How to Care for Linen

Linen is such beautiful, natural fabric, it  keeps its shape and condition literally for generations. We have sold antique French linen towels and napkins that were over a century old, and they can still be used and enjoyed for at least another 100 years! Linen doesn’t absorb odors, and tends to resist most stains. In order to care of your linen – it’s super easy, trust me – here are my very best tips for How to Care for Linen.

How to Care for Linen


Linen is really easy to care for the right way so that the pieces you love will still be around for many everydays and celebratory days chez vous.



How to Care for Linen



How to Wash Linens:


Always sort your linens before you wash. Wash whites ONLY with white. Period. Sort the rest of your linens by “like” colors.

Set your washer on cold. Modern detergents work great with cold water.

Use detergent very sparingly. {Never use Tide for your linens.} We use a natural very concentrated detergent at our house.

I love wool dryer balls – I put one drop of lavender oil on one of the balls to make the linens smell amazing! The balls help the linens dry quicker, and keeps them from wrinkling somewhat.

Skip dryer sheets or fabric softener, neither one of those are really great for 100% natural linen.

Dry at medium heat, making sure you don’t over-dry the pieces. I try to time it so that I take them out about 1 minute before the end of the cycle so I can give each piece a little shake, smooth with my hands, and fold if needed. {This is all I do with my linen napkins here at home.}

You can also hand wash linen in a sink or basin with a spoon of detergent. Gently swish linens around, then be sure to rinse, rinse and rinse again. Hang to dry.

*Make sure your linen is 100% DRY before you put it in the closet. Because linen is a natural product, it will mildew if put away even slightly wet.


How to Care for Linen


How To Keep Linen Colorful:


Never use chlorine bleach, never.

Never use Tide, the harsh chemicals that will change the colors of linen.

If you have a stubborn stain, use Biz as a  soak. Oxyclean has peroxide, so that’s not a good fit for your colored linen pieces.


colored linen care


How to Get Stains Out of Linen:


Try the least invasive method first.  Rinse the linen through cold-ish water immediately if possible, add a little dish soap, and gently rub the spot, rinse.

I know some hostesses who have a bucket filled with water in their laundry room so they can put all their linen napkins in it right after guests leave.
I’m not that organized, but if you are, bless you and do that!

If someone spills a glass of red wine on your linen tablecloth during dinner, cover it immediately with regular kitchen salt. Just throw a new napkin over it, smile and return to entertaining. Don’t let a spill ruin the great time you are all having! The salt will absorb much of the wine. After your guests leave is the time to soak your cloth in a bucket. Soak stains of lipstick or make-up or anything else “oil” based in a bucket overnight with some Biz. Since Biz has enzymes, the enzymes will break down the oils and proteins in these kinds of stains.


Madeira Embroidered Linens


True story: When I dated Mr. FGH, one of the first places we went together was the home of one of his older and just married friends. They had white…WHITE…new carpeting. We sat on the ground with glasses of red wine. You probably guessed it, I spilled mine all over the white carpet. Immediately, our host threw a whole pot of salt on the stain, and it absorbed the red. I was still mortified…but it did work!



I hope that these tips will help you to enjoy your beautiful 100% linen beauties for a life time.  Make sure you store your linen in a cool and dry area, and not in a plastic bags, cardboard boxes or cedar chests.


We just unpacked a shipment of antique linens, beautiful towels, tablecloths and napkins that I bought on the last buying trip. Have a look – your prettiest table setting might need one of these!


shop linen care



With these easy tips for How to Care for Linen your linen pieces that you love will last and last, and give you and your family joy every day.


Are you a linen lover? and…I’m taking a quick poll – do you iron all your linen?




Shop for the best in French Antiques, furniture with the patina of age, vintage accessories to delight you and your family & friends, and French Country utilitarian pieces. Treasures that make your home fresh, beautiful, inspirational and above all uniquely yours. Visit our shop

20 thoughts on “How to Care for Linen”

  1. Sherri Maher

    Excellent post full of wonderful information! I have many table linens and did not know about using salt to remove red wine! On a side note, I rarely iron my linen napkins or table cloths unless it is for a formal occasion.

    1. Sheri, it’s so nice to hear from you! I love that you have so many table linens, and also that you rarely iron the napkins {like me-unless a formal occasion} and just use them in their glorious wrinkled state! Happy summer!

    1. Happy weekend, Kristy! I hope you have sunny relaxing days. xo

  2. Shannon@Belle Bleu Interiors

    Lidy, you have shared some very helpful tips with us. I have definitely taken note of several. I had no idea to not use Tide. I will remember that from now on. I love the look of linen on a table, and I do iron mine. I love the feel of linen clothing, but dislike how it wrinkles when I wear it. I can’t wait to take a look at your new pieces. You always have so many beautiful things online. Wishing you a most wonderful day, sweet friend!

