Washing and Ironing Linen fabric

Can Linen be washed ?

linen care

The oldest known textile on earth ( The shroud of Turin is supposed to be made of Linen) Linen has been on the covet-list of the most choosy , most conscientious and the most fashionable people.Every one wants at least one linen garment in their wardrobe. The elegant look of the fabric is its attractiveness. Even when crumpled Linen gets its respect.

Checkout this post to know more about Linen -like how it is made and how many different types are available.

This fabric has been used for the past 10000 odd years and why would anyone still be using it if it is not washable ?

Infact washing softens the fibers of the Linen fabric. The more you wash Linen the softer it becomes. The shine on its surface also seems to improve after washing. With the sizing gone, it starts to breathe and become more comfortable to wear.After many washes linen becomes immune to wrinkles as well.

What about Linen Curtains ? If you have Linen curtains they are best left to the professionals at a dry cleaning center . You donot necessarily want a very comfortable fabric for your drapes with all the fine crispy looks gone.

But for clothing nothing better than your own washing and caring.Unless you want the crisp look for your linen pants skirts and shirts- in which case you are better off giving it to the dry cleaners

Shrinkage of the fabric, dyes used, and extra treatments applied on the linen are all to be taken into consideration when deciding on how to wash and care for Linen. So you can say It is washable but with some precautions. Let us see how to go about it

 A linen trivia I read somewhere – 1000 metres of linen was needed to wrap the average mummy of Pharaohs.


How to Care for Linen clothes and sheets.

  • Realize that your Linen garment ( linen pants, linen shirt, linen dress whatever) is going to shrink atleast 3% in the wash the first time, maybe even more. If you are sewing with Linen you will have to prewash taking this shrinkage into account before cutting and sewing.
  • Check for food spills or other stains before washing. Deal with any stains on Linen as soon as you see them.
  • Never use Chlorine bleach products on your linen fabric .  If you see mildew marks on your linen fabric, soak them in a solution of diluted Hydrogen Peroxide. Other stains can be dealt with by simply soaking them in a diluted solution of detergent for 30 – 45 minutes prior to wash. If it is not helping take it to the drycleaners. They may be of help. No harsh scrubbing or use of harsh stain removers on Linen like you would on cotton.
  • If you have a special linen garment, donot dip the whole cloth into the water all at once. Proceed with caution. Test wash an inconspicuous corner and then decide on how to proceed.
  • Always read and follow the label on the garment.
  • If you are washing in the washing machine always choose the mildest (delicate ) cycle.
  • Use a Liquid detergent which is diluted or even shampoo diluted to wash linen. Harsh detergents can cause white spots on coloured linen fabric. Well diluted mild soap powder is ok as well
  • Wash linen with similar fabric in the machine without overcrowding.
  • Cold water or mild warm water is enough to clean linen fabric. Ensure that you are washing linen in soft water. Hard water can cause white spots on coloured linen fabric. You can use a softening agent in the water to reduce hardness
  • Use hair conditioner in the final rinse. This is an excellent solution to make the fabric soft – Infact this can be tried for all natural fibers like silk. Fabric conditioner also work the same way.
  • Ensure that you have rinsed all the soap out of the fabric. If Soap remains in the fabric it may cause white spots or yellowing.
  • Donot  wring linen fabric to take out water after hand washing. A small squeeze on the side walls of the buckets will have to do.
  • If you have a white linen cloth which is starting to yellow you can use a little bluing in the final rinse water which is diluted well to bring back the white colour.
  • Dry the linen garment by laying them flat on a terry towel or hang on a clothing line. Never leave in the machine long after the washing and drying is over
  • Never fold and store Linen clothes. They should be hung preferably in an airy clean space


How to iron Linen fabric

wash linen

How am I going to get  this ironed smooth ?

  • Lightweight linen is very easy to iron and looks great, ironed, like cotton fabric But for more heavy linen it is another story.
  • Iron the garment before the fabric is fully dry.This is the best trick for ironing linen that I have heard

Ironing a dry brittle linen fabric piece is a real pain. Even the steam function of the iron wouldn’t work as well on the hardened fibers. You will have to spritz water with a spray bottle, roll the fabric ( keep in a plastic bag for better absorption) to  spread the water and then iron the fabric to shape and smoothness. Why go to all this trouble when you can iron a semi dry ( damp) linen fabric  to perfection.

If your fabric is already dry you can make it damp and pliable by hanging it in a humid shower area or keep the fabric in your refrigerator inside a bag.

The water will soften the fabric and the wrinkles will disappear with little effort

  • With Linen pants you may have to use the hottest setting on your steam iron to get all the wrinkles out.
  • Linen looks great if it is crisp and some prefer this look.  To get this effect, you can use the spray starch. or the dip and dry starch. Dip and dry starch is used right after the wash. You dip the washed cloth in diluted starch and then wring out excess and hang to dry. The spray starch is used while you are ironing. Checkout this post on different ways to make homemade starch.
  • If there is embroidery on your linen garment , iron from the inside
  • Use a press cloth if you donot like the sheen iron brings to the linen fabric surface. If you like this sheen, go ahead and iron on the surface

How to store Linen clothes

  • The crisp folds of Linen garment looks elegant alright but this crispiness along the folds can lead to its destruction unless you change the fold frequently. If you fold along the same lines the fibers there will break eventually


  • Linen is highly susceptible to damage from silverfish. Beware. Store with precautions.


  • When storing linen ensure that the place donot have dampness. A small amount of it can cause mildew, spots and yellowness.
  • If you have a special linen garment which you want to store for a long time,use cloth bags to store . Never use plastic bags or wrap them in paper. The dyes in the paper will leach on to the cloth and plastic will begin to develop mildew after some time. Thin Muslin / mull fabric is good for making these bags.


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