How to Care for Linen: Your Ultimate Guide | YOLKE  

How to care for Linen: Your Ultimate Guide

Whether you’ve owned linen clothing and products for a while or you’re new to this wonderful fabric, we’ll help you to care for your linen so that it stays fresh, soft and looking great for years to come...

The origins of linen

Linen is a beautifully soft fabric, and thought to be one of the earliest known textiles produced for human use. It is widely known that linen was a popular textile used in Egypt over 10,000 years ago, but there is also evidence that it might have also been used as a textile 36,000 years ago! Linen derives from the flax plant. The fibres from flax were woven up into fabric and then ‘skinned’ to leave a more manageable, cleaner material.

The flax plant is native to many places around the world, so was very accessible to many people and cultures. All kinds of clothing was cut from linen cloth, and by the 16th century was extremely popular and had stopped being a luxurious fabric reserved for royalty and available to all.

Since the flax plant is widely distributed around the world, from Northern Africa to India to Western Europe, linen has roots and history in a variety of cultures. During the 17th century, the phrase that we all know as ‘Irish Linen’ was established, as Belfast in Northern Ireland became the linen hub for the modern world, producing most of the luxurious fabric and distributing worldwide during the Victorian era.

Want to know when and how to wear linen? Heres When to Wear Linen Clothes

Is linen soft?

Yes – it is quite soft, but due to the nature of the complex fabric, the more often and the more times the linen is worn and washed, the softer the garment will feel and the more supple it will become.

But just how to care for your linen?

All YOLKE’s products are produced from the finest linen. The complicated structure of this delicate fabric means that most are confused about how to correctly wash and care for their linen products. 

It’s no surprise that all delicate fabrics, such as wool, linen and silk require a careful specialist cleaning regime, using specific mild washing detergent and a lower temperature washing cycle – this is to protect the natural properties of the linen.

How to care for different linens

Linen clothing, table linen, bed linen – they are not the same, and all require different care. Linen garments do not all have the same structure, for example bed linen can tolerate harsher conditions than clothing, with slightly harsher detergent - and sometimes doesn’t need ironing.

Always ensure that you pay more attention to your linen clothing, and follow instructions on how to wash them carefully. Make sure you check the labels before starting to care for them.

Using soap and detergent for your linen

Linen is a delicate fabric, and many think that it would need specialist washing powder or detergent. But unlike wool and silk that requires a detergent that is bleach and enzyme free, linen is quite hardy, and as long as your regular detergent isn’t too strong, it’s fine to use a little in your linen wash – and at a cool temperature.

Machine washing is okay

Yes, we can machine wash linen, but it’s extremely important to use the lightest and most gentle cycle. Check with the label in the garments first before you decide on a machine wash, and when filling the machine make sure that is it not too tightly packed so that all your clothing pieces can rotate freely when washing. All linen pieces that you are machine washing should be similar in terms of colour and weight. If any of your linen clothing is marked or stained, a great tip is to sprinkle some baking soda on the area, followed by a small amount of white vinegar, and leave to soak before washing as normal. 

Hand washing is fine too

Linen is a very delicate fabric, so if you are unsure, hand washing is probably the best choice. You will need to fill up the sink or a small washing bowl with cold water and add a tiny bit of your normal detergent. You can also buy specialist detergents for hand washing linen, but this isn’t necessary if your regular detergent isn’t too harsh. Carefully swish the garment in the water, and press it slightly where it needs extra care. Make sure not to wring the fabric or it will stretch!


When the clothing is ready to rinse, drain the bowl or sink and refill with clean, cool water. Lightly rinse the item in the water as you did before, and repeat a few times to make sure that all soap or detergent has been removed.

When the clothing is ready to rinse, drain the bowl or sink and refill with clean, cool water. Lightly rinse the item in the water as you did before, and repeat a few times to make sure that all soap or detergent has been removed.

How to care for your linen after washing

The best way to dry items of linen clothing after washing is outside on a rotary dryer, a standard clothes line or by laying the garments flat somewhere (not in direct sunlight). It’s advised not to use a tumble dryer as the powerful heat from the dryer can seriously damage the fibres and the shape of the items.

Make sure your linen clothing is completely dry before you wear, to avoid any wrinkling! If you stick to this guide to hand wash your linen clothing, all items will stay looking fresh and new – and their delicate look will remain.

Can you iron linen?

Yes – the iron you choose makes a difference. A high quality steam iron with top heat and plenty of steam are imperative for pressing linen. A spray feature on your iron is a real bonus, as you will need water spray a lot! 

A good ironing board

It helps to invest in a really solid and sturdy ironing board. Ironing linen requires quite steady, repetitive strokes and a lot of pressing – not great if your ironing board is wobbly! Also get yourself a pressing cloth (the iron should never directly touch the linen). This should be a small piece of flat cotton – like an old pillowcase.

All irons should have a cotton or linen setting – this is the highest heat setting on the iron. Make sure that the water section of the iron is full, and the metal plate is clean and free from dirt. If your ironing board is dirty or stained, protect the linen with a cloth or towel between the two.

Careful pressing

It’s important to keep the iron moving across the linen at all times to avoid burning or scorching the fabric. As you iron carefully through the press cloth, gently stretch out the corners of the garment to make them square. While the linen is warm and damp, it is easy to reshape crumpled sections.

How to prevent wrinkles in your linen

It’s always great if you can avoid the wrinkles and not have to iron your linen garment! But how do you do this? First, avoid the tumble dryer. After your linen clothes are taken out of the washing machine, you should shake well to remove the wrinkles, and then lay the clothes down flat on a towel. While the garment is still damp, pull the sides taut and smooth the edges. Always avoid folding linen clothes, and keep them hung in a wardrobe with plenty of room to avoid overcrowding and prevent further wrinkling.

Storing your linen fabrics

When the summer season is over, it is important to store linen away in a cool, dry place. It’s best to avoid wrapping your items and instead leaving them to breathe. Slatted shelves (often seen in airing cupboards) are perfect to allow the air to circulate, keeping the linen pieces fresh. The best way to store your linen is as flat as possible to avoid any further wrinkling or creasing.

We all know that linen will be stored for many more months than it is worn, so here is a more detailed guide for storing:

  1. Make sure all pieces are freshly laundered. This seems obvious, but any extra dirt can attract mould and mildew to your pieces.
  2. Dry thoroughly before packing away. Even the slightest of damp can cause problems to your linen. Even dry with your hair dryer to make sure, then lay out for at least an hour to allow to breathe before storing.
  3. Choose a storage area. This is simple – dry, cool, not too much light and enough room for the pieces to allow them to breathe.
  4. Pillowcase to protect. An extra way to protect your items is to fold them in linen pillowcases. Maybe label each so you know which garments are inside.
  5. Check at intervals. Make sure you check your items over the colder months for any damp or insects. Then in early spring, bring out to air, ready for wearing!

The most important advice is to enjoy this wonderful fabric. If you learn how to care for your linen, the pieces will last for many years! 

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