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How to Care for Linen Clothes

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

Linen is a gorgeous natural fabric. It is super comfortable to wear during warm weather months or year-round in temperate climates. The fibers have properties that wick moisture away from your body, which gives the fabric its characteristically cool, airy feeling.

Linen is a naturally moisture-wicking fabric.

Linen is a naturally moisture-wicking fabric.

The downside of wearing linen is in the fibers as well. These breathable flax fibers are quite rigid and once they crease, they remain creased for the duration of wear. To compound the problem, wrinkles become set in due to the body’s constant release of moisture.

Linen clothes are made from breathable flax fibers.

Linen clothes are made from breathable flax fibers.

Some people say the wrinkles inherent in linen are part of its beauty and casual nature. I tend to agree to a certain extent, but there are times you want to appear neatly pressed and, in that regard, linen clothes can disappoint.

Now you know the good and bad of linen clothes and still want to have a few pieces in your wardrobe, there are some tricks to keep it looking nice and neat without having to take out a second mortgage to pay for your dry cleaning bill!

Cleaning

Linen clothes may look delicate, but many are surprisingly durable. However, you should always check the manufacturer’s care label and take into account any special instructions before cleaning your linen garment. If your linen clothing is a blend of linen and cotton or rayon, the care instructions may be different. The fabric content of trim or lining can also affect the method of cleaning. Unfortunately, if the label says dry clean only, it is probably best to do so. I have had some success laundering "dry clean only" linen, but would only do so if you are not afraid to damage the garment.

Some linen clothes can be machine-washed.

Some linen clothes can be machine-washed.

As a general rule, linen shirts, shorts, skirts and pants can be machine laundered on the delicate or short cycle with a cold water wash and rinse. You will extend the life of the fabric if you hand-wash your linen clothing in cold water. Steer clear of harsh laundry detergents when washing linen clothes. Buy a mild detergent formulated for delicate fabrics. Always remember to separate your whites and colors—new linen dyes have a tendency to bleed in the wash.

When washing linen clothes, separate your whites and colors.

When washing linen clothes, separate your whites and colors.

Hand-Washing

To properly hand-wash linen, place it in a clean sink with cool water and mild detergent. Gently agitate the clothing items, then remove from the soapy water. Drain the soapy water, rinse the sink and refill with cool water. Rinse the garments and repeat until the water is soap-free.

Stain Removal

If your linen clothes become stained, try removing the spot with club soda. Some stains can be removed with common hairspray or rubbing alcohol, but it is best to test an inconspicuous spot for color fastness. Never use bleach on linen garments. If you are unsure how to proceed, seek the advice of a professional. It's better to be safe than sorry when removing stains from linen clothes!

Drying

After laundering, air-dry your linen garment on a padded hanger or place it flat on a drying rack. Do not dry your linen pieces in the clothes dryer. You may tumble dry on low for five minutes to help loosen the wrinkles. Immediately take your linen clothes from the dryer and hang on a hanger or lay flat to fully dry. Do not wring linen to remove excess water. Carefully roll each item in a towel to remove moisture.

Air drying a linen garment is preferable to using the clothes dryer.

Air drying a linen garment is preferable to using the clothes dryer.

Speaking of drying, consider using at-home dry cleaning products to clean your linen clothing. Since you're putting dry clothes in the dryer on medium heat, you don't need to worry about shrinkage or damage. Look for home dry cleaning products that are safe for use with linen clothes. It may cost more than laundering, but you'll save time ironing!

Ironing

A good tip for ironing linen clothing involves moisture or steam. Set your iron on the linen setting and iron while the garment is still damp. The heat from the iron will dry the fabric and remove wrinkles more effectively.

If your garment is complete dry, spritz with water while ironing or use a steam iron. To keep linen looking crisp and neat for several wearings, spray the fabric with sizing as you iron. Sizing gives linen body. It will actually hold its shape better and resist wrinkles longer. Sizing is much lighter than spray starch and does not make the fabric stiff.