  3. Shannon, thanks so much for your visit. I too love linen clothes, I just accept the wrinkles as part of their beauty. ( kind of like I’m trying to accept my own wrinkles) wishing you a gorgeous day, dear friend!

  4. Lorraine Hitchcock

    Great and useful information about linen. Had no idea about Tide. I am a member of the Altar Guild at my church and one of my jobs is to wash and care for altar linens. This post will be saved and passed on to other members. Thanks, Lidy.

    1. How lovely that you volunteer to wash those precious linens, Lorraine! Wishing you a gorgeous weekend ahead. xo

  5. Denise Carlson

    Another wonderful post with excellent information on the best way to care for our linens. I have been a fan of a good soak in oxy glad to know it should be biz, I will surely be switching to this! I leave them unironed till they are going to be used so they are fresh and crisp! So many beautiful linens can one ever have enough? (Shhh I am a serial collector) Thanks Lidy

    1. Denise, thanks so much for your visit! and um…no, one can never have too many linens. {that’s how you become an antique linen dealer : ) } I do use oxyclean on white pieces, just not on anything that is either a natural flax color, or a dyed colored line. Keep loving your linens!

  6. Another beautiful, helpful post, Lidy. I have beautiful antique linens hand monogramed by my husband’s grandmother. I do wash and iron them. It depends on the linen if I think it needs a quick ironing or not. Love, love, love linen! I wear it frequently and always have it on our tables.

    1. Sarah, how special that you have antique linens monogrammed by your husband’s grandmother!! That is such a wonderful heirloom to enjoy using, especially since she worked on them with her own hand. I wear linen too, I don’t even mind if it’s wrinkled late in the day. Linen duvets are my secret obsession for all our beds..nothing like linen!

  7. Lidy I am such a linen fan, this post is just for me! Being South African I don’t know the brand names you mention, nor do I know what a drying sheet or a wool dryer ball are. I make soap for my linens by blending washing soda to equal portions Borax and grated “Boerseep” (a non-commercial, ancient-recipe, handmade soap that is on the rise in South Africa and the best thing ever for stains), 10 litres of water and about half a teaspoon lavender essential oil. I blend this with a kitchen blender stick. It is a very concentrated soap. You need only one cup or half a cup (depending on the load size) to a full load of laundry. I first dissolve it into a bit of hot water and then add it to a cold water wash. My linens always dry in the sun and the fragrance of the soap combined with sunshine is simply heavenly! An American product I discovered and imported and found to work a charm for age-marked linens, is Mama’s Miracle Soak.

    1. Jeanne, I love that you make your own soap! I’m not that ambitious, but we do use an organic highly concentrated laundry detergent. The dryer balls are felted wool balls that look like a tennis ball and “bounce around” in the dryer to help keep clothing from wrinkling. : ) And thank you for the reminder of Mama’s Miracle Soak, Shelley has such a wonderful product! I can only imagine how wonderful your linens smell after being dried in the sun!

  8. Marialice

    I’m new to your blog. This was a very useful post. I’m not going to use tide on my linens any longer. Thank you

    1. So nice to meet you Marialice! Wishing you a beautiful week!

  9. Great tips and I use most of them. I do iron my napkins and placemats because I use them daily in my B&B. I don’t dry in dryer, I hang them up to dry. I hope this does not hurt them.

    Love your post as always!

    1. Thank you Jackie! I think you are so wonderful for using real napkins and placemats in your B&B and taking such good care of them. Wishing you a beautiful week ahead!

  10. Hi Lidy,

    I absolutely love all your helpful information regarding the care of all types and ages of our linens.,
    I think I am addicted to beautiful linens. I have purchased many from you., and I love them all.
    My mother also loved linens… so it must be in my genes. ,
    I have found for me I love using “The Laundress baby detergent” it’s my favorite wash for vintage and antique linens.
    What is the best way to store antique linens when your not using them?

    1. Sandy, thank you for your kindest comment. I love linens too, they are a dickens to photograph, but oh, that work and love that was put into them! I love all The Laundress products, their cashmere wash is wonderful. Experts say that the best way to store linens is in rolls, in acid free tissue paper. Not having as much space as I would love, I don’t do that, but I do layer my antique linens between the acid free tissue paper to protect them. Just be sure that your linens are always 100% dry before storing. Humidity is not good for them, and neither are plastic boxes. xo

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