced in China or India. These countries hold a deep connection with silk for thousands of historical years. There are other countries that manufacture mulberry silk, but they fall into the minority (like Brazil and Thailand).
India tends to produce more silk that features cruelty-free business practices. More and more companies are embracing this evolved and conscious approach to fabric production. This includes natural technology that benefits both the consumer and supports the life cycle of the silkworm.
What does mulberry silk feel like?
Mulberry silk is praised as the best quality silk because it’s extremely soft, smooth, lustrous, and silky. It’s lightweight and has a flowing draping feel.
In warm weather, silk feels cooling and soothing next to the skin. Many people choose this fabric when they want to look dressed up but stay cooler at the same time. Silk absorbs moisture only to a degree, which helps cool things down a little. But don’t perspire in silk, it’s not good for the fabric. If you’re looking for fabric that absorbs moisture well, you might find cotton or linen as better options.
Mulberry silk is known to be softer, smoother, and lighter than lower quality silk. It feels like glossy cooling fabric from the heavens.
Many people buy mulberry silk pillowcases and sheets because they feel so good on their skin.
What is the natural color of mulberry silk?
Mulberry silk is naturally pearly-white in its pure pristine form. There are some variations of mulberry silk that are slightly off-white.
Pure untreated mulberry silk should be almost white in color.
Features of mulberry silk
|Breathability||Moderate, depending on type|
|Natural Color||Pearly white (or off-white)|
|Feel||Cool to touch, smooth, soft, slippery|
|Cruelty-Free Status||Rarely cruelty-free. Many companies boil silkworms alive.|
What does mulberry silk mean?
Surprisingly, most of the lustrous silk on the market today is mulberry silk. Approximately 85-90% of silk in the world is mulberry silk. That’s because it’s luxurious, in-demand, and has that silky smooth finish.
In contrast, other silks may come from many varieties of silkworms that produce various colors and textures of silk. Some of these types may have a slightly matte finish or be a little heavier in weight. Each silk has a unique and lovely character.
Some of the lesser known silks come from wild silkworms. The fabric may not be as glossy, but a small number of companies allow the moths to break free out of their cocoons before harvesting the threads. This is a preferred option for consumers who are seeking cruelty-free silk. The majority of mulberry silk producers kill the worms in their cocoons by boiling or steaming them alive in their vulnerable cocooned state.
When you read “mulberry silk”, that just means the silk comes from Bombyx mori silkworms that feed exclusively on mulberry leaves in captivity.
How is mulberry silk made?
- Bombyx mori silkworms are given mulberry leaves to munch on for many days until they’re full, fat, and ready to spin a cocoon.
- The silkworm naturally finds a quiet spot and spins a white cocoon around itself. The worm secretes a thin white thread that can stretch many football fields in length. This thread is what the cocoon is made from.
- When the cocoon is finished, the silkworm is taken by silk producers and boiled alive in its cocoon. This helps soften the outer material of the cocoon to make the white thread easier to unravel.
- Once boiled, a long thread from the cocoon is continuously pulled and carefully wound around a spool.
- Many of these spools of thread are used to feed a fabric loom that weaves many fine threads together into silk fabric.
- This process creates a pure mulberry silk that can be used in its pristine state. For color, many companies dye it as an additional process.
Is mulberry silk breathable?
Mulberry silk isn’t as breathable as cotton, but when silk is thin and light, it tends to be more breathable. The heavier, thicker, and more-layered the silk is, it becomes less and less breathable as a rule.
Silk is known to have insulating properties, which means it can help keep heat in during the winter and keep things cooler longer during the summer.
Water escapes and evaporates through cotton better than it does through mulberry silk. Silk has a limited ability to absorb water and doesn’t evaporate as well as cotton, linen, and flax.
Does mulberry silk crease?
Yes. If you fold mulberry silk and store it, it can crease on the fold lines, depending on the type and weave of silk. It’s best to store mulberry silk in a way that minimizes fold lines and protects the fabric.
|Always follow the directions on your item tags for safe and proper fabric care. Certain silk weaves and textures have different care requirements. It’s best to follow the exact advice on your tag as outlined by the manufacturer, while exercising great caution. If unsure, write to the company to clarify.|
For example, some people hang lightweight mulberry silk on wide, cushioned, and padded hangers in order to allow the fabric to fall in a flat and unfolded position.
