How to wash linen? | Linen care tips

Even though each LinenMe product comes with care instructions, we often get asked what the best methods of linen care are, especially if your linen item has a fine hand-embroidered detail, like this Queen tablecloth.

Here’s a list of tips on how to wash linens:

– Regular washing is actually good for pure linen, as it softens and beautifies it, giving it a lovely ‘lived-in’ look, and you don’t need to store it away ‘for best’. Linen fabric gets rid of dirt more easily than other textiles, and if rinsed thoroughly it comes up just as new every time.

– White pure linen items without special finishes such as hemstitched borders can be laundered at temperatures of up to 95°C. We normally recommend using 60°C setting, as higher temperatures tend to wear linen out faster.
– Before washing, separate dark, coloured linens from white or off-white linens.

– You can use stain remover on stains before laundering, but avoid using bleach since it weakens fibres and may affect the colour of dyed linens. It’s worth noting that bleaching particles in conventional washing powder make natural linen colour fade.

– Try to rinse the stains immediately, when still fresh, and use natural stain soaps if needed. Cover red wine stains with sugar or salt instantly to avoid permanent staining. Sugar and salt are well-known for absorbing the moist; wipe the sugar off the tablecloth straight away.

– Linen garments, tablelinens and bedlinens normally do not need the pre-washing (or soaking). However, if you are washing a linen item for the first time, it can be soaked briefly in lukewarm water before the wash to avoid creasing.

– A conventional machine wash and fast spin is recommended. Use hot iron while the linens are still slightly damp.

– Linen has a distinctive crispness which you should be able to achieve with a hot iron – no need to use starch. However, if you insist, tablelinens can be starched after the wash to achieve extra crisp finish.

– Wash linen articles separately from other materials, especially during the first wash, as natural fibres tend to loose lint (nap), which you don’t want ending up on your other items.

– To reduce creasing, load your washing machine half-way. This will also ensure linens get plenty of water while rinsing.

– Do not tumble dry your linens, as it may leave permanent creasing and it definitely shortens the life of linen. Statistically the percent of shrinkage in linen products is approximately 4-5% if dried naturally, but it increases to nearly 10-15% if linens get a good spin in a hot tumble dryer.

– Straighten out the linen after the wash before hanging it on the washing line.

– Fine hand-hemstitched items, such as above-mentioned Queen tablecloth, require extra care. If washed in a washing machine, low-temperature and low-spin setting is recommended. Never tumble dry fine hemstitched linens. Dry-cleaning is also recommended.

And last but not least, follow the instructions on the label attached to the linen item. They are there for a reason!

If you have any further enquiries about LinenMe products and how to care for them, please let us know. We are here to help.

34 comments

Susi 2012-05-08 Reply

Is it best to use conditioner when washing linen?

linenme 2016-09-21 Reply

Dear Susi,

Yes, it is recommended to use fabric softener when washing linen, especially if it is bed linen or linen towels as softness feel of those products could be the deciding factor if you like them or not.

Inga

Phyllis 2013-08-11 Reply

I want my linen sweater to shrink. Can I throw it in the washing machine and dry it even tho the tag says dry clean only?

linenme 2013-10-09 Reply

Phyllis,

Your linen sweater can shrink if you put in the dryer. Please keep in mind, that good quality linen (european) shrinks 5%. If your sweater is produced somewhere in Asia, it might shrink till 10%.

Inga

jessica Connor 2013-09-03 Reply

Hello,
I’ve just been given a cedar chest full of old linens. They smell of mildew but have no stains. Is there any way to remove the smell and is it harmful to our health to have it in our house.
Thank you,
Jessica Connor

linenme 2013-10-08 Reply

Jessica,

I’m sure you can wash all these linens. Please try to wash one piece using hand washing program and see how it comes. You can put some softener to get linen softer and get nice smell 🙂

Inga

Rita Schaefer 2013-09-24 Reply

Hello,
I have a beautiful linen tablecloth hand made by my German mother-in-law. We think it is about 100 yrs.old. It is of the Last Supper.Her initials are on it also. It has stains but it dosen’t smell. Can I wash this?
Thank You, Rita Schaefer

linenme 2013-10-08 Reply

Hello Rita,

Thank you for your question. It is really difficult to give you suggestions without seeing this tablecloth.
It should be possible to wash tablecloth if it is 100% linen. If you decide to wash it, please try to wash by hand very carefully for the first time. I usually put some bleacher on my white table linens, which takes out stains and makes them whiter. But I do not think it is good idea on old linens.

Inga

william johnson 2014-08-13 Reply

I just bought a pair of 100@ linen shorts that are a little baggy on me and I want them to shrink. If I run them thru the dryer for 20 minutes will that make them shrink?

linenme 2016-09-19 Reply

Dear William,

Try to put them in a washing machine and them a dryer on low temperature setting. Your linen shorts should shrink a bit. If the shrinkage is not enough you could gradually try to increase temperature on the dryer. Be careful though as it can shrink too much on the max heat (if linen fabric is not high quality).

Inga

Denise 2015-01-23 Reply

Is it possible to get rust out of antique linen?

linenme 2016-09-19 Reply

Dear Denise,

This is a good source answering your question how to remove rust from linen fabric: http://linenbeauty.com/2013/02/28/removing-rust-from-linen-fabric/

Hope that will help

Inga

John B. 2015-07-27 Reply

I have 10 yards of linen fabric I bought from a street market in Amsterdam. It smells musty. I was going to wash on the gentle cycle with some borax, which I hear gets rid of mold and mildew spores. Is this advisable?
Since the fabric is so long, I’m wondering how to dry it if tumble dry is not recommended. Lay it out in the back yard? I will use the heavy linen for men’s clothes.
Thanks. -John

linenme 2015-08-03 Reply

John,

Most of linen can be washed in the machine with all standard washing powder. It should help you to get rid of smell. I usually put some fabric softener as well to make fabric softer.
You are right about drying fabric by laying it out.

