How to Care for Linen Fabric

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Linen is a beautiful and durable fabric that is made from fibers of the flax plant. Common fabrics made from linens are tablecloths, napkins, curtains and clothing. For thousands of years---long before any dry cleaners---linens have been around and successfully cared for. While linen fabrics are much stronger and smoother than cotton, certain measures should be taken to care for your linen fabrics to last a long time.

Things You'll Need

  • Non-chlorine bleach
  • Iron
  • Mild detergent
  • Pillowcase or netted bag
  • Follow the manufacturer's directions. Linen fabrics have different dyes, textures and weaves. Therefore, you should always look at the manufacturer's tag for cleaning, drying and ironing instructions, which are usually located on the reverse side. It is best to always follow these directions before attempting something else, which may be more risky.

  • Test any cleaning techniques in an inconspicuous spot. Just in case you might damage the linens, test where no one can see, like the underside of the fabric.

  • Remove stains immediately after they happen. The longer you wait, the more the stain will set into the linen fabric and the harder it will be to clean. There are many different techniques to remove stains for various products. For example for ballpoint pen stains, use hair spray to clean. (See Resources for more ideas.)

  • Avoid bleach with chlorine. You may be able to use color safe or oxygen-type bleach on linens, but regular chlorine bleach will damage the fabric. Usually, any kind of laundry detergent will work, however you may wish to use a mild variety like Woolite or Dreft.

  • Wash in a machine that is not fully loaded (the more water the better) and always wash with like colors and in a temperature recommended by the manufacture. Also, put delicate linen items in a pillowcase or a netted bag, often used for undergarments, to protect the linens from any possible snagging. If your water is high in lime content, add a softener to the water.

  • Do not wring out your linen fabrics and, if you can, allow white linens to hang dry in the sun to help maintain the whiteness of the fabric. Avoid over-drying linen fabrics, which can cause it to lose its softness and become too crisp. This is hard to reverse. You can usually dry on a low setting, but again, follow manufacturer's directions.

  • Iron your linen fabrics while they are still damp. This will make the job of ironing a lot easier. Be sure the bottom of your iron is clean and smooth, and free of any mineral deposits. Also, you can try to press damp linens with your hand. You just may not have to iron after all.

  • Store your linens in a cool dry place (not in a cedar chest). You do not want mildew to form on your linens. If mildew does form, clean in an oxygen bleach solution and allow the linens to dry in the sun.

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