Laundering Linen – How to Wash Flaxen Fibers
Made from the long fibers of the flax plant, humans have been using linen for over six thousand years. And yet, some of us are still afraid to wash it.Why, you ask? Because just like wool, linen has picked up an unjust reputation of being difficult to wash and care for. The truth is, once you know how to wash linen correctly, it’s a breeze. So, to get you prepared for linen season, we’ve put together a quick fool-proof guide to the do’s and don’ts of washing this flaxen fiber.
Three Golden Rules
Most people go astray on their linen laundry by breaking one of the three following rules. Keep them in mind, and you should avoid the majority of potential problems.
- Don’t use hot water – Hot washes will cause shrinkage and degrading of the garment.
- Don’t tumble dry – The high temperature and spinning motion of the dryer will cause potentially irreversible crinkling/creasing.
- Don’t use biological detergents – The enzymes in biological detergents are in place to eat away at the proteins of food stains. Linen fibers are made up of proteins so these enzymes gradually eat away at the fabric.
How to Wash Linen – Five Easy Steps
1. Is a Wash Necessary?
One of the unique characteristics of linen is its lack of elasticity. This rigidity allows it to hold its shape. So, if you find your linen garment starting to droop slightly or lose some shape due to daily wear, this would be a good time to give it a wash to freshen up the fibers. Dry cleaning is an option, especially if the care label indicates ‘dry clean only’, however, most linen garments fair absolutely fine with a simple machine wash.
2. Check for Stains
Inspect your garment for any nasty stains. Any harsh marks or stains will need spot cleaning as the low-temperature wash that linen requires may not be enough to combat them. A spot cleaning service is provided by most good dry cleaners but there is a whole world of home stain removal solutions available.
3. Check the Care Tag
Refer to the care label of your garment for a recommended temperature, most linen garments should be washed on a mid-to-cold temperature, however, a linen blend may be able to withstand higher temperatures.
4. Start Your Washing Machine
Set your washing machine to the recommended temperature (that means not hot!), preferably on a moderate program with a gentle spin cycle. Add a measure of non-biological detergent or natural soap solution. There are special detergents available that are tailored to care and preserve linen textiles, but you can get by just fine with a regular non-biological detergent.
Toss in your linen garment(s) and you’re good to go. You can take this opportunity to wash the garment with similar colored items, but it is recommended that linen garments are given enough space in the drum, so they can be agitated adequately to reduce crinkling and creasing.
5. Hang it Dry
Once the cycle is finished, remove your linen from the washer while it is still slightly damp. To dry, lay the garment flat on a cooling rail, or hang. Removing whilst damp helps to reduce shrinkage and creasing.