It’s best to keep mulberry silk in a smooth flat position as much as possible, avoiding any surface that could cause a crease or imperfection.
Mulberry silk can be burned and easily damaged with inappropriate care. Mulberry silk is very delicate and sensitive to heat from irons, so it’s best to have a professional take care of it for you.
Certain kinds of wrinkles or creases in some kinds of silk can be reduced by hanging the garment up on a padded hanger and lightly steaming the fabric without touching it from a distance (make sure the fabric tag states that steaming is safe and appropriate for your fabric first). Sometimes steaming-at-a-distance can remove the creases without having to touch the fabric.
If your fabric tag says that steaming is safe for your item, then steaming can be done with a handheld steamer according to both the fabric tag and steamer-device directions exactly. Some people put the garment outside of a steamy shower in the bathroom to soften and remove creases (but make sure your tag says that steaming is safe before trying).
Do not directly iron mulberry silk. A hot iron can damage silk. Some irons have a silk setting on them, but don’t put it directly on your silk. It’s recommended to have professional silk cleaners take out the wrinkles in your mulberry silk to be safe.
Professionals who work with silk sometimes put an iron on the lowest setting, place a towel over the silk (not letting the iron directly touch the silk), and iron the silk through the towel lightly, quickly, and gently. But this isn’t recommended for someone inexperienced with silk. Professional silk laundering companies are the safest bet if you want to protect and preserve your silk (check your fabric tag to see the best way to care for it).
Sometimes the texture, look, and feel of silk can change if it gets too much exposure to perspiration, water, heat, or light. Sending your silk to a professional silk launderer will help you get the most and longest wear out of your silk.
Mulberry silk is definitely a higher maintenance fabric.
Is mulberry silk cruelty-free?
The typical production process of mulberry silk is not cruelty-free. That’s because the silkworms are boiled alive in their cocoons in order to prepare the cocoon’s long silk thread for spooling. Most silk companies kill the worms.
If they allow the worm to develop into a moth and break out of the cocoon, that could break the silk thread and make the spooling process much more difficult, resulting in a coarser fabric.
Some mulberry silk companies steam the worms alive in their cocoons instead of boiling them.
Other companies fumigate the silkworms with chemicals.
There are a small number of silk manufacturers out there who take pride in not killing the silkworms in their cocoons. They allow them to develop naturally into moths and fly away when they’re ready. Only then do they harvest the cocoons for silk.
You have to go out of your way to find these ethical silk companies, but they’re out there. Some manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure that cruelty-free practices are implemented in their silk production. Not all silk-makers harm the silkworm. If you love the fabric, it’s worth researching a reputable company.
Cruelty-free business practices don’t intentionally harm living organisms for self-benefit. Especially when alternatives are available. These are rational and progressive business models trending for the near-future.
Is mulberry silk vegan?
A vegan product shouldn’t contain any animal-derived ingredients.
Mulberry silk isn’t vegan because it’s a product directly derived from silkworms. Once the silk-producer acquires the necessary silk cocoons, they boil the worms alive when they’re no longer useful for spinning silk threads. The worm never gets a chance to develop into a moth.
Is mulberry silk good? Is it the best? There are other fabrics we can enjoy that don’t require us to kill silkworms. Why add more cruelty and suffering to the planet when there’s more than enough of that already?
Many people aren’t aware that most silk in the world comes from silkworms that never had the opportunity to transform into an adult moth.
To be fair, there are some wonderful ethical silk-makers out there who work hard to allow the moths to develop fully and fly away before harvesting the cocoon’s silk. This still isn’t technically vegan, but it’s much more humane and ethical.
Does mulberry silk smell?
Fresh mulberry silk sometimes has a faint earthy scent from the natural threads produced by silkworms. Some people say it smells like fish, others enjoy the down-to-earth vibe. It comes from a natural protein in the threads called sericin. Silk is a natural fiber, so occasionally a subtle scent comes from the fabric, especially when it gets wet or exposed to perspiration.
