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Beginners Guide to Washing Linen

Washing linen has never been easier! In the olden days, doing laundry involved manually scrubbing clothes over corrugated boards at the riverside or in wash houses, or with lye or ash, not using soap at all! These days, with modern-day washing machines and dryers and ready-made detergents, we have things a lot easier!

It is no secret that I LOVE anything linen, but I have to say that I am even more obsessed with fresh linen off the line! As soon as the sun is out and the temperatures are warm enough, I am that crazy lady that has my linens on the line, even if there is still a ton of snow on the ground!

That said, there are still some techniques for washing linen that will help your linen sheets, linen bedding, linen clothes and your favourite linen aprons last a lifetime! Let’s take a look at what it takes to properly wash and care for linen items. 

girl carrying a vintage basket full of linen in a bedroom

Tips For Caring For Linen

Linen is a sustainable fabric that is derived from the natural fibers of the flax plant. A natural fabric that has so many benefits such as it is temperature regulating, eco-friendly, and hypoallergenic when cared for properly can truly last a lifetime. Of course, you can also resort to dry cleaning your linen textiles or old fashion hand washing in cool water or follow the below steps on the best way and basic rules to machine wash your linen.

Step by Step Care Instructions for Washing Linen

supplies for washing linen

How to Wash Linen

  1. Separate white, dark, and colored linens. For best results, turn linens inside out and wash them separately from other fabrics. 
  2. Wash in low temperatures like lukewarm water or cold and preferably soft water. (<40°C/104°F)
  3. Use the gentle cycle or delicate machine cycle and don’t overload your washing machine. It is essential not to use any plant-based products on linen as it will break this material down.
  4. Use mild or delicate detergent formulated for delicate fabrics. To keep your linen bright and white, there are some natural techniques that you can use listed below.

Shop Products for Washing Linen

These are some of my favorite products to have on hand for washing linen. They are all safe to use and won’t deteriorate the linen over time. Tap the products below to shop.

washing linen products

How to Dry Linen

  1. Hanging to dry on a drying rack or air drying outside on the line is always a good idea and an excellent way to dry your linen pieces. If you do use your dryer, be sure to tumble dry on low heat for the best results. Remove your linen from the dryer while it’s still damp to avoid it becoming stiff, and hang or lie flat to finish off the drying process. Hanging your linens is the best option to save on electricity and any wear and tear on your linen. For the best results, be sure to give your linen a quick shake-out before you hang it on the line. 

Washing linen properly could make it last a lifetime. Like these vintage french linens that you can shop below.

How to Whiten Linen

  1. Linen garments need to last a long time to be worth that hefty investment, therefore caring for it properly is so important. Like any other fabric, linen can discolour after a long period of use. There are some tech
girl taking laundry off the clothes line

Sunshine is the Best Natural Bleach

 – There is something so comforting about freshly dried linens from outside. Some people say they even get better sleep on them! Plus direct sunlight is best for bleaching out those stubborn stains and naturally whitening your linens! Get outside and let the sun do the dirty work… it will also save you on the ironing when your linens come off the line!

White Vinegar

Vinegar brightens and whitens everything! Don’t you hate when your clothes start to look old and worn! Add 1 cup of white vinegar to the cycle and wash on a delicate or hand-wash cycle. You will be surprised how well it brings the colour up and lightens your whites! A few drops of vinegar will soften your fabric too, so add it to your bedding for that little bit of extra comfort. Just don’t mix any bleach products in with vinegar as this could cause an unwanted chemical reaction.

Dish Soap

Make a dish soap and vinegar mixture together! The combo will help to loosen any tough stains and you will be so impressed with your how much this will brighten your linen after they dry!

 These natural whitening methods will work on other fabrics too.

white bed in a master bedroom with painted floors

Aspirin

 Aspirin is good for so many things, from flower food to whitening fabric! Add approx. 5 pills to your water and let those whites soak for a while! Then throw them in the wash, but make sure to keep them away from your colours after or they will tint too!

