Linen Fabric Care: How to Do It Right

Linen Fabric CareOne of the oldest natural fabrics, linen was first made from the flax plant thousands of years ago. This lustrous, high-quality fabric continues to be popular today. Durable, strong, smooth, and highly breathable, linen is ideal for use in clothing.

linen fabric care

Field of Flax Flowers

linen fabric care

Flax Flowers and Linen Fabric

linen fabric careIf cared for properly, linen products can last for longer than many other fine fabrics. However, many people shy away from linen because of the fabric's reputation for being difficult to handle. Luckily, remembering a few basic rules is all that is necessary for proper linen care.

linen fabric care

A linen owner should follow whatever specific instructions the manufacturer has placed on the label. Linen should be either machine- or hand-washed (but not dry cleaned unless specifically mentioned on the fabric care label) in cool or lukewarm water. Hot water should never be used since higher temperatures will wear out the fibers more quickly.

linen fabric care

Since harsh treatment can easily damage linen, the gentlest wash cycle available should always be selected. For similar reasons, a gentle, non-astringent soap should be employed. Even if the fabric is stained, bleach should not be used since bleach weakens linen fibers and can degrade the colors of dyed linen.

To prevent linen items from getting tangled and stretched or pulled, washing machines should be only partially filled, leaving enough room for the fabrics to move freely.

Colored linen and white linen must never be washed together, and linen should not be cleaned with other fabrics.

linen fabric careIf hand washing is employed, it is again critical to not be too rough with linen products. Only gentle motions will leave linen in good condition. Pulling, wringing, twisting, and scrubbing will harm the linen fibers.

After washing is finished, it is important not to dry linen out too much in a drier. If linen dries out completely, it can become stiff and brittle. Instead, linen should be left slightly damp, and allowed to finish drying on its own.

Placing linen on a hanger will soon complete the process; letting the item dry on a flat surface might be preferable, as it lowers the chance a crease will form in the fabric. Though ironing linen is usually not necessary, the best time to do so is when the linen is still a little wet.

linen fabric careAfter the washing and drying process is completed, linen should be stored in a dry, cool area until it is next needed. It is best to not fold linen garments when they are put away since linen with folds, creases, or other marks is likely to wrinkle or deform and lose its shape.

Linen has a reputation for being as high maintenance as it is high quality. However, although linen is not as easy to care for as with other fabrics, following a few basic rules is all that is needed to preserve linen for many years.

I hope these few tips about linen fabric care help you and even convince you to make something from this wonderful and natural fiber fabric.  If you have other thoughts on how to best care for linen, please leave them in the comments below.  The other readers will really appreciate it.

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31 Responses to Linen Fabric Care: How to Do It Right

  1. Sally Moore says:

    On my iron, the hottest setting is for linen (hotter than cotton). So I’m surprised to read here that it should have only a warm iron. Which is correct?

  2. bubbieone says:

    I serge the cut ends of my linens together, then wash and dry in the machines, to get any shrinkage out of the way, before making the garment. Then I wash and dry the garment the same way. I have never had trouble with linens, and love love love it!

  3. Paula Bristow says:

    Thank you for the information … i have some linen that I have been too afraid of turning into a garment … now I will tackle it soon with an educated approach!

  4. Deni says:

    I get my linen fabric online from Gorgeous fabric in many colors and weights. I serge the edge before washing then dry in machine. I suggest taking it out while still slightly damp and then iron immediately. I found drying too much left wrinkles that I couldn’t iron out. Linen is supposed to be casual and “wrinkled” and gets softer and softer with wearing.

  5. Deborah Atulomah says:

    The care instructions seem incredibly labour intensive for a fabric that is supposed to improve with wear. Also, I am surprised you feel linen needs little or no ironing- it is very prone to crumple and crease before during and after every stage of putting on, wearing, washing and drying. and ironing, if you’re not careful!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      It all depends how you wash it if done by hand and no twisting, also it depends on the pattern and look you wan to achieve. For a relax by the beach dress taking it with you on vacation often a sock the dress in water and hang on a hanger in the bathroom next day I don’t iron. Must admit though it works best with a print.

      • Deborah Atulomah says:

        I have a casual linen shirt, I’ll give your method a try and see how it goes. Thanks for the tip!

  6. Wendy Brodar says:

    Whenever I had had linen, it has always shrunk. I love the feel, especially in the summer. I follow the instructions carefully but no matter whether it is pre-made or I buy the fabric and make, it will always draw up. How do I prevent this?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      When Buying linen I wash it and dry it in the dryer until is very dry then I iron it using a lot of steam. That way I make sure the shrinkage will not take place when I finish the garment. Linen is a wonderful fabric that will absorb sweat, as it does the fibers will expand giving the garment a looser look. This is why linen is not ideal for form fitting dresses or pants, it is better suited for loose and flowy styles.

