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How To Wash Linen [Dry and Care]

Linen is one of the most popular fabrics to wear during the spring and summer. It’s incredibly lightweight and breathable, so it can give you that breezy feeling when you wear it. But if you know anything about linen, you know that it can shrink if you don’t take precautions when you wash it. That’s why I’ve created this guide on how to wash linen fabric.

Linen doesn’t require a lot of special care. It can be machine-washed, hand-washed, or dry-cleaned. You just have to follow the care instructions carefully to keep your linens from shrinking, including:

  • Washing in cool water
  • Using mild detergent
  • Being gentle with the fabric
  • Avoiding harsh laundry products

Many people make the mistake of using the wrong water temperature or drying linen in the dryer for too long. Both of these can cause linen fabric to shrink. Knowing the right steps to follow when washing linen is important for keeping the fabric in good shape. I’ll share everything you need to know about caring for linen fabric in this article.

How To Wash Linen

How to Wash Linen in the Washing Machine

Using the washing machine is most people’s preferred way of washing linen and other fabrics, for that matter. The washing machine is less time-consuming and more convenient than hand-washing and it is cheaper than having the fabric dry-cleaned.

The downside to using the washing machine is that this is where the most damage can occur to linen fabrics, such as shrinking. Of course, people don’t mind shrinking their linens, but some people just aren’t aware that using the wrong settings can cause damage to fabrics.

The reason that linen shrinks more easily than other fabrics is that linen is made from plant fibers. It is generally durable if taken care of properly but less durable than synthetic fabrics like polyester. The linen fibers can absorb more water, and too hot water can cause the fibers to relax, which causes shrinking.

Linen can also tear easily since it is a thinner and more lightweight fabric. This is especially true if it is washed with clothing that has zippers or embellishments on it that linen can get caught on. But both shrinking and tearing can be avoided by taking the proper precautions.

Washing linen

Here’s everything you need to know about washing linen in the washing machine:

  1. It is best to wash linen fabrics either by themselves or with other linens. This will keep them from coming into contact with other fabrics and ensure that they get clean.
  2. Wash linen in either cool or cold water. Using too warm water for the fabric to handle is one of the leading causes of shrinking and other damage.
  3. Use the gentle cycle. Linen is a thin and lightweight fabric, so it is more delicate than other fabrics. The gentle cycle uses less agitation, so it can help prevent the fabric from pulling or tearing.
  4. Be sure that you are using only a mild detergent on linen. Mild detergents contain fewer harsh chemicals and are better for delicate fabrics.
  5. Do not use chlorine bleach with linen fabrics. Not only will it take the dye out of colored linens, but the harsh ingredients can also weaken the fibers.
  6. Avoid using fabric softener as well. There is no need to use fabric softener because linen will naturally become softer with each wash. Fabric softener will coat the fibers and will make them less breathable and soft.

It may seem like a lot to remember, but following all of these steps are essential for keeping your linens in their best condition. You’ll get the hang of the routine when you repeatedly wash linen fabric, and you’ll find that your linen looks and feels great when you take the proper steps to wash it.

How to Hand Wash Linen

Can you wash linen

There’s nothing wrong with washing linen in the washing machine, especially if you have many linen items that need to be washed. But if you have the extra time, or you just have one of two items that need to be cleaned, you can hand-wash them rather easily as well.

The steps for hand-washing linen are similar to machine-washing it. But even though you have more control over the washing process, you still have to be careful to prevent damage. The biggest issue with hand-washing linen is that you have to be careful when you rinse it so that you don’t pull, stretch, or tear the fabric.

Here are the steps you need to take for hand-washing linen:

  1. Fill a sink or washbasin with enough lukewarm water to cover the fabric. If you’re unsure of the right temperature water to use, it’s better for the water to be cooler instead of warmer.
  2. Add only about 1 teaspoon of mild detergent to the water. You don’t need a lot. A little detergent goes a long way, especially when washing only a couple of items.
  3. Place the fabric into the water so that it is completely submerged. Leave the fabric to soak in the water and detergent for about 10 minutes.
  4. After the 10 minutes are up, gently move the fabric around in the water to rinse some of the detergents out. Do not twist the fabric or wring it out. This can cause damage to the fibers.
  5. Drain all of the water from the sink and refill it with clean water that does not contain detergent. Rinse the fabric again to remove more of the detergent.
  6. Repeat step five several times until you notice that no more suds are coming out of the fabric.
  7. Lay the fabric out flat on a towel. Roll the fabric up inside the towel, then gently press on the towel to remove the excess water.
  8. You can allow the linen to completely air-dry or place it in the dryer for a little while first.

