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How to Clean Restaurant Linens

Deborah Jones

Restaurant linens can be crisp and white or colored depending on the decor and style of the individual restaurant, but whichever color scheme the establishment has chosen, one thing all restaurants have in common is the need to keep the linens fresh and stain-free.

Fresh, clean restaurant linen creates an inviting and wholesome dining atmosphere.

Daily cleaning and laundering take their toll on any fabric, but learning to care for linen properly will extend its life and keep it in top restaurant condition.

Stain Removal and Washing

  1. Treat stains as soon as possible with an appropriate stain remover. For instance, tea and coffee stains can be treated by pouring boiling water through the stain, and tomato, fruit juice or meat juices can be treated by rinsing in cold water. For other stains, such as chocolate, a pre-wash may be needed with a stain remover that contains enzymes.

  2. Load the restaurant linens into the washing machine, avoiding overloading the machine. The linen must have room to move freely in the water. Check the laundering label on the tablecloth or napkins to determine the correct temperature and set the washing machine accordingly.

  3. Add an oxygen-type bleach to help whiten the linens, or if washing colored restaurant linens, use a gentle detergent that is formulated for use with colored items.

  4. Rinse the the linens thoroughly to remove all traces of detergents or bleaching agents. Remove from the machine when the cycle has finished and set to dry without wringing. If items of linen have become distorted in the wash, pull or stretch them back into shape.

Drying and Ironing

  1. Hang the linens in the open air to dry. Hanging linen in bright sunlight will help to bleach the fabric and prevent yellowing.

  2. Bring the restaurant linen back inside before it is bone dry. Linen has a natural moisture content of between 6 and 8 percent and will reabsorb moisture from the air if it is allowed to dry beyond this point. Linen that is too dry becomes stiff and brittle.

  3. Set the iron on a medium heat, then iron the restaurant linens by first spraying with starch then ironing out creases. Stiffening the fabric slightly with starch helps when folding napkins into elaborate shapes. For large tablecloths, roll the linen over a table set behind the ironing board to prevent the fabric piling up and creasing on the floor.

  4. Tip

    Spot removal of stains can be more effective if the linen is placed face down on a clean cloth or other absorbent surface such as paper kitchen towels.


    Never use a chlorine bleach on restaurant linens as this can cause damage to the fabric.