    • Amanda says:

      I use linen more than any other fabric. I love it. When I first get my fabric I wash it at 60c and tumble dry on high. I then hang it and steam it until it’s damp then iron it. Once that’s done I hang it again and leave it for 48 hrs. It will ‘give’. Only then do I make clothes and furnishings with it. My clients (and I) haven’t mentioned it shrinking on them. I give care instructions to wash at 40c with wool/silk washing liquid and to hang or low heat tumble dry until damp, iron damp and hang to finish drying. It’s labour intensive but I have developed this technique over many years and touch wood it’s not let me down.

  7. Patricia Pfeiffer says:

    I just bought a length of 100% navy blue linen. I am not sure how to prep this fabric before cutting my garment. I have read several places to dry clean linen if you want to keep it crisp, as in suit jackets. But I want linen for a softer, more relaxed feel, so I will want to wash it, and your information is helpful. But what can I expect in prepping it? Will it shrink much? Do dark color dyes run? What about ironing? The linen setting is the highest setting on your iron, so it must be able to handle heat.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Patricia, al depends of the quality of linen and what dying process the company has used. Wash the linen as you are planing to wash the garment. i tend to place it i the washing machine and dry completely. I am left with a crumpled fabric and spend several minutes ironing in the highest setting with a lot of steam. I find I have lost 4 to 6 inches in length. Not a problem because now I can choose a pattern that is suitable for the fabric. Loose and flowy is best.

  8. Barbara Ludekens says:

    I’ve recently feel in love with the look and feel of linen. I have never sewn with it but I have some yardage that needs a nice simple short sleeve dress. Any ideas? I’m 5’5″ and short torso length, with that lovely rounded and rolled middle.

    • Laura says:

      I have made several dresses using the Vivienne Dress pattern from Style Arc it is graceful,comfortable and stylish. I think your figure and mine sound very similar. I have made two from cotton, one from Rayon and have one in progress in linen.

      Unfortunately it does not have sleeves, hope this is helpful. I usually pair this dress with a light swing jacket called a little something. Mostly the jacket is to cover my old lady arms,


  9. Pamela says:

    I absolutely love the look of linen. I didn’t know it should be removed from the drier while still damp. Will this help to eliminate some of the wrinkles?

  10. Maggie Drafts says:

    Thanks Ladies! I love the look and feel of linen, but I did not know to never have it dry cleaned! 100% linen is impossible to find in my area (we DO NOT have luxury fabric stores any more). I am inspired to go looking for linen now!

  11. Lynda Turmenne says:

    My husband take flax – just to sprinkle on food, we use linseed oil which is flax seed to wash and polish our BBQ steel griddle (by Blackstone). Just had to share the FLAX! Thanks for your explanation & photos… Lynda Turmenne, Beverly Hills, FL.

  12. jacey, joasiaya says:

    what is the best way to repair a small tear? Is it necessary to use linen thread?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      No Not all, the most important t is to match the color of the fabric. The technique will depend on how large is the tear.

  13. Rita Lyons says:

    I very much appreciate this information, There is a lot about washing linen that I did not know before. I wish this article was in printable form so that I could save it forever.

  14. Lynne Kristiansen says:

    I have a question. I bought some white linen to make a pair of pants but it is kind of see-through. What can I line or better yet underline them with? They will be hand washed in the end. Of course I will preshrink it first. Thank you.

  15. Andrea Letourneau says:

    I’ve heard that the “trick” to ensuring a linen garment does not become a wrinkled mess while wearing it is to line it with silk organza.

  16. Kim Antonsen says:

    I love linen in all seasons here in Panama. With the high humidity any wrinkles fall out as soon as they are made. It’s never crisp but I don’t wear crisp. Thanks for the care tips – I understand now why my favorite walking shorts wore out after only four years.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Kim, the humidity in my country of birth can be stifling at times and linen is the only way to go. Happy to know you know how to make the best of the weather. Kind Regards,

  17. cjancola says:

    I love linen clothes but not the wrinkled look. Should fabric softener or dryer sheets be used?

  18. irsister7 says:

    I used to weave linen (industrially). I hated it then because it was so rough but I just love it for clothes when I travel. It’s cool. Literally?

  19. upsew says:

    I agree with Sunny above I have washed household linen at high temps and its always been fine – however on habit I generally wash them on lower temps now 40deg. I have never used and dont own a dryer so will dry naturally. My only comment on linen is that dye does not reach the inner fibre so its prone to fading with time and worth re-dying. I adore linen clothes as they become the wearers as linen will slow adopt the form of the wearer – wonderfully easy fabric to sew also – secondhand linen trousers sell for about a euro/dollar here in charity shop as they have gone out of fashion or something, so I usually remake them into shirts

  20. Janie says:

    Great information! I LOVE the look of linen but have hesitated using it. I thought it always wrinkled like crazy but I think I’ll give it a try now. I can easily line dry it. Thanks for the good information!

  21. Sunny says:

    I still have a lot of towels, draps etc in my household, some of them from my grandma, but I always wash them in the machine with very high temp (60°-95°C). I never had any damage. The old pieces are white, the newer ones are colored. And I always iron them on the highest temperature possible. I have also some few garments in linen jersey and wash them in the machine upto 60°C.
    Sorry I made different experiences as you describe.

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