Borax 

This age-old product will actually soften the water and help with both whites and colours! You can also mix it with a little icing sugar and uses it to kill ants around the house! Gotta love a multi-purpose product.

Baking Soda 

Baking soda has to be one of the best natural stain removers out there! One cup of baking soda to 4 litres of water for your whites. Let it soak and then put it through the wash! Your clothes will look like new! For individual stain removal, apply a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda on any tough stain and leave it to sit for 10 minutes. Scrub with a brush and then rinse and wash the item. It is guaranteed to get out the tough stuff!

Looking for linen? Shop the best linen sheets and linen aprons on the blog!

How To Iron Linen

To iron or not to iron… the choice is truly up to you! Linen fabric can be ironed to a crisp appearance on the proper heat setting however if you love the natural look of linen, then the wrinkles should not bother you one bit. Hanging your linen to dry will also help to prevent the wrinkled look if it is something you are not a fan of! A gentle spritz of water or scented bedding spray will also remove any unwanted creases or lines too!

If you do choose to iron your linen, be sure to use an ironing board and the steam setting on your iron. Higher temperatures can damage your high-quality linens.

blue and white linen sheets with peonies on the bed

How To Store Linen

Linen should be stored in a cotton or muslin fabric when not used. For linen sheets and bedding, try putting your sets in a cotton pillowcase before placing them in the linen closet. Make sure to store linen in a well-ventilated area too. This practice will ensure that your linen fabric stays fresh and doesn’t take on any unwanted smells or stains while being kept in storage.

girl making a bed with linen sheets

Hopefully, this has helped to answer some of your questions on washing linen. No matter whether you are washing linen sheets or clothing, linen can be a huge investment so knowing how to care for it properly is important.

Learning natural ways to whiten linen can also be very useful and so much better for the environment ( and your body and linen products) than using harsh chemical products. If you try any of these techniques, please let me know in the comments below. You can always find me on Instagram too.

FAQ’s On Washing Linen

Can I wash linen in the washing machine?

Most linen fabrics can be washed in the washing machine unless they are marked as hand wash only or dry clean only. Vintage or delicate linen should be hand washed in cold water or the delicate cycle and hung to dry.

Does 100% linen shrink in the wash?

Yes, pure 100% linen can shrink if it is not cared for properly. Especially if it is washed and dried using high heat. It may be irreparable once this happens.

Should linen be ironed?

Linen will naturally crease and have wrinkles, in fact, this is considered one of linen’s characters and features. A lot of linen products are now designed to be washed and hung to dry and worn. However, most linen can be ironed if desired. Keep the settings on low heat and for the best results use the steam setting.
Spritzing linen with water will also take away most unwanted creases and wrinkles without needing to apply heat to the fabric.

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Beginners Guide to Washing Linen

Use this guide to washing linen to keep your linen lasting a lifetime. These tips will also help you whiten linen laundry too.
Prep Time10 minutes
Active Time1 hour
Additional Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 40 minutes
Course: linens & laundry
Yield: 1
Cost: $30 +

Equipment

  • Washing Machine or Wash Board
  • Dryer or Cloth Line

Instructions

  • Separate white, dark, and colored linens. For best results, turn linens inside out and wash them separately from other fabrics. 
  • Wash in low temperatures like lukewarm or cold, and preferably soft water. (<40°C/104°F)
  • Use the gentle or delicate machine cycle and don't overload your washing machine. It is essential not to use any plant-based products on linen as it will break this material down.
  • Use mild or delicate detergent formulated for delicate fabrics. To keep your linen bright and white, there are some natural techniques that you can use listed above.
  • Hang to dry or tumble dry on low for the best results. Remove your linen from the dryer while it is still damp to avoid it becoming stiff, and hang or lie flat to finish off the drying process. Hanging your linens is the best option to save on electricity and any wear and tear on your linen. For the best results, be sure to give your linen a quick shake-out before you hang it on the line. 

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