We and others have recently reported that the SMC protein Smchd1 is a regulator of chromosome conformation. Smchd1 is critical for the structure of the inactive X chromosome and at autosomal targets such as the Hox genes. However, it is unknown how Smchd1 is recruited to these sites. Here, we report that Smchd1 localizes to the inactive X via the Xist-HnrnpK-PRC1 (polycomb repressive complex 1) pathway. Contrary to previous reports, Smchd1 does not bind Xist or other RNA molecules with any specificity. Rather, the localization of Smchd1 to the inactive X is H2AK119ub dependent. Following perturbation of this interaction, Smchd1 is destabilized, which has consequences for gene silencing genome-wide. Our work adds Smchd1 to the PRC1 silencing pathway for X chromosome inactivation. Jansz et al. report that the chromatin protein Smchd1 depends on polycomb repressive complex 1-mediated ubiquitylation of histone H2A for its recruitment to the inactive X chromosome and for its protein stability. These data have implications for Smchd1 targeting genome-wide.