How to Clean Irish Linen

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Family farms around the world have cultivated flax, spun it into yarn, woven it into linen and made that into tablecloths, bath towels and handkerchiefs for thousands of years. One reason is that linen is durable; cloth used as burial shrouds in ancient Egypt had been unearthed 3,000 years later in pristine condition. Ireland has utilized linen for centuries to manufacture elaborate clothing styles involving many yards of cloth. The Board of Trustees of the Linen Manufacturers of Ireland was established in 1711. Cleaning Irish linen is not difficult because the fabric releases stains easily and reflects light, giving it a clean appearance.

Things You'll Need

  • Butter knife
  • Enzyme-based laundry pretreatment product
  • Enzyme-based laundry detergent
  • Starch (optional)

Gently scrape visible debris from the fabric immediately after use.

Apply an enzyme-based laundry pretreatment product that removes protein, oil, fat and cellulose stains. Follow the product's directions for use.

Place the articles in the washer. Start the hot water and fill machine until the articles are covered, then stop. Add the directed amount of enzyme-based laundry detergent and let the articles soak for eight hours. If the washing machine cannot be tied up for the soaking period, place the linen articles in a tub or basin and fill with hot water until the articles are covered. Let the articles soak for the same amount of time.

Fill the washer the remainder of the way with hot water, set the timer for a short wash and start the washer. If you used the tub or basin method, drain the water from the linen articles and add the articles to the washer. Fill the washer with hot water and set for a short wash.

Dry the articles on a clothesline if possible. If not, make certain all visible stains are removed before using a clothes dryer. The heat from the dryer will set stains in the fabric.

Repeat the entire process if stains persist after drying. Consult the pretreatment product and laundry detergent directions for removing stubborn stains.

Use liquid starch, if desired, by adding it to the final rinse of the wash, according to package directions.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use of a non-chlorine bleach to remove stains is acceptable if package directions are followed carefully.
  • Longer washing times are not necessary and will abrade the linen.
  • Linen absorbs twice its weight in water; soaking for longer periods releases stains more easily.
  • Chlorine bleach will cause linen to permanently yellow.
  • Dry-clean linen only after the dry cleaner verifies that the work is done on the premises; this is so he is responsible for the process. Verify that the cleaning solvents used are changed regularly. Mark all stains so that they can be pretreated.

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