How to Care for Linen Fabric

It is a common misconception that linen needs specialist care. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and we want to help you see just how easy it is to care for linen and to keep it looking beautiful for years to come. Made from the fibres of the flax plant, linen has been cultivated and used as a textile for thousands of years, long before the existence of dry cleaners or fancy detergents. In fact, it is such a natural, simple fabric that caring for it is simple too.
Not sure how to care for your linen clothes or home textiles? Let us help.

How to wash linen fabric

Do I need to dry clean linen?

The easy answer to this is, no. Linen that has been correctly manufactured and treated can be machine or hand washed. It can even be tumble dried on low temperatures. The only garments that are better being dry cleaned are more structured, tailored items such as linen jackets or suits, due to the way they are constructed. Always follow the care instructions on your item, and test any cleaning method on a small, hidden area before washing the whole thing.

Why choose linen over cotton?

Linen is just as easy to look after as cotton, but it is more durable and gets better with each wash, unlike cotton which can become threadbare as the fibres are weakened. Linen uses less resources in its production, so it is also a more eco-friendly, sustainable fabric.

Whashing linen waffle towels

How do I wash linen?

Linen becomes softer and more absorbent after each wash, which is pretty neat. Wash linen on low temperatures in lukewarm or cold, and preferably soft, water. Use the gentle machine cycle and a mild detergent to protect the fibres. Again, read the individual manufacturer’s care instructions to be sure.

How do I dry linen?

Feel free to machine (tumble) dry your linen clothes or textile, as long as you stick to low temperatures. Remove from the dryer when still slightly damp to avoid the linen becoming stiff, and hang or lie flat to finish off the drying process.

Do I need to iron linen?

No! Yay! There really is no need to iron linen garments, unless they have become really crushed. In fact, we love the inherent natural creases and crumples – they are what give linen its drapey, relaxed, soft feel. But if you love ironing, or have an item that really needs pressing, iron while the fabric is still damp. Use a medium-hot iron on the steam setting. White linen is better ironed on both sides, whilst dark linen should be pressed only on the reverse side.

How do I store my linens?

Store your linens in a cool, dry place; avoid plastic bags, cardboard boxes and cedar chests. Linen has inbuilt insect-repellant properties so you should have nothing to fear from moths or other nibbly creatures. When you take linen out of storage, give it a good airing and wash if it needs a bit of a refresh.

You can see why we love linen – not only does it look stunning, it’s also machine washable, tumble dryable and doesn’t require any ironing if hanged or laid flat when still damp. Easy!

Storing linen items

94 comments

Carol Yarrow 2017-10-25 Reply

HiInga
i have new good quality linen curtains … i would like to soften them
what fabric softener should i use?

is steaming sringles out ok? only for some big wrinkles

thank you
carol

linenme 2017-10-25 Reply

Dear Carol,

First of all I would recommend to take a look at washing instructions. Be prepared that your linen curtains might shrink by couple of cm once you wash them. There is no special softener requirements. You could use regular fabric softener for this purpose. Steaming is a good idea as well – it should definitely work on big wrinkles.

Regards,

Inga

Melanie 2017-09-11 Reply

What a great site! Looking for some softening tips…I’ve clearly read too much and am now a bit confused on best method to soften. I picked up a super cool square table cloth that I’d actually like to use as a scarf- but it’s not quite “drap-ey” enough and a bit scratchy. Is there a wash method you would recommend? Thanks so much!

linenme 2017-09-14 Reply

Dear Melanie,

Thank you for your question. I understand you reffer to linen tablecloth that you are trying to turn into scarf. Even if it’s linen –
recommendations would depend on the type of fabric that tablecloth is made. Obviously the softest linen you can get is using stone washing method, but at home conditions I would suggest to use regular fabric softener first and see the effect. Good linen is getting softer with every wash, so you’ll need some patience in the process as well.

Inga

Grace 2017-09-03 Reply

Unfortunate incident led to bike grease staining my linen bed sheets!

Soaked and washed them on my first instinct but the stains remain .. Any tips?

Grace

linenme 2017-09-03 Reply

Dear Grace,

Thank you for your note. It’s really unfortunate incident as my experience tells it might be very difficult to do that without a help of professional cleaner (I would consider that as an option). Some oil based stains could be cleaned with the help of WD-40 (yes WD-40, some people reported me success using lighter fluid as well). You could try spraying the stain with a little of WD-40, rub it in, and then wash in the machine as usual. This method could cause discoloration of the fabric, so test it on a small, inconspicuous area before applying this method.

