How to Wash Linen Sheets: Dryers, Detergents and More
You might think washing linen is as easy as throwing it in the machine with a medley of detergents and tumble drying it afterward. It might not be the fussiest of fabrics, but there are certainly better ways to look after this delightfully breathable material.
Linen is one of the best fabrics for bed sheets due to its lightness, breathability, and moisture-wicking properties. It can be more expensive than cotton, so it’s certainly in your best interests to take good care of it, and that includes how you wash it.
Washing can do more harm than good to your linen sheets if you go about it the wrong way. Here are some of the best tips on how to wash linen sheets to ensure their longevity and softness.
Washing Linen Sheets for the First Time
When you are considering how to wash linen sheets for the first time, there are a couple of things you’ll have to take into account. Linen is a flax-based natural fabric, although it tends to be less durable and more prone to shrinkage than 100% organic cotton. It also has hollow fibers and is more loosely woven. For these reasons, certain precautions should be taken to maximize the lifespan of your linen sheets.
The first time you wash linen allows the fibers to settle into place, so it’s always best to wash new sheets before you put them on your bed. There are a couple of guidelines for washing your new linens that will produce the best results.
This ensures a softer feel to the fabric as well as extending the durability of your sheets. Here are a few linen washing instructions to ensure your sheets age slowly and maintain peak softness.
How to Use Detergent
A mild liquid detergent is best for linen sheets. It may come as a surprise but washing powder can get stuck in the fibers, which results in reduced softness and longevity of the sheets.
With this being said, you don’t want to use too much detergent either as it will weaken the fibers over time. It’s best to mix the detergent in the water first if possible because adding detergent directly to the linen can cause discoloration to occur.
Linen is a naturally soft fabric, so don’t use fabric softener as it can do more damage to the fibers in its effort to break them down. You’ll also want to avoid bleach, as it’s too harsh for linen and can damage the fabric.
Which Wash Settings to Use
Handwashing is always ideal for delicate fabrics, although it’s not always feasible, especially with larger items like bed sheets. Here’s how to wash linen duvet covers and sheets in the washing machine.
- A cold setting is perfect for linen as it prevents shrinkage, and coincidentally using a cold wash is one of the more sustainable laundry practices. It turns out what’s good for linen is also good for the environment.
- Ideally, sheets should be washed on their own so that they have room to circulate in the water. This also prevents any potential damage caused by zippers and fasteners on other clothing items that could catch in the fabric and tear it, or, at the very least, cause pilling.
- Nonetheless, the cycle should be a gentle one, as rough cycles can cause agitation and lead to weaker threads that will eventually cause tears. Ensure the rinse cycle is long enough to properly wash the detergent out of the fabric.
If you need to know how to clean linen sheets that have stains, here’s how to do it on a machine wash.
- Apply a tiny amount of your detergent to the stained area and work it in with your fingers or a soft bristle brush.
- Allow it to sit for 15 minutes so that the detergent can begin to work on the stain. Afterwards wash as per normal but on a warmer wash. This is the only circumstance you’ll use warmer water for your linen, but no hotter than 105ºF.
How to Dry Linen Sheets
The optimal way to dry linen sheets is to line dry them in an airy space away from the harsh rays of the sun. You want to avoid direct sunlight for the same reasons that you avoid the dryer, namely that high heat causes the fabric to weaken and break down faster.
Reducing the longevity of your linen sheets is less than desirable, especially when they can cost so much. Always ensure that your linen is fully dry before storing it in a dry, dark cupboard.
Can You Put Linen in the Dryer?
Can you dry linen in the dryer? It’s one of the most common queries regarding washing linen, and the definitive answer is ‘no’ if you want your sheets to last. Putting linen in the dryer may ruin the feel of the fabric as heat causes damage to the hollow fibers and adds to their wear and tear.
If there is no way around it and a tumble dry is the only way to get your sheets dry, make sure that you use the lowest heat setting possible. Dry cleaning is similarly not recommended.
How to Soften Linen Sheets
As tempting as it may be to reach for the fabric softener, don’t. As already stated, it ends up harming the fibers and coating them, making it harder to clean the material. The best way to soften linen is to simply wash it as outlined above, as the pectin that binds the fibers naturally breaks down over time with every wash.
Washing Linen Sheets: Conclusion
As it turns out, there’s more science to washing linen than you might think. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, as all of this information helps you preserve the softness and strength of your beloved linen sheets.
Once you’ve mastered the basic rules of washing this material, it becomes fairly routine to remember to use a cold wash and find an alternative to the dreaded dryer. If any material is worth the effort, after all, it’s your bed sheets.