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How to Wash Linen Clothes

Linen is a cool & comfortable material to wear in any weather. Keep your favorite garments in great condition with this guide to washing linen clothes.


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Written by Eunice Samson

how to wash linen

Cosy to wear on a cool day, and light and airy when it’s getting hot outside – linen is a material that’s great in all weathers. But exactly how do you clean linen? We’ve got all the tips and tricks you need to minimize the risk of wrinkles and shrinkage – just read on to find out how quick and simple it can be.

Reduce wrinkles by drying wet garments on clothes hangers, and then folding or ironing them when still slightly damp.

How to Clean Linen Clothes in the Washing Machine

Linen is a breathable fabric made from natural flax fibres, often combined with cotton to produce garments, table dressings, and sheets. Of course, like any natural fabric, linen has the potential to get damaged in your washing machine. To avoid shrinking and creating wrinkles, you should:

  • Wash linens separately from your regular clothes, giving them lots of space to move around in the machine. If you cram in too many clothes at once you will increase the likelihood of creasing.

  • Wash linen on a medium to cool water cycle. Check the care label of your linen garment to find out the maximum water temperature recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Use a good quality detergent like Breeze for stain removal. Always check the safety and usage instructions on the label and test products on a discreet part of clothing before using on the entire garment. To give your clothes a beautiful fresh scent, try a detergent like Surf.

  • Choose a gentle cycle such as one designed for wool. Gentle cycles usually include a soak at the beginning followed by a short wash to minimize agitation in the drum (which can lead to shrinkage).

  • Line dry immediately. If linen is left to sit in the machine it’s more likely to get creased. Avoid using the dryer as this will set wrinkles in place and may even shrink the fabric.

How to Hand Wash Linen

Washing linen clothes in the machine is really the easiest method, but embroidered or lace linens, like tablecloths, should really be washed by hand:

  1. Add detergent to a large bucket of cool water.

  2. Soak the linen items in the water for 15-20 minutes.

  3. Agitate gently then rinse in cool clean water.

  4. Repeat the process if any stains remain.

  5. Hang on the line to dry.

Advice for Antique Linens

Linen is very hardwearing, which means embroidered sheets and tablecloths are often handed down from generation to generation. If you have fragile antique linens and you’re asking yourself ‘can I wash linen like this at home?’ – the answer is that it’s always best to consult a laundry professional who specializes in linen cleaning, first.

  • Wash regular linens in your washing machine, according to the instructions on the care label.

  • Hand-wash embroidered linens and those with lace.

  • Line dry linen in the sun.

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Frequently asked questions on washing linen

Why does linen fabric shrink when washed?

Did you know linen is made from the fibres of the flax plant? These natural plant fibres are prone to shrinkage once placed in water. To prevent shrinkage, most companies will pre-wash linen, however some do not. Always check the care label of your linen prior to cleaning and wash with care.

How do you unshrink linen?

We have 6 simple steps for how to unshrink linen. First, add a gentle soap to lukewarm water. Next, allow your linen to soak for 30 minutes. Third, gently remove the linen clothes from the soak. Then, roll your clothing inside a towel to squeeze out excess water. Your clothing should be damp instead of wet. Next, lay your clothing out on a clean dry towel, carefully pulling the fibres back to their original, pre-shrinking size. Finally, allow your clothes to air dry.

How should you store linen clothes?

For the best care of this natural, delicate fabric, here’s how to store linen clothes. Always stick to cool, dry spots and avoid cardboard containers, plastic bags and cedar chests.

How do you wash linen napkins in the washing machine?

Here’s how to wash linen napkins in washing machine. Always wash on the lowest temperature possible, using the maximum water level available and a mild detergent. Never use bleach and avoid tumble drying as they will dry fast in the air.

Originally published