Grade 6A mulberry silk is the least likely to have an unpleasant odor. That’s because it’s the best quality and comes from a superior class of silk. It’s pure silk.
The more refined and processed the silk is, the less it should smell. Sometimes raw or natural silk can have a stronger scent due to less processing. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just part of being a natural fiber. Professional cleaners should be able to reduce the scent if it’s too strong. Always follow the fabric care directions on the fabric’s tag.
Occasionally, silk can absorb odors that are difficult to remove. If possible, try to avoid exposing mulberry silk to perspiration, smoke, food, grease, and oils in general. These substances could settle in the fabric and make it smell weird over time. It’s not impossible to remove, just exercise caution and consult professional cleaners in your area for their opinion.
Is mulberry silk expensive?
Quality mulberry silk is almost always much more expensive than cotton, linen, or polyester, when comparing each fabric per yard. That’s because the silk-making process is extremely tedious and labor-intensive.
The silkworms must be properly bred, fed a strict diet of mulberry leaves, raised, monitored, and cocooned before boiling and pulling one individual thread from each cocoon. This process takes many people to pull off successfully. The entire production has many expensive steps when looking at all the components that go into the delicate and intensive process.
Anything that takes a lot of time and human attention will always cost more money.
Organic mulberry silk will usually cost more than regular mulberry silk. It’s always best to buy organic, if possible. That way, you can rest assured there aren’t any artificial dyes, pesticides, or unwanted chemicals in the fabric.
Mulberry silk uses
Mulberry silk has many practical uses:
- Sheets and pillowcases
- Face masks
- Medical dressings for wounds (must be approved by FDA)
- Seat covers
- Furniture covers
- Hair scrunchies
- Sleep eye masks
- Purses and handbags
- Sleeping cap for hair
- Proteins from silk are used in some beauty products
- Elegant book-binding
Mulberry Silk Quality
Out of all the silk in the world, mulberry silk is known to be of the highest quality. That’s because it’s the softest, smoothest, most lustrous, silkiest, and most elegant out of all the silks out there.
- If you’re looking for the very best quality silk, make sure to get Grade 6A silk, preferably organic.
Grade 6A silk is super soft and smooth because the manufacturers go to great length not to break the very long thread the silkworm produces. They also use the cleanest, most uniform, and smoothest silk with a minimum of thread breaks in this special fabric.
An unbroken thread means very smooth fabric without rough breaks, catches, or pulls. That’s why you can slip your hand quickly over shiny silk. The long and super thin silk threads have been carefully lined up and woven together to create that luxurious finish.
What is the best grade of silk?
Mulberry Silk Grades – factors of quality such as thread length, breaks in fabric (smoothness), color purity, cleanliness, etc.
|6A||Best silk: fewest breaks in fabric, smoothest, cleanest, most uniform|
|5A||Better than 4A|
|4A||Better than 3A|
|3A||Better than 2A|
|2A||Better than A|
|A||Better than B|
|B||Better than C|
|C||Coarser silk with more breaks and impurities in fabric|
As compared to wild silk, mulberry silk is the best-selling silk in the world today. Wild silk has more of a matte shiny finish that’s a bit more coarse than mulberry silk, in general.
What is the difference between silk and mulberry silk?
There are several distinct differences between silk and mulberry silk:
|Mulberry Silk||Other Silk|
|The silkworms are fed a strict diet of only mulberry leaves.||The silkworms may feed on various tree leaves in the wild or other foods in their local habitat.|
|Comes from a specific type of silkworm, Bombyx mori.||Can come from various species of silkworms.|
|The most common and popular silk in the world.||All other silk is harder to find and much more rare.|
|The Bombyx mori silkworms are bred in domesticated conditions.||Other silkworms can be taken from the wild. They’re not always domesticated.|
|Has a reputation for being the most expensive silk in the world (especially Grade 6A, organic).||Lower silk grades tend to be more affordable. There are always exceptions to this rule.|
Why is mulberry silk the most common silk?
