How to Care for Linen (the Do's and Don'ts)
The number one question we receive is "how do you care for linen?" Since we work with linen everyday, we thought we would demystify techniques for linen care with a couple of tips. A first rule about linen is that It behaves just like or similar to any other natural fabric. The other piece of advice is that since linen is grown from the very hardy and sturdy flax plant, is can withstand a lot of washing. This is not a fabric that needs kid gloves. It does not need to be dry cleaned, washed in the delicate cycle or hand washed. The chart below gives a good introduction.
Here is the list of to-do's:
Yes, Machine Wash and Dry
The first nugget to know is that linen is completely a wash and dry item. No dry cleaning is needed. The only case when dry cleaning might be preferable to machine wash would be a large item like a sofa slipcover or You don't have to keep it separate or in a washing bag for delicates. Mix all your linens in with your other items, and wash exactly the same. Use the same detergent you would use for other clothing.
Use Low Temperatures
In both the washer and dryer, we suggest that you keep the temperatures low. When drying, it may take longer, but your fibers will be protected and last longer over time. We would give this advice for any fabric - cotton, hemp, polyester, etc. The fiber content of all fabrics will break down faster in high heat. Another fiber friendly tip for linen is to take it out of the dryer a little damp (if you can and it is easy to do. If not, then skip this), and then lay flat or iron to finish.
Or, Hang or Lay Flat to Dry
If you want to save on some electricity, then hang your linen or dry flat. Either method will work well. Linen's looser weave works well using this method to dry. The looser weave allows excess water to release from the fabric and dry more quickly than other fabrics. This method of drying also uses less electricity and the house will not get too hot from running the dryer all day. Also, if you want to lay flat, you can do some ad hoc smoothing and shaping of the item which will make sure the item holds its shape when dry, and will remain smooth.
Smooth Out the Creases
Our process for smoothing out your linens works for any kind of item: pillow covers, shams, pillowcases, and napkins. Whether you are air drying or machine drying, you just need to lay the item flat, and then smooth out with your hands. The fibers in linen are very flexible, so they will want to take the shape of whatever you want. Rather than ironing, which does the same thing with the addition of heat, you can accomplish much by hand-smoothing. We have traveled to many shows and events with our linen, and never carry an iron. If you want to smooth out linen that is creased and dry, then take squeeze bottle and mist lightly with water while smoothing with your hands. The results are surprising. The creases will relax.
Having made these definite To-Do's, there are couple of Do Nots when it comes to linen care. Our Do Not list is below.
Do Not Dry Clean (unless it's drapery)
We are always so surprised when a customer asks if they need to dry clean linen. The answer is a big no, unless its drapery, and in that case you want to take it to the cleaners. But for bed linen, clothing or table linens, wash just like any other household item. The concept of adding chemicals to the fabric through dry cleaning linen is just so foreign to the natural and sustainable qualities of the fabric. Dry cleaning would ruin the natural purity of linen. There is just no need to do this.
No Need for Delicate Cycle
The idea that linen is delicate is another misnomer. Linen is one of the most sturdy and tough fabrics out there, so delicate cycle is just not required. Delicate cycle was made for fabrics or items that might fall apart easily.
No Need to Hand Wash
Linen does not need to be hand washed. This is similar to the delicate cycle, linen is tough enough to go through the machine perfectly.
So we hope that these suggestions give some clarity on the topic of how to care for linens. Our best advice is treat your linens exactly how you would treat any workhorse, common home textile and don't sweat it. Once you can just live with linen like this, you'll be able to truly enjoy all the wellness and beautiful attributes of this wonderful fabric.