How to Care for Linen Fabric

Linen is a gorgeous, comfortable and durable fabric that is made from fibers of the flax plant. Taking care of linen is easy! Moreover, it grows softer and more lustrous with age. LinenMe team has faced some myths about the difficulties of taking care for linen products, so we decided to write an article and make things clear! Read the article and be confident with your linen purchases!

Most popular mistake is a belief that linen is only suitable for dry cleaning. It is not so! Linen fabric is known to be a material for clothing and other needs for some thousands years before the Christian era, so that probably means it is the world’s oldest natural fiber. And this also means that linens have been around long before any dry cleaners – and have been successfully cared for!

Linen fabrics are much stronger and smoother than cotton and there are only few things to know for your linen textile or clothes to last a long time.

As with many fabrics, the main rule is to follow the instructions of the manufacturer and whatever cleaning methods you use, first try it on a hidden area of your linen garment or household item.

When it comes to washing, linen is almost always better off with a hand or machine wash than a dry cleaning. Actually, with each washing, linen becomes softer and more absorbent. It is best to wash linen products in lukewarm or cold, and preferably soft, water. Gentle washing machine cycle and mild soaps are best for linen.

Feel free to machine dry your linen clothes or textile if you have one – use cool temperatures and remove when still slightly damp as over drying can make linen stiff and crackly. When removed from the dryer linen items can be hanged on a hanger or lied flat to become completely dry.

Ironing is not really a priority when it comes to linen items, unless they’re really crushed. Still, if you prefer ironing, it would be a good idea to iron while the fabric is still damp. Otherwise, iron with steam at medium-to-hot. While white linen is best ironed on both sides, it is bets to iron dark linen on the wrong side only.

Store your linens in a cool dry place; avoid plastic bags, cardboard boxes and cedar chests.

So, as you can see, linen items are machine washable, machine dryable and does not require any ironing if hanged or laid flat when still damp. Easy!

54 comments

Debbie 2013-05-11 Reply

Thanks for this article. I was debating whether or not to buy a linen top and you gave me the courage I needed. Linen is rumored to be very cool in TX heat. Now I know it’s easy to care for too.

linenme 2013-10-09 Reply

Welcome to linen lovers club 🙂 Inga

Jene 2013-07-27 Reply

Dear Sir/madame;
I’ve bought a new linen jacket which is very nice. But, after I hand wash it, it is so wrinkled. I hesitate to iron it, since too much work in ironing a callous jacket. How do I get rid off the wrinkles after hand washing. Thanks.

linenme 2013-10-09 Reply

Jene,

I’m sorry to tell you, but if the fabric contains at least 5% linen it wrinkles.
My suggestion would be to hang your jacket when you take it from the washing machine and while it is still wet. Large wrinkles will go out naturally. If you prefer ironing, it would be a good idea to iron while the fabric is still damp.
Personally, I do not iron any of my linens 🙂 I love when they are a little crumpled, because then you can see that this is a natural product.

Inga

Becky 2013-09-08 Reply

Thanks for the info. On this article. I just purchased tablecloths of linen. I hope I don’t mess it up though! Lol. Thanks again.

linenme 2013-10-09 Reply

Becky,

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Inga

Annete 2013-09-15 Reply

Thanks for the info. Right to the point…I like that. Was wondering though, should I use fabric softener when washing my linen pants?

linenme 2013-10-08 Reply

Anette,

I always put softener when I wash my linens 🙂 It makes such a big difference.

Inga

Ppaulineauline 2013-10-25 Reply

Thanks for the information. My eyes opened wide from a sound sleep this morning after remembering my husbands brand new white linen shirt was dry in the dryer! I rushed to look at it hoping it wasn’t ruined……..it looks ok I think….wondering if I should wash it again now and let it hang to dry?

Pauline

linenme 2013-11-11 Reply

Pauline,

In the worst scenario what could happen is that your husband’s shirts would shrink 1 or 2 sizes 🙂 This usually happens if linen is not the best quality or washed and dried at high temperature. I understand, that nothing terrible happened 😉 If it didn’t shrink this time I shouldn’t shrink on next.

Inga

Elaine 2013-10-25 Reply

I just purchased linen slipcovers for my kitchen chairs. These WILL get stains on them. Love look and feel of linen. What is best way to treat the daily stains? Thx!

linenme 2013-11-11 Reply

Hello,

Thank you for your question. Every textile product has to have care instructions sewn into the seam. So my suggestion would be to wash based on this info.
If it is a good quality linen, it should be possible to wash at 40 – 60 degree. I wouldn’t put slipcovers in the dryer as they might shrink.

I hope I helped you somehow.

