How to Wash Linen Sheets and Duvet Covers

White linen bedding

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hrs - 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0

Made of flax fibers, linen is a natural fabric that can be machine or hand-washed. When trying to figure out how to wash your linen sheets or duvet covers, pay close attention to the care label for specific recommendations from the manufacturer. You should wash new linen bedding before use, then weekly for linens that are receiving daily use.

In general, linen can safely be machine-washed on the permanent press cycle. A shorter cycle is better, so it lessens the wrinkles that your linens might pick up. Use cold or warm water since hot water may cause the fabric to shrink.

It's best to use a mild liquid laundry detergent that doesn't have harsh ingredients like chlorine or peroxide. Harsh bleaching agents weaken the fibers and may cause them to turn yellow. If necessary, you can use an oxygen-based bleach. Also, avoid fabric softener. Linen naturally softens with every wash; however, fabric softener tends to stiffen linen fabric.

Read on for more details on how to wash and care for linen sheets, duvet covers, and pillowcases.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washing machine or large tub
  • Clothes dryer, drying rack, or outdoor clothesline
  • Wool dryer balls (Optional)
  • Regular or steam iron (Optional)
  • Ironing board (Optional)


  • Mild liquid laundry detergent
  • Laundry stain remover (Optional)


How to Wash Linen Bedding
Detergent Mild detergent
Water Temperature Cold or warm
Cycle Type Permanent press
Drying Cycle Timed dry, medium heat, remove bedding while slightly damp to reduce wrinkles
Special Treatments No chlorine bleach, pre-treat stains
Iron Settings Hot (445 degrees F); iron while fabric is slightly damp 
How Often to Wash Once a week
Linen bedding cleaning supplies

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Wash Linen Sheets and Duvet Covers

  1. Sort the Laundry

    Linen bedding should be sorted by color. It is best to wash linen bedding with other natural fibers like cotton and bamboo. Never wash darker colors with white or very pale linen.

    Basket with laundry sorted by color

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Load the Washer Correctly

    Load the bedding into the washer in loose folds. Do not overcrowd the washer, or the linen will have excessive wrinkles.


    Before adding linen bedding to the washer, close any zippers or buttons on duvets and pillow covers. These precautions will prevent snags and possible tears on the fabric.

    Washer loaded with linen bedding

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  3. Select Washer Cycle and Water Temperature

    Pretreat stains with a dab of liquid laundry detergent on the spot; gently rub it in with your fingers.

    Wash the linen bedding in warm or cold water using the permanent press cycle. Long washing cycles with high-speed spins cause more wrinkles, and excessively high water temperatures can cause shrinkage.

    Washer cycle being selected

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  4. Dry the Linen Bedding

    You can hang linen bedding to air-dry on a drying rack or outdoor clothesline. Smooth the hems and edges as you hang the linen to reduce wrinkles and help it hold its shape.

    Choose a timed dry cycle with a medium heat setting if drying in an automatic dryer. Add wool dryer balls to help speed drying and soften the fabric. Remove the linen while it is still slