White and blue shirts

How to look after linen

Linen looks good, but is notorious for creasing. Here's how to get the best from this stylish fabric.

Linen wrinkles and creases very easily so if you want it to appear smooth and flat, it needs ironing. It may also need starching. However, the wrinkles in the fabric are often considered part of linen’s character, and many linen garments are now designed to be air-dried and worn without ironing.

Tips for machine washing linen

  • Check the care label for guidance on washing temperature.
  • Always separate dark/coloured linens from white or off-white linens to avoid colour transfer in the wash.
  • The first time you wash a linen article, wash it separately from other materials. Linen can cause lint.
  • Linen is a natural fibre that can absorb a lot of water. This means it is prone to heavy creasing in the wash. If you give linen items a lot of space to move around in the washing machine drum, this should reduce the amount of creasing. It is best to only half fill the machine.
  • Avoid using bleach on linen, as this weakens the fibres and it may affect the colour of dyed linens.
  • Bleach particles in conventional washing powder make natural linen colour fade, so use only mild detergents.
  • If possible, choose a wash programme with a long soak, a short wash/rinse and a short spin and using a moderate to cool temperature.
  • When the wash cycle is finished, immediately remove items from the machine to avoid any extra creasing.
  • Straighten out and gently stretch the linen after the wash.
  • Line-dry or air dry or dry flat.
  • Do not tumble dry linen, as it may leave permanent creasing and it will shorten the life of the item. If you dry linen in a hot tumble dryer, it can shrink up to 15%.

Note: Linen can generally be machine washed at high temperatures but this can cause shrinkage. Modern detergents generally work just as well at a lower temperature so it is not necessary to use a hot wash.  We recommend the maximum temperature you use for linen is 60°C.

Hand washing linen

Fine embroidered or hand hemmed/stitched linen items need extra care. It is usually best to hand wash these items or take them to a professional cleaner.

  • Use water that is comfortably warm to the touch (blood heat) and also ensure you use the correct washing detergent (see advice above). This should be dissolved/evenly distributed in the water before you add the item.
  • Let the item soak for up to two hours to ensure the fibres are saturated.
  • Use gentle agitation to wash the item.
  • Rinse the item in three clean rinses of cool water, or rinse until the water is clear.
  • Between rinses and at the end of the wash, squeeze the excess water out of the item.
  • Starch the item at this stage (if you are using starch).
  • Dry flat if possible, gently pulling item to the correct size. Alternatively line-dry or air dry. Do not tumble dry.

Ironing linen

  • Check the care label for guidance on ironing temperature.
  • Generally for linen it is best to use a hot iron while the fabric is still slightly damp. This should help give the distinctive crispness that linen is known for.
  • For a really crisp finish, table linens can be starched.
  • If you are ironing an item that is embroidered, place a white terry cotton towel on the ironing board to create a soft surface, then put a white cotton sheet over that. Iron the linen item on the wrong side. This should help to keep the embroidery face ‘risen’ and to protect the embroidery stitches.

Starching linen

It is traditional to starch linen items such as tablecloths and napkins to keep them crisp and wrinkle-free. There are two different types of starch available:

  • Spray starch, applied when ironing. This can make the item you are ironing very crisp, so use sparingly.
  • Powdered or liquid starch, added to the wash in the last rinse cycle. It is activated when the linen item is ironed. Adjust the amount of starch you put in to determine how stiff the item will be. Follow the guidance on the pack.

Treating stains on linen

  • Make sure the stained area does not dry out, as this can make the stain more difficult to remove.
  • Soak the stain in a mild detergent and water solution before washing in a regular wash.

Find out more about linen