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 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 in 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.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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,

  6. cjancola says:

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

  7. 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?

  8. 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

  9. 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!

  10. 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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