Both stylish and hard-wearing, linen is a natural fabric made from the fibres of the flax plant and has been highly prized for thousands of years. Its popularity is deserved as it is a tough material that hangs beautifully but also breathes so that you always feel comfortable, whatever the temperature.
It is not a difficult fabric to care for but it does need thoughtful care to keep looking at its best. Following a few simple rules will ensure that your garments remains looking good as new.
How to Wash LinenLike all natural fibres linen requires gentle washing if it is to retain a pristine look. When machine washing, avoid high temperatures (stick to 40C or below) and use a gentle cycle. If you push the heat too high, linen can shrink, so if you get a stain (which we’ll cover shortly), think about heading to the dry cleaner.
Hand washing is advised if you have an older machine. Simply fill your tub or sink with cool water and add a little detergent over the top and swirl it around in the water. Make sure the detergent you use is a gentle one – avoid those designed to get mud out of sports clothes. Rinse the garment thoroughly and avoid scrubbing or wringing the garment, as this can damage and stretch the fibres.
Figure: Pile défileus by Broux, P.
How to Iron LinenSome linen garments are meant to have a naturally crinkled look, it is part of their charm, but you may wish to iron more formal items. Don’t iron a completely dry linen garment but do it while it is still just a little damp so that the fibres are a little more elastic. Alternatively, spray with water and leave for 10 minutes before ironing.
A good quality steam iron will make the process easier, as will a sturdy ironing board. Ironing linen cannot be hurried. It is the nature of the fabric that it requires time and perseverance to remove creases. The iron should be hot but make sure you keep it moving at all times to avoid scorching.
Always check that the bottom plate of your iron is perfectly clean. Marks caused by a dirty iron are very difficult to remove. This isn’t often an issue, but if you ever use your iron for crafts or similar, make sure you clean it thoroughly when it is cold.
How to Dry & Store Linen GarmentsIt’s best to air-dry linen garments and keep them away from the tumble dryer. Ideally, air-dry them somewhere out of bright, direct sunlight that will dry them too quickly, especially for the first time. Hang them on a wide hanger to avoid unwanted creasing and distortion.
If the garment says it’s okay to tumble dry on the label, feel free to do so, just make sure to keep the temperature low and don’t overcrowd the dryer.
Storage is simple. Hang on good quality wooden hangers, out of direct sunlight, in an airy closet. Avoid packing linen away in plastic bags or containers that may trap moisture.
How to Get Stains Out of LinenIf you get a stain on your linen, try to treat it as soon as possible. Treat the area with a linen-safe stain solution and follow the directions on the product. In most cases, you’ll need to leave the stain solution on the stain for 1-3 minutes and then massage the stain gently while rinsing. You may need to repeat this step 2-3 times.
If you don’t have a stain removing solution to hand, you can use a little baking soda or white vinegar and follow the same steps above. Never use a bleach solution, as this can damage the fibres and strip the colour away.
If in doubt, you have a large stain or an old stain, consider taking the garment to a good local dry cleaner who can offer you specific advice.
It may seem there are a lot of dos and don’t when taking care of linen garments but the routine is straightforward and the results are worth it. Linen gives us garments that are timeless, elegant, and comfortable, whatever the occasion.