Regards,

Inga

Breanne Smith 2017-10-09 Reply

I have had good results getting oil stains out with dawn dish soap. It has never bleached my fabric, but I have read that it can. So test a small spot first if you are worried. It may be too late for this, but I also never dry in a dryer until I get the stain out. Drying tends to make the stains stick. Clorox 2 has also been effective for me, and resolve carpet stain remover when almost nothing else will work. Let cleaner sit on stain over night, wash in the morning. Air dry, do it again until stain comes out.

Sam 2017-07-28 Reply

I have a set of 100% linen bedding. It’s a pale stone grey in color (so bleach is out). How can I wash them to get rid of the yellowing? I’ve read using borax and white vinegar helps, but is this safe to do on linen?

Thanks in advance!

linenme 2017-07-31 Reply

Dear Sam,

It’s perfectly fine to use vinegar. Borax could be more effective on stains, but could have some effect on color. If you say that your bedding is pale grey then the fading effect will probably be very difficult to notice.

Inga

Rose 2017-07-09 Reply

Hi- Do you have a specific detergent brand you can recommend for washing a beautiful Italian linen dress?
Thanks!!

linenme 2017-07-12 Reply

Dear Rose,

I wouldn’t go for recommending specific brands, but I would suggest better to use mild detergent for delicate / gentle washing.
There is plenty of choice in the market. Use gentle / low temperature cycle on your washing machine.

Regards,

Inga

Torah 2017-07-04 Reply

I’m about to buy some 100% linen dresses and tops. Do I have to buy a size up? Some are loose fitting and others tighter fitting. What’s the difference in shrinking between the cheaper, mid and more quailty linen? Thank you so much in advance.

linenme 2017-07-07 Reply

Dear Torah,

It really difficult to comment on other manufactures clothing. The key thing is if they pre-wash fabric before making clothes (usually cheaper ones don’t). I could say that all LinenMe clothes are pre-washed, so the shrinkage shouldn’t be taken into account at all and you should buy your regular size.

Regards,

Inga

kiki 2017-06-20 Reply

Hi,
Good day to you 🙂

I’ve bought a clothes- and it’s said made from cotton linen.
I’ve heard that we need to soak that clothes for 2 hours before we can do any altering. It is true?
And after 2 hours soak, i can just use fabric softener and dry cleaning it as usual?

Thanks.

linenme 2017-06-27 Reply

Dear Kiki,

The only difference between cotton linen and 100% linen is that cotton linen shrinks a bit more. So you should be even more careful with temperatures. I would suggest not to soak. Wash regulary with at lowest temperature (you could add fabric softener) and don’t use tumble dryer.

Kind regards,

Inga

bhanu 2017-06-15 Reply

will lenin clothes shrink?

linenme 2017-06-16 Reply

Dear Bhanu,

Depends if manufacture pre-washed the fabric before making clothes or not. We at LinenMe pre-wash all our clothes, so they don’t shrink anymore when customer washes them.

Regards,

Inga

Michael Walsh 2017-06-14 Reply

My question is “Why does linen shrink?”
I know that fabrics made from animal products, such as wool and silk, are mainly proteins and they shrink in hot water because the heat of the water essentially cooks the protein in a manner that is similar to egg whites cooking – it is a one-way process that hardens the fabric.
But linen is not protein, in fact I thought it was mainly cellulose, so what is the process that causes it to shrink?
Thank you
Michael Walsh
(Engineer)

linenme 2017-06-16 Reply

Dear Michael.

Thank you for this question. Yes in fact linen (flax) is natural cellulose fiber. When the clothes are washed, they soak up a lot of water, swelling up. Then when they dry they shrink to their normal size, and start curling up which makes them a bit smaller than they originally were. The water molecules also act as a lubricant between the cellulose molecules, easing the way to get close to each other. This effect is strongest on fibers which absorb most water, especially cotton, linen, and wool. Hope this helps.

Regards,

Inga

Tish 2017-06-04 Reply

Hello bought linen pants on eBay and they have been dry cleaned! Yikes.Will washing bring them back to softness?

linenme 2017-06-04 Reply

Dear Tish,

It will, but you have to be careful as if they were not pre-washed (normally it should be as e.g. we pre-wash all our LinenMe clothes) then it could shrink a bit. Use lowest possible temperatures when washing.