Dry Cleaning

One of the potential issues with linen besides shrinking is that it can wrinkle easily. This is especially true if it is left in the washer or dryer for too long. To avoid wrinkles, some people prefer to have their linen dry-cleaned.

It is okay to dry-clean linen, especially if you don’t want to worry about it shrinking or ironing it later because it wrinkled. However, having linen professionally dry-cleaned does cost a little money, and you have to go pick it up once it is finished.

It doesn’t matter how you choose to wash linen. It’s ultimately up to your personal preference and what is convenient for you. It is important that you take the proper steps to wash it to prevent the fabric from becoming damaged.

How to Wash Linen Bedding

Washing linen bedding is a little different from washing linen clothing. The steps are the same, but there are a few other precautions that you need to take. First, it is best to wash linen bedding in the washing machine due to its bulkiness. No one wants to have to stand at the sink and wash a huge comforter or duvet.

When you wash linen bedding, you will want to wash it by itself. Do not wash it with other bedding that isn’t made of linen, and do not wash it with towels. If the bedding, such as pillow covers, have any decorative accents on them, such as zippers or beads, you will want to turn them inside out. The accents can get caught on other parts of the fabric, causing it to tear.

Other than that, the rest of the steps for washing linen bedding are pretty much the same. You will still want to use cool or cold water, as well as a mild detergent and a gentle cycle. Remember to avoid using bleach and fabric softener as well.

Can You Dry Linen in the Dryer?

How to dry linen

Another leading cause of shrinking is putting fabrics in the dryer. Linen is one of the fabrics that is the most prone to shrinking. With that being said, it is okay to dry linen in the dryer as long as you use the low heat setting.

Linen is also prone to wrinkling, so you don’t want to leave it in the dryer to dry completely. Instead, you should check on it frequently and remove it while it is still damp. Then, hang it up or lay it flat or on a drying rack to finish air-drying. This is the best way to prevent unwanted wrinkles.

Can You Iron Linen?

If your linen fabrics do become wrinkled, you can iron them. But again, you need to follow the proper steps so that you don’t burn the fabric.

To iron linen, you will need to turn the iron to the medium heat setting if your iron doesn’t have a setting specifically for linen. It is best to iron the fabric while it is still damp. You will want to avoid placing the iron directly onto dry linen fabric or you could risk burning the fibers.

If the fabric is already dry, dampen a towel or cloth. Then place it on top of the fabric and iron over it. But keep in mind that if you’re going to wear the fabric after ironing it, it will likely wrinkle again as you’re wearing it. If you aren’t going to wear it, you should store the clothing in a way so that it doesn’t wrinkle.

How to Store Linen Fabric

Keeping linen folded or wadded up in a drawer can cause it to wrinkle. If you don’t want to have to iron the fabric before wearing or using it, it’s important to store it correctly.

For linen clothing, you will want to hang it up and store it in an area that is cool but dry. It’s okay to hang it in a closet, but you don’t want to hang it so that it is cramped in the middle of other clothes. Hang it in front of the other clothes if possible to prevent wrinkles.

Smaller linen items like pillowcases or larger items like bedding can usually only be stored by folding them up. They’ll likely get wrinkled and it isn’t much you can do to prevent it. But for smaller items, it is best to store them inside a linen bag or inside other pillowcases. The fabric needs to be able to breathe, so avoid storing linen inside a plastic bag.


If you take the proper steps, linen shouldn’t shrink or become damaged in any way as a result of washing and drying it. Remember to always use cool water and mild detergent, and use the gentle cycle if you wash it in the washing machine.

Avoid using high heat when drying it. If you found this helpful, share it with others who could use it. Thanks for reading.