How to Wash Linen

How to Wash Linen. There are two kinds of linen: washable and nonwashable. Washable linen is meant to have a lived-in look, and a few crumples are par for the course. Nonwashable linen is meant to stay crisp and clean. Both kinds can have lovely drape if the cloth item in question is of good quality.

Check Your Linen Items for Washability

  1. Group your linen items by type, consulting the care tags. Washable linen will feel soft and list "machine wash" on its tag. Fine linen will feel denser and list "dry clean only" on its label.

  2. Sort your washable linens by purpose. Divide table linens, which may have food odors or stains on them, from clothing.

  3. Separate dark linens from white or light-colored linens. Some fabric, especially low quality, dyed linen, can bleed and affect the rest of the load.

Wash the Right Linens

  1. Prepare separate loads of dark linens, light linens and food-tainted linens.

  2. Treat clothing or table linens for stains if appropriate. The stain-remover package will show you how to test for a particular garment's tolerance.

  3. Fill your washing machine with cold water, going up to the appropriate level for the amount of clothes.

  4. Add soap according to the package directions as the washer fills. This will disperse the soap thoroughly, especially if you're using powdered detergent.

  5. Select delicate or gentle machine operation and knits or another short cycle.

  6. Place clothes or table linens in the machine, shut the lid and let it complete the wash cycle.

  7. Dry your garments according to care labels. Most washable linens can be machine dried on medium.

  8. Take very fine linen suits, blouses, shirts, tablecloths, placemats and napkins to the dry cleaner.

  9. Tip

    Get fine linen for your prized pieces. The finest linen has the highest thread count and the smallest stitches. Look on the side seam of shirts or blouses for care tags that are not sewn into the neck of the garment.


    Stay away from cheap linen. Poor quality is evident in a garment or table linen that doesn't drape fluidly. Poor-quality linen may not hold up in the wash for long. Don't expect problem-free care. Washing fine linens may cause them to pucker because of their high thread counts. Don't plan to wear linen for extended periods, or wear washable linen instead and live with the rumples.