Regards,

Inga

Daria 2017-06-04 Reply

Hi. I bought a dress that is a mix of rayon, viscose and linen with a polyester lining. Can this be handwashed? The label says dry clean only.

linenme 2017-06-04 Reply

Dear Daria,

I’m sorry, but my expertise is in 100% linen and linen / cotton blends. In your case I would suggest to follow the label instructions or contact manufacture directly for advise.

Regards,

Inga

Linda Young 2017-04-28 Reply

Don’t laugh, but I am looking for a way to get that crinkled look in some linen jacket. Just the opposite of what everyone else is asking. I will start by washing them a lot. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

linenme 2017-05-06 Reply

Dear Linda,

For me linen is also all about wrinkles :-). Wash it without fabric softener and wring hard before hanging to dry. That should helpyou to get desired crinkled look.

Regards,

Inga

Fransiska 2017-04-16 Reply

I recently bought some linen fabrics and I plan to make them into shirts and blouses. Should I wash the fabric first to soften it before sewing? The one that I have it made was very stiff so its not comfortable to wear yet. How can I soften the linen quickly? Thanks

linenme 2017-04-21 Reply

Hi Fransiska,

Yes, it is recommended to wash before sewing as it not only make it softer, but also help you to avoid problem with sizing (as linen fabric shrinks the most after the first wash). For softening use regular fabric softener when washing.

Regards,

Inga

barbara 2017-02-25 Reply

I have some beautiful Irish linen tablecloths that I washed in the machine after use. There were a few stains that ended up yellowing several spots on the linen. Is there any way to whiten them up?

linenme 2017-03-17 Reply

Dear Barbara,

It really depends on the origins of this stain. Take a look at this article. It has nifty stain removal chart in it:
https://www.linenme.com/news/top-tips-for-taking-care-of-your-table-linen-washing-stain-removal-kitchen-tablecloths-napkins/

Regards,

Inga

Kalyan Chakraborty 2017-02-19 Reply

Hi, greetings.

We are in hand woven products, facing issues to soften the
linen fabric.

Please guide.

Regards
Kalyan

linenme 2017-02-24 Reply

Dear Kalyan,

You need to use fabric softener during washing process. Alternativelly you could add vinegar or lemon acid, which will soften the water and the items will soften after washing.

Regards,

Inga

Linda 2017-01-07 Reply

I have linen fabric that was given to me in 1960… 57 years ago. I have hand-embroidered all over it. Would it be safe for me to wash it?

linenme 2017-01-20 Reply

Dear Linda,

I’d rather not risk it as the result here is really unpredictable. I would show this piece to dry cleaning specialists for their opinion. If you still take a risk to wash it I would suggest hadwash at low temperature.

Regards,

Inga

Deb 2016-12-30 Reply

I have just bought an inexpensive linen jacket, which is a bit stiff but the instructions say do not wash! The jacket is 100% linen but the lining is polyester. Is there anything I can do to soften it without washing? Or should I just wash it anyway? Thanks

linenme 2017-01-04 Reply

Dear Deb,

If instructions say don’t wash I would suggest to follow instructions. If it is good linen fabric it should get softer even after first dry cleaning. It will for sure get softer with time.

Regards,

Inga

Jayan 2016-12-13 Reply

Thank you for your linen care tips.
I have just bought few linen cloths for shirts. The shopkeeper said put the cloths in water before giving for stitching to avoid shrinking. But when I put into water the colors of cloths began coming out. Is there any tips to keep the colors without going while washing.

linenme 2016-12-22 Reply

Dear Jayan,

The only tip I could give you is to use the lowest possible temperatures in your washing machine and dryer. In this case I sense that it might be an issue with dying quality of the fabric you bought. You could check LinenMe fabrics they wouldn’t have the issue you describe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mary 2016-02-09 Reply

Thank you

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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?

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!

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

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

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

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

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

marcone 2017-03-12 Reply

If you are drying your cloth out in a dry machine, the best way to avoid wrinkles is to take it by two of its ends and make it crack like a whip a few times. All the wrinkles will go way. Then you put it to dry, simulating the way how you wanted the creases on the cloth to be. It works for any kind of cloth, not just for linen.

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

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