table linens…
their proper care and feeding

Linen may be one of the oldest textiles in the world, dating back to at least 8,000 BC. The threads are spun from the stems of the flax plant, a naturally bug and disease resistant crop that is also grown for its seeds. The fabric woven from these threads has a unique finish, is stronger than cotton, and can last for years with proper care. Linen is the classic fabric for tablecloths, napkins, and even bedding.

Caring for linen doesn’t require any Herculean efforts. It’s really very simple. As with any fabric, linen should be washed as soon as it gets dirty. Don’t allow stains to sit. If there is a spill, blot it up immediately, and if possible, rinse with cold water to prevent staining until you can wash the linen.

Washing linen

Washing is simple—machine wash in cool or warm water with a gentle detergent. Don’t over pack the machine, make sure there is plenty of water and the soap is rinsed out thoroughly. Soap residue can leave spots on the fabric. Don’t use chlorine bleach on linens.

Linen is best when hung or laid out flat to dry, but can be tumble dried on low—just don’t dry it all the way, take the linen out while it is still damp. That preserves the fabric, and reduces wrinkles.

Yes, linen wrinkles. You can leave it as is for a casual look, or iron while the linen is still damp for a crisp look. Linen can withstand fairly high heat from the iron, but you do want to iron while the fabric is still slightly damp. Hang it up to finish drying after ironing.


It’s going to happen. Something will get spilled on your linen cloth. Don’t panic. For most spills, simply blotting up the liquid then wetting the spot with water and laundering as soon as possible will tackle the problem. For other stains…

  • Wax—scrape off as much wax as possible with a dull knife, or edge of a spoon. Cover the wax with absorbent paper or old rags and iron on medium heat until the wax has been removed.
  • Coffee, tea, soda—soak in water, pretreat with a stain remover, launder as usual.
  • Red wine—sprinkle salt over the spill, then rinse with cool water.
  • Oils—pretreat with stain remover or liquid detergent.
  • Lipstick—lay the stained linen stain side down over a clean towel. Apply liquid detergent to the back side of the stain and work in with a damp cloth. Basically, you are trying to transfer the lipstick from the napkin to the towel. Rinse and repeat, using a clean spot on the towel.


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