Regards,
Inga

Becky 2015-07-31 Reply

Hello,
I have a tan linen skirt with black fabric sewn on it in the shape of flowers. I took it to the dry cleaners but they won’t wash it because they said the black dye will bleed onto the tan. How can I wash it? The care label reads “Dry clean. No steam.”
Thank you,
Becky

linenme 2015-08-03 Reply

Hello Becky,

If label says, that it’s only dry cleaning, then I have to say there is no other way to wash it. The only suggestion I can give you – try another dry cleaning company.

Regards,
Inga

Andy 2015-12-14 Reply

Hello,
I saw your reply on a comment earlier. You said linen shrinks around 5 to 10%. Does this happen only the first time I put it into a dryer? How about if I put it into a dryer multiple times ?
Thank you,
Andy

linenme 2016-09-16 Reply

Hi Andy,

It shrinks the most after the first wash. Always use only low temperature / delicate setting on your dryer for linen.

Inga

Jennifer 2016-01-06 Reply

I have purchased some 100% linen fabric to make curtains. The manufacturer states to dry clean. It is possible to wash this in cool water via machine and tumble dry with no heat and avoid shrinkage? “Goldmine Sterling, Jonathan Adler fabric,Kravet fabric 100% linen up the roll multi purpose decorator fabric. Made in U.S.A. 54″ wide”

linenme 2016-07-22 Reply

Dear Jennifer,

The best would be to check with manufacture if their curtains are pre-washed. If it was not then it will shrink despite cold water wash and low heat tumble dry. all LinenMe custom made curtains are pre-washed at 40 degrees to avoid shrinkage afterwards.

Inga

audrey 2016-01-28 Reply

My linen fade when I wash them with powder soap. What can i use to wash them

linenme 2016-09-19 Reply

Dear Audrey,

It is very likely that the colour was not fixed properly by manufacturer and that is the reason for fading.
It is also very like that you already got the most of fading effect after the first wash and it shouldn’t fade further with the next washes.
You could wash good quality linen fabric with powder soap and it shouldn’t fade more than 5%, which is normal.

Inga

paula davis 2016-03-22 Reply

I ordered linen pant and they are huge. I wanted to see if I could order a smaller size and they are all out. So I need them to shrink at least 1 or two sizes any suggestion and also can I put fabric softener in the rinse cycle ? Thanks, Paula

linenme 2016-07-22 Reply

Dear Paula,

You should check with your retailer if their clothes are made from pre-washed fabric. All linen clothes sold on LinenMe.com are prewashed, so they will not shrink anymore.
Yes you could use fabric softener washing linen.

Inga

Liz 2016-03-28 Reply

I found a beautiful pure linen ecru tablecloth while cleaning out my in laws home. There was a sticker on it that said ” pure linen, made in Yugoslavia” . Had never been used, until yesterday for our Easter dinner. Wondering how to clean it – no stains, just a couple of clear spills. Thank you

linenme 2016-07-22 Reply

Dear Liz,

It’s very difficult to judge about fabric having the only reference “Made in Yugoslavia”, but if it’s 100% linen you will minimize your risks by Washing it separately and in lowest possible temperatures.

Inga

Barbara H 2016-08-27 Reply

What kind(s) of bleach is/are safe to use on white linen tablecloth to aid in stain removal?

linenme 2016-09-19 Reply

Dear Barbara,

First tip would be carefully study washing instructions on the product as different qualities of fabric might have different recommendations. I could give guidance on 100% European quality linen (e.g. LinenMe products). Usually good detergent (Ariel, Tide) would do the job, but on the white colour linen (as I mentioned high quality one and after reading cleaning instructions) it is ok also to use regular bleach product (Ace, Clorox). It goes without saying that you shouldn’t use bleach on coloured linen fabrics for stain removal purposes.

Inga

Stephanie 2016-09-11 Reply

I have some linen sheets but the colour is too deep. Is there any way to lighten the colour or make the sheets paler?

linenme 2016-09-19 Reply

Dear Stephanie,

If the dyestuff are fixed well during during the process, then the colour wont fade and won’t get lighter.
If not then it will fade a bit with every wash. You can speed up this using high temperatures, but there is a risk that it will shrink a bit more.

Inga

Lizzie 2016-09-25 Reply

I was given a beautiful bedroom set made by a friend who no longer wanted it. She has a dog and after she stored the set in a plastic crate in the attic for six months everything smells like a dog. Is there any way to get the smell out of it? There are no cleaning instructions and she doesn’t remember.

linenme 2016-10-02 Reply

Dear Lizzie,

I suggest you simply wash it in low temperature setting and add fabric softener.

Inga

Jeremy 2016-09-26 Reply

My linen shirt becomes longer after hand washing with cold water and hanging. Can I shrink it by washing it in hot water? If so should I hand wash in hot water or put it in machine hot cycle? Thanks.

linenme 2016-09-28 Reply

Dear Jeremy,

Yes your shirt will get longer if you wash in cold water and hang it. You can shrink it by by washing in machine hot cycle, but my recommendation would be not to put more than 60C to avoid too much shrinkage.

Inga

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