Table linens are the workhorses of the kitchen: mopping up spills, protecting furniture, countless rounds of drying up, wiping faces – the tasks are endless. Which is why we need to take special care of linen tablecloths, napkins and tea towels. Follow these top tips and you can keep your kitchen linens looking tip top.
1. Be Quick
If you can get to a stain quickly you have a better hope of removing it from your linen. Put off the washing up until the next day, sure, but don’t neglect any stains as they are stubborn little blighters and will only get more embedded into the fabric’s fibres. Choose a spot treatment that contains enzymes and gently dab onto the stain. Don’t rub as you will just work it more into the fabric. Check for colour fastness and lightening by initially applying to a small, hidden area if using a product for the first time. Chlorine bleach will cause yellowing and eventually erode the fibres of linen, so it is to be avoided. We found this nifty stain removal chart cooked up by the helpful folk at marthastewart.com. If you are feeling super organised you could print it off, laminate it and pin to the wall of your laundry area for quick reference in case of a red wine/ coffee/ pudding spill disaster.
If your linen is machine washable, put it in the washing machine and let it fill with hot water, but don’t run a full cycle. Alternatively, find a big pan and fill it with hot water. Soak the linen overnight for maximum stain-busting power.
Wash machine washables on a short cycle, or hand wash, being careful not to scrub. Linen does not like vigorous scouring or pummelling (and neither do we, for that matter). Gently does it.
Preferably, hang your linen out to dry naturally. The sun will help bleach out stains, and tumble drying can just fix in marks more permanently. At this point, if the stain has not been removed, you are better off re-treating and washing than just tumble drying. Make sure you dry linens flat where possible so they retain their shape.
You might be someone who embraces the natural crumples in linen fabric (hello, yes please), but if you are more fastidious than us try not to iron them until just before you use them. Instead, roll and store flat rather than folded. It can be annoying trying to find the right size tablecloth in a hurry, so why not sew coloured tabs onto each one according to size, and then hang them up ready to be found and laid in no time and with no rummaging in piles of linens? Use the iron to remove any remains of candle wax – scrape off what you can when it has dried and then apply blotting paper to the stain and iron over the top. Any last bits of wax should come off on the paper. Magic! Precious vintage linens are best stored in sealed bags accompanied by a lavender pouch for freshness.
Take care of your linens and you could be passing them on to the next generation, along with all the stories and memories of shared meals, kitchen triumphs and home comforts they hold within their fabric.