Mulberry silk is the most common kind of silk because it’s the softest, smoothest, and most luxurious natural fiber in the world. When people look for silk, these are generally the qualities people are searching for. The majority of silk sold in the world today is mulberry silk (9 out of 10 times).
Even though there are many different types and weaves of silk that range from coarse, heavy, multi-colored, matte, wild, to natural, these tend not to fit the silky-smooth public expectation of typical mulberry silk.
That’s not to say that other silks aren’t as good. It’s all a matter of preference and personal choice. For example, it’s possible to get a beautiful sweater that’s made from a coarser matte-type of silk that’s absolutely gorgeous. In this case, most people don’t want a silky smooth sweater. It’s good to have some warming irregularities, texture, and density to the fabric. Natural silk sweaters are stunning, by the way.
What material does the mulberry silkworm produce?
The mulberry silk worm produces a soft natural fabric known as mulberry silk. It’s a 100% natural fabric if not treated with synthetic dyes or processing chemicals.
Mulberry silk makes up the bulk of silk sold in the world today.
Does silk wrinkle easily?
Silk has a tendency to wrinkle, especially if stored improperly. It doesn’t wrinkle as bad as linen does, but it can hold a crease line if it’s folded and things are placed on top of it.
Once the wrinkles are removed, however, the fabric stays quite smooth as long as it’s not subject to heat, folds, moisture, or creases for extended amounts of time.
Gentle steaming from a distance can help remove wrinkles from silk, but always follow the item’s laundering instructions on the tag. Not all silk is the same and various types have different needs. Some tags say it’s okay to iron on low, other tags warn against ironing. When in doubt, call your local silk cleaners to see what they recommend for your fabric.
I’ve ruined silk thinking I could just iron out the wrinkles, even on low. I burned the fabric, changed the color, and stiffened the texture! I’ll never do that again. Please be conservative and don’t take any chances with the iron unless you know what you’re doing.
What is a mulberry silk pillowcase?
A mulberry silk pillowcase is a pillowcase that’s made out of natural mulberry silk fiber produced from silkworms that are fed a strict diet of only mulberry leaves.
If you prefer cruelty-free products, you should write the company to determine if they boil their silkworms alive in the production process. The majority of companies kill their worms in order to make silk, but there are a few companies that don’t.
If worm-killing doesn’t bother you, some people prefer to sleep on mulberry silk pillowcases to reduce irritation on their skin. They also use them to keep hair softer, smoother, to reduce tangling, and to prevent breakage. There’s no guarantee that a mulberry silk pillowcase can do all these things.
Other people like sleeping on mulberry silk pillowcases to help preserve moisture in their skin and to reduce the absorption of moisturizers into the pillowcase. But there’s no guarantee for this effect, it varies person-to-person and is subjective.
They’re very expensive, but some people take it to the next level and purchase a full set of bed sheets with pillowcases that are 100% mulberry silk. The highest quality you can get is grade 6A. Some people swear by them. Others swear at the price.
Hopefully by now you have a good idea what natural mulberry silk is and where it comes from. Even though there’s a lot of controversy regarding animal cruelty with silk production, it still remains the most-loved silk in the world today.
There are new bio-technological options now available where lab-made fabric matches and mimics real silk molecular components. This makes silk-production more rational, animal-friendly, and sustainable. These kinds of possibilities make alternatives to silk an exciting option.
Natural mulberry silk has been famous throughout ancient history for clothing royalty, starting wars, and sustaining trade routes. Today, it’s still popular, but many new fabrics have stolen the spotlight with fierce competition.
In respect of all cultures, it’s important to embrace, preserve, and value tradition. But tradition doesn’t always mean smart. As we evolve into the awakening world, we move towards cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable fabrics. Out with the old, in with the new.
1. Qi Y, Wang H, Wei K, et al. A Review of Structure Construction of Silk Fibroin Biomaterials from Single Structures to Multi-Level Structures. Int J Mol Sci. 2017; 18(3): 237. Published 2017 Mar 3. doi:10.3390/ijms18030237 [PMC free article]