One 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.
If 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.
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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.
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.
If 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.
After 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.