Inga

Juliet 2013-12-31 Reply

Ok, another stoing linens question. Does one or doesn’t one bother to fold acid-free tissues twixt the folds of the fabric when storing? Hah, 2 pts, used the word ‘twixt”, hee!

Juliet 2013-12-31 Reply

Make that “storing”, or “stowing”, if you’re feeling nautical! Either way, I’d heard that linen can rub itself to bits over time if folded against itself – hoping you can take some of the “myth-ery” out of it all! I love my linens! Ooh, just 1 more: do embroidered linens require linen thread materials for the embroidered areas not to pull/pucker?

Marija Bereczy 2014-04-13 Reply

Today I participated on a 1600-th century Kulturday. It was a detailed care instruction for the precious linnen fabric, do not- ever was or keep linnen in higher than 80 degrees celsius. It is good to iron damp linen, because the fibers get pressed together…- this was the take home message for me, I use heaps of linnen clothing, and I did not iron them at all, but allas many of them got damaged, because the fibers loosened up for the lack of ironing, strill remember no hotter than 80 degrees celsius, linnen crazy Marija Stockholm.

Carole 2014-04-30 Reply

Hello
I bought some old nightwear pyjamas in linen you know the one with the initials on the front and they are really stiff.
How can I make them soft and smooth?
Thanks

linenme 2014-09-25 Reply

Hello Carole,

Thanks for your question. I usually use some fabric softener, when I do my laundry. It makes all fabrics, including linen, very soft.

Inga

Kay 2014-09-14 Reply

Have a old linen piece with crochet work done by my grandmother. It has lots of stains and I wonder the best way to clean it or if they have been in it so long that they might never come out.

linenme 2014-09-25 Reply

Hello,

It’s hard to say without seeing these stains. I would put piece in the warm water with some soup and leave for few hours. Then I would wash by hands. You could try to put some stain remover somewhere in the corner to test if it’s not damaging the fabric.
Here are some tips how to wash your linen http://www.linenme.com/news/how-to-wash-linen/

Inga

Ellen 2014-09-24 Reply

We bought a linen kitchen towel with a picture on one side. When we got it, it had been folded in quarters and had creases where folded. What is the best way to get the creases out, being we want to frame it.

linenme 2014-09-25 Reply

Dear Ellen,

The only suggestion I have is – to iron it. If you still have folding marks, then please wash it and then iron. Folding marks should disappear after this.

Inga

malal 2014-10-14 Reply

Hi!! thankq for the article….I was just wondering if we can use fabric stiffener over linen clothing!!… I love linen but hate to see it with so many creases……

linenme 2014-10-20 Reply

Hello.

Thanks for your question. Unfortunately linen is famous of it’s creaseness and even if you use fabric stiffener it will crease 🙂 Personally I like creased linen more then ironed and do not iron any of my linen clothes or linens.

Inga

Pumzie 2015-03-30 Reply

Hello,
Thanks for this info! If I hand wash my husband’s expensive linen shirt, is it OK to use the powder soap or shall I use the cake soap, like the sunlight bar soap?

linenme 2016-10-06 Reply

Dear Pumzie,

Powder soap is fine. Wash it in lukewarm water.

Inga

Leslie Reddick 2015-03-31 Reply

Question:
I have had long drapery panels made. They are quite wrinkled. It’s my inclination to steam them while they are hanging. But was told to never steam linen. I do not want to take them down. Should I just live with the wrinkles, or what would you suggest?
Thank you,
Leslie

linenme 2016-10-02 Reply

Dear Leslie,

Of course it is always recommended to check manufacture instructions, but if your drapery panels are made from a high quality linen fabric then you could steam them while hanging and it will help to remove wrinkles.

Inga

linen 2015-05-14 Reply

will the linen fabric shrink after hand wash

linenme 2015-05-14 Reply

If linen fabric was not pre-washed it will shrink a bit, but less than machine wash. Use low temperatures when washing to minimize shrinkage.

Marina 2015-07-07 Reply

Hi,
I bought a linen dress with hand embroidery. The dress is red and the embroidery is white and black. Is it safe to wash it? I would like to soften the fabric by doing so. Thank you!

linenme 2016-10-09 Reply

Dear Marina,

If it is LinenMe dress then I could guarantee that it is safe to wash. If itis not then I would suggest to check manufacture recommendations as some risks could be involved (colours, shrinkage, etc.).

Inga

Carol 2015-07-18 Reply

What about dying linen? since you recommend washing in cool water, do I need to use cold water dye?

linenme 2016-09-19 Reply

Dear Carol,

There are different linen fabric dying techniques and I would really recommend to follow instructions of dye manufacturer.
My experience tells that it’s harder to fix colour with cold water dying and fades more.

Inga

Ghazala 2015-10-08 Reply

Hi
Can you please give me some suggestions regarding pre-stitching care for linen? I have linen fabric and it is of good quality. I want to make shirts and trousers out of it. But I am not very sure what precautions should i take before getting it stitched and how linen stitching is different from cotton stitching?

linenme 2016-10-02 Reply

Dear Ghazala,

Depending on the quality of your linen fabric it can shrink as much as 5% after the first wash I suggest you pre-wash it before stitching.

Inga

Donna 2015-11-17 Reply

I am making slip covers for dining room chairs and the fabric is linen. Should I wash the fabric before making the slip covers?

Thank you!

linenme 2016-09-19 Reply

Dear Donna,

Linen fabric shrinks 2-5% after washing, so if you plan to wash your slip covers at any point of time in the future the suggestion would be to make slip covers from pre-washed fabric.

Inga

mary 2016-02-09 Reply

Thank you

Leila 2016-03-09 Reply

I am about to purchase linen 100% tee shirts. Would it be better to purchase a mixture of linen and cotton for better wear and less wrinkles when washed . Could you if possible send me an e mail via my e mail address as I am not so good at computers. Many many thanks for your help and advice

linenme 2016-07-22 Reply

Dear Leila,

Both 100% linen and cotton linen mix will wrinkle. The more times you wash 100% linen it becomes softer and more beautiful, so I would recommend 100% linen.

Inga

Sarah 2016-08-17 Reply

Hi, My mother accidentally washed my 100% linen bedding with regular detergent and then put it in the dryer until it was hot/dry. It was very soft initially, but it is rough and crackly now. I think it will still fit my bed, but will it soften again with time? Is there anything I can do to soften it (put natural oils back in it somehow, or wet it again and dry it gently), or will it soften as it absorbs moisture from the air?
Thank you!!
Sarah

linenme 2016-09-21 Reply

Dear Sarah,

Regular fabric softener should do the work. Use it every time with your next washes and use dryer only on low temperatures.

Inga

Gail 2016-08-30 Reply

After many war rings my linen shirts have become soft. I like them to have more shape. What can I do to add body?

linenme 2016-09-16 Reply

Hi Gail,

You can try to add cornstarch to the rinse cycle (2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 cup cold water) to add body and crispness.
Use spray-on starch or fabric sizing for areas like collars and cuffs that you want particularly crisp. The starch also helps to protect the linen from stains.

Regards,

Inga

Joanne 2016-09-08 Reply

Hi

I’ve ironed my husbands navy blue linen shirt with a hot iron and now the seams look shiny. Is there anything I can do to rectify this? Thank you

linenme 2016-09-16 Reply

Hi Joanne,

Try to wash couple of times it should get a bit better, but the best tip going forward is to iron linen shirts inside out.

Regards,

Inga

Joe 2016-09-18 Reply

I noticed there were only women that responded! I just bought some great linen shirts and I appreciated the information that you have above. I do the washing the majority of the time.
Thank you
Joe

linenme 2016-09-19 Reply

Thanks Joe! Great to hear that you found it helpful.

Inga

Salena 2016-09-19 Reply

I didn’t see a mention of linen shrinking. Does that happen either during washing or drying? I just bought a linen sheath dress and a pair of wide-legged pants and my concern is that they’ll shrink. I’d prefer to be able to throw them in the dryer, but I don’t have to.

linenme 2016-09-19 Reply

Dear Selena,

Linen fabric shrinks that is the fact. Depending on the weaving technique it can shrink 2-5%. It shrinks the most after the first wash and even more if you use dryer for the first time. With linen clothes it is better to avoid dryer if possible, if you use it use lowest temperature setting. We make all LinenMe clothes from pre-washed fabric, but other manufactures make linen clothes from not washed fabric then it is the best to buy linen clothes one size bigger than your size.

Inga

Jill 2016-11-06 Reply

Thank you for all of the helpful tips about linen care.
I’m moving to another state and I would like to ship my summer linen clothing to my new home. How should I pack my linen clothes so that it’s safe to ship them via UPS?
Thanks!
Jill

linenme 2016-11-07 Reply

Dear Jill,

There wouldn’t be any special requirements for shipping linen clothing vs. any other clothing. JUst put them in plastic bags for clothing and pack them in carton boxes.

Inga

Elwyn 2016-11-26 Reply

I have floral linen fabric which is white taupe and navy. Will the colour run when washed?

linenme 2016-11-27 Reply

Dear Elwyn,

You have to look at manufacture instructions or contact them directly in case you lost them. It really depends on how the fabric was dyed or printed. If it is good quality fabric you should be able to wash it in low temperatured though it is also normal that after many washes the colours will slightly fade.

Inga

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