Tips for Wearing Linen

To prevent linen clothing from wrinkling during the day, try these handy tips:

  • Remove your linen jacket while driving or during extended periods of sitting. It’s a good idea to hang your jacket on a hanger in the car and in your office until you need to wear it again.
  • Linen pants tend to wrinkle easily. To lessen the instance of wrinkles in the lower body area, gently lift your pants from the knees as you sit down. This will minimize fabric stretch, sag and subsequent wrinkles.

In between washings or dry cleaning, iron out troublesome wrinkles so your linen remains crisp and neat. Spray lightly with a fabric refresher to eliminate environmental odors.

If you follow this advice, you can enjoy wearing your comfortable linen clothes for many years to come!

Questions & Answers

Question: I bought linen pants that are a little too big and too long. I can’t get a smaller pair. Can I put them in the washer and dryer to shrink before I have them altered? They say dry clean only

Answer: Washing and drying linen pants will most likely shrink and might end up being too small. Laundering could also damage the fabric depending on its quality. It is better to take them to a tailor. That way they'll be the perfect fit.

Question: Since dry cleaning is so expensive, I would like to launder a 100% linen dress at home even though the mfg. label says "dry clean only." What are the dangers?

Answer: If linen is laundered it can damage the fibers, shrink the fabric and can be difficult to remove wrinkles.

Question: I recently purchased a linen cotton unlined coat. It sticks to my clothing when I wear it which makes it uncomfortable to move in. I tried using an anti-cling dryer insert to rub on the inside and put it in the dryer at low heat. It's a little better but still sticking to clothing. Any ideas?

Answer: If you love the coat's quality, about the only solution would be to have a tailor add a lining. That way it won't stick to your clothes. Check with local tailors and get several estimates.

Question: Can you stretch linen after it goes through dryer?

Answer: It can only be stretched when the fabric is wet.

Question: How do I clean a linen dress with polyester lining in the body and sleeves?

Answer: It is best to take it to the dry cleaners. If you launder the dress even in cold water it could shrink up a bit. The polyester lining doesn't shrink and would cause it to crumple inside the sleeves and the body of the dress.

Question: Can I wash a black linen blouse with white trim?

Answer: It's best for dry cleaning the linen blouse. That way washing the black won't bleed onto the white trim.

Question: How do I get sweat stains out of linen and how do I wash linen without other colours bleeding?

Answer: Test the stain removal on the inside of a seam or hem. A stain removal product could bleach or change its color. Instead, pretreat the sweat stain with an organic paste mixture of baking soda and warm water. Gently rub it in and allow it to dry before washing. Hand wash linen separately in cool water so you don't have to worry about other colors bleeding into the fabric.

© 2012 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 09, 2018:

Karen Alexander, linen is a wonderful, breathable fabric that wrinkles from the moment you put it on. However the wrinkles are simply a part of its character so you just have to put up with the lived-in appearance. Linen does require extra care but it is worth the effort. However, it sure would be nice to invent a linen that is wrinkle resistant!

Karen Alexander on October 09, 2018:

I live in Phoenix, AZ, and in the summer, linen camp shirts are a salvation for me. But I do wish they resisted wrinkling a bit more! I wash them on delicate, but will try my hand wash cycle to extend the lives of my shirts. Anyway, I am grateful for the fabric and will try to do the upkeep on them in a more responsible manner.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 08, 2012:

RTalloni, I sometimes don't care for my linen clothes as I should. But even in spite of occasional neglect, they continue to hold up season after season. Linen is a surprisingly durable fabric. That's one of the reasons I love it! Thanks for reading and commenting -- I always enjoy hearing from you.

RTalloni on October 08, 2012:

Second to denim, linen is my second favorite fabric, and that's only because it requires a little more care. :) Besides the care, linen's simplicity makes it highly desirable to me for clothing. Its looks as well as comfort are not easily topped! Thanks for this info on caring for linen--I should probably do a better job of it for my linen friends. :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 06, 2012:

Dolores, it is interesting that some fabrics are more durable than the labels would have you believe. Sometimes I wonder if the clothing manufacturers are in cahoots with the dry cleaners association. ;) I've certainly laundered many things over the years that said "dry clean only" on the care tag. Good to hear from you!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on October 06, 2012:

When my mother moved into an apartment that had no washer, she wound up hand washing a lot of her clothes, the lighter things. Nothing ever faded and her clothes looked fresh and new for years!

I love linen and have a few items made of it, but am a total laundry slob and just throw everything into the washing machine. Never really had a problem.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 12, 2012:

Simone, we've all done it at one time or another! It happens to me when I try to take shortcuts instead of cleaning according to the care tags. Good news is, with better quality linen you can cheat by hand washing instead of heading to the dry cleaners every time. Glad you benefited from these tips!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on July 11, 2012:

I love guides like these! I'm a bit of a laundry idiot and have ruined so many garments due to improper care.

Thanks for the helpful tips!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 06, 2012:

It is good to hear that I achieved what I wanted to with this Hub, krsharp! I think many people steer clear of linen for the very reasons you mention. Designers and manufacturers need to be aware of that and come out with lines of washable linen clothing.

Kristi Sharp from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on July 05, 2012:

I think linen is so pretty and has a classy look to it but I'm such a chicken when it comes to taking care of clothing. If I can't throw it in the wash and dry it, forget it! I'm a fashion disaster! Your hub is presented very well and easy to understand. Nice job. -K

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 05, 2012:

teaches, I went on a linen buying binge a few years ago and had it stored away until this summer. I started washing the blouses myself and have had no problems. When I get really lazy, I use the home dry cleaning products. It may be time for you to purchase some linen too! Thanks for reading and commenting!

Dianna Mendez on July 05, 2012:

I have been avoiding purchasing linen because it wrinkles so easily and has to be dry cleaned. You have convinced me it doesn't have to be that hard to care for using the advice you gave. Thanks for sharing.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 05, 2012:

Vanderleelie, I LOVE the baby shampoo idea. Woolite is too expensive and the cheaper "dollar store" brands don't clean as well, Next time I replenish my laundry supplies, I'll buy a bottle of baby shampoo for my linen blouses. So happy you enjoyed the tips and I'm tickled I got a great tip from you. Thanks for the votes. Cheers!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 05, 2012:

Meloncauli, I know how you feel. I had been avoiding my linen clothes because I have a serious aversion to ironing. I find I can avoid the iron if I put the linen in the dryer for just a couple of minutes then hand-smooth the wrinkles. Thanks for reading my Hub!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 05, 2012:

CyberShelley, glad you liked these tips. Thanks for the nice comment and the votes! Have a great day!

Vanderleelie on July 05, 2012:

Linen is my favourite summer fabric, and I've come to accept the wrinkles as part of the look. It's the most comfortable fibre for wearing in hot, humid weather and as you point out, it is a durable fabric that lasts for years. I recommend hand-washing linen blouses with gentle baby shampoo. You have shared some very good tips in this hub - voted up and useful.

meloncauli from UK on July 05, 2012:

Great tips! I have a favourite linen top but I don't wear it often because of the creasing. I'll use your advice, thanks.

Shelley Watson on July 04, 2012:

lindacee, Thank you for the really good tips and a very good-looking hub. Voted up and useful.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 04, 2012:

Thank you EZ! Linen rocks!

EZ Gluten Free on July 04, 2012:

Great hub. There are some awesome tips. I love love love linen.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 04, 2012:

I love summer linen too, Pollyanna! Glad you liked the tips!

Pollyannalana from US on July 04, 2012:

I love the linen pants for summer, they are so cool and comfortable. Thanks for the tips!