Learn how to wash linen! Linen is a breathable, natural fabric, so it easily wicks moisture away, making it perfect for clothes. Being sturdier than most types of cotton, linen is also one of the best materials to make tablecloths, bedsheets, and towels. It is easy and straightforward, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take extra care when washing linen, especially since it’s often combined with other fibers.
How to Wash Linen Step by Step Tutorial
Linen is a natural fabric made from the flax plant. Washing linen doesn’t only keep it free from dust, dirt, and unwanted odor, but it also makes the fabric more absorbent and softer.
Learning how to wash linen involves five steps:
- Check Care Instructions or Label
- Prepare and Inspect the Item to Be Washed
- Spot Treat - Using either strain removal or kitchen products
- Washing - Either by hand or machine
- Drying - In the tumble dryer or air drying
Step 1 - Check Care Instructions or Label
Like other fabric materials, you must make sure you check the care label to find out if you can handwash or machine-wash your linen. It will also indicate if you can only dry clean or spot treat the linen-made item.
The differences in care or laundry symbols and instructions aren’t only because there are multiple types of linen but also because of the fabric’s versatility. Manufacturers can mix it with several different fibers, which may require more specialized care.
Step 2 - Prepare and Inspect the Item to Be Washed
- CHECK - The next thing you need to do is check the fabric for any grease, makeup, oil, and other stains.
- TURN - Then, turn the fabric inside out, especially clothes, pillowcases, and fitted sheets. You must also fasten all snaps or buttons, tie all drawstrings, and zip up all zippers.
- SEPARATE - Once done or while doing so, separate white fabric from light-colored, dark-colored, and dye-bleeding items.
Step 3 - Spot Treat Stains
If your linens have small, visible stains, you can spot treat them using well-known stain-removing products or alternative home staples.
Removing Linen Stains Using Common Stain-Removing Products
Every stain is different, so you also need to use a different product for each of them. For the most common stains encountered, here’s what you need to do:
Coffee, Tea, and Similar Beverages
- Using glycerin, blot the stains gently, starting from the outside to the inside.
- Leave it for about two to three minutes.
- Wash using lukewarm water.
Lipstick, Face Powder, and Foundation
- Soak a piece of cotton or clean white cloth in alcohol.
- Test for colorfastness by dabbing the wet cotton or cloth on a small, normally-hidden area.
- If no color is transferred to the cotton or cloth, gently dab a new one on the stain.
- Wash it off with lukewarm water.
- If it’s positive for dye bleeding, then just use lukewarm water to remove the stain slightly.
Grease or Oil Marks
- Soak a piece of cotton or small, white cloth in a small amount of fabric grease remover. There are many available in the laundry aisle at your local supermarket.
- Follow the instructions on the bottle.
- Rinse with water and leave to air dry.
Removing Stains on Linen With Kitchen Ingredients
Your kitchen has a lot of items that you can use to remove common and oil-based stains. Not only are they affordable, but they’ve been tried and tested on linen fabrics.
- Mix one part of baking soda and one part of water to make a paste.
- Carefully apply the paste to the stain.
- Let it dry and sit for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Gently scrape off the baking soda paste.
- Sprinkle a little amount of cornstarch on the stain.
- Let the stain absorb the cornstarch for about 15 minutes.
- Gently scrape off the stain-cornstarch mixture.
- Repeat the steps if needed.
- Rinse using cool water.
Step 4 - How to Wash Linen Clothes and Other Items
Depending on your linen’s care instructions, you can wash your item manually or with a machine. That said, you can also handwash machine-washable linens.
It’s also advisable not to wash your linens with other fabrics, especially those made of heavy material like jeans or denim. This helps prevent possible damage and creases since it allows the linen to move freely.
Always wash linen with a mild detergent and avoid bleach and fabric softeners that can damage the linen fibers.
Lastly, whether you machine-wash or handwash your linens, you must always use lukewarm water, specifically below 40C (104F) or below the maximum temperature recommended on the label by the linen manufacturer.
How to Wash Linen in the Machine
Here are the instructions for machine washing linen:
- WATER - Add the right amount of cold or lukewarm water to your washer or set your machine to a warm cycle, being mindful of the temperature set.
- DETERGENT - Add the right amount of mild detergent or soap.
- SEPARATE - If the machine-washable linen has ornaments such as beads and sequins, place it in a lingerie or mesh bag. Separate linen washes into colors keeping white separate from darks. Make sure there’s enough space for the fabrics to move freely in the washer and prevent damage and tangles.
- SOAK - Allow the linens to soak from three to five minutes, depending on how dirty they are.
- CYCLE - Set the machine’s cycle to gentle and let the machine do its job.
- FINISHING - Immediately remove from the machine once done to prevent wrinkles and creases.
How to Wash Linen by Hand
Here are the instructions to hand wash linen:
- WATER -Fill your tub, sink, or basin with the right amount of cold or lukewarm water.
- DETERGENT - Add a little amount (a teaspoon or less depending on the size of your basin, sink, or tub) of mild detergent or soap, ensuring it’s not too soapy. Using the tip of your fingers, gently swish the water until you see little bubbles.
- SEPARATE - Add the right number of linens; again, start with the whites.
- SOAK - Allow them to soak for 10 minutes or more, depending on how dirty the linens are. Take one linen item at a time and gently swish. DO NOT wring, scrub, or twist to prevent stretching.
- RINSE - Transfer the washed fabric to a basin, sink, or bucket with clean water, and then rinse. Do a second rinse using another bucket, basin, or sink with clean water. If the linen is still soapy, you can do more rinse cycles.
Step 5 - How to Dry Linen
Depending on your linen fabric’s care instructions, you can use your tumble dryer or clothesline to dry it. Still, there’s a right way to do either of these methods.
How to Tumble Dry Linen
Tumble dry is the quickest method to keep linens free from creases and wrinkles. For linens, though, you shouldn’t completely dry them using the tumble dryer. Here’s what you need to do:
- SEPARATE - Place the washed linens in the tumble dryer. Like washing, DO NOT mix the whites and the colored ones, and the light-colored with the dark-colored items. Always begin with the whites and end with the dye-bleeding items. Also, make sure the linens have enough breathing room.
- SETTINGS - Set the tumble dryer to the lowest heat setting and the timer from three to five minutes.
- REMOVE - Remove the damp linens from the machine and let them hang to air dry. You can also lay them flat on a clean surface.
How to Air Dry Linen
Hanging your linens to dry is the best method since it won’t leave any damage when done correctly. Just make sure you hang them in an area away from direct sunlight.
Once done rinsing your linens, spread them out on a flat surface with an absorbent cloth. White for whites, light-colored for light-colored ones, and so on.
You can leave your linens lying flat and spread out on a towel or flat surface. Alternatively, you can also hang them on your clotheslines without using any hangers and clothespins since they can place marks on the fabric or, worse, make them lose shape or stretch them out.
Step 5 - Ironing After Washing Linen
When ironing linen, use a medium-hot iron with a steam setting to remove stubborn creases. Check if your iron has a specific linen setting. Due to the thickness and stubbornness of ironing linen, it is often best to iron both sides on lighter linen. Use a pressing cloth and only iron the reverse side to prevent shiny patches on dark linens.
How To Wash Linen with Stubborn Stains
The spot treatment method for linens is only useful for small stains. When it comes to bigger and more stubborn stains, specific stain-removing techniques are better. Below are the steps on how to remove those stubborn stains.
Step 1 - Remove Excess Substances
If there are any excess dried out liquid or solid materials, do the following:
- Slowly scrape them off using a spoon or a knife. Make sure you don’t press or squeeze on the substance. Remove as much of it as possible. Shake off the scraped-off substances.
- If the stain is liquid, shake off excess liquid.
- Using a paper towel or clean white cloth, blot the stain from the outside to the inside. This will help lift the stain from the fabric.
Step 2 - Apply a Stain Remover
- Commercial Products: Using a stain remover or treatment solution meant for delicate fabric, place a little amount on a clean cloth and dab on the stain. If it is a spray or mist, just spray on the stain, ensuring you place a paper towel underneath to absorb excess fluid.
- Kitchen Staples: You may also sprinkle a little amount of baking soda on the stain, then, place two to three drops of white vinegar. Lastly, blot it with a paper towel to absorb the solution and stain. Another option for white linen is to use lemon juice. All you do is squeeze a little amount on the stain and then rinse it off.
Step 3 - How to Wash Linen with Soaking
- Fill your small tub, sink, basin, or bucket with enough lukewarm water to cover the linen when soaked.
- You can add either one scoop of a stain-removing detergent for every gallon of water or an eighth of a cup of white vinegar or a commercial soaking stain remover.
- Place the linen and let it soak overnight or for an hour, depending on the degree of the stain. Just make sure that you take the time to agitate the water regularly.
- Drain, then wash and dry the linens as discussed above.
How to Wash Linen FAQS
Can I Use Bleach on Linen?
It is best to avoid bleach on linen items as it will weaken the fibers of the fabric and can also discolor it. If you really must use bleach, weaken it considerably first, and do not soak it in the solution for too long. Make sure you rinse any residue really well.
Can I Put Linen in the Washing Machine?
Yes, you can put linen in the washing machine if the laundry symbols on the care label indicate that you can. It is important to put it on a gentle cycle with a mild detergent. Separate your linen items from other fabrics and make sure you are washing lights and dark linens separately.
Does Linen Shrink in the Wash?
Most linen garments and items will shrink in the first few washes due to their open weave. You can minimize shrinkage by limiting heat. Wash in cold water and if you must use a tumble dryer, make sure it is on the lowest setting. If you are worried about shrinkage, try to purchase items that have been pre-shrunk by the manufacturer.
Is it OK to Put Linen in the Dryer?
As always check the laundry care instructions on the label first. If it indicates that tumble drying is ok, then make sure you use a low temperature and remove the item before it is completely dry. Removing it from a tumble dryer while still slightly damp, lessens creases and also any shrinkage.
Is it Better to Wash or Dry Clean Linen?
If in doubt, it is always better to dry clean linen to minimize shrinkage. When the care label on the item indicates that it can be washed, take a few extra precautions such as using a mild detergent and ensuring that the water temperature is cold or lukewarm.
How Do You Shrink Linen?
There may be times when you actually want your linen item to be shrink and be smaller. In this case, wash it in hot water and dry it in the tumble dryer on a hot setting. While this will shrink the item, just be mindful that this process may damage the fibers of the linen and your item may not look at good after heat treatment.
How to Wash Linen Sheets
Washing linen sheets is easy with your washing machine. Use a cold or cool water wash on a gentle cycle and a mild detergent. It is best to dry linen sheets in the shade on a line rather than in the tumble dryer to prevent shrinkage. Avoid bleach and fabric softeners as it will shorten the life of your linen sheets.
How to Wash Linen - In Conclusion
Now you know how to wash linen. Washing linens isn’t as complicated as many assume. One important rule is always to follow the care instruction guide the linen-made item comes with. That said, whether you wash it by hand or via a machine, you must only use mild products and ensure you rinse the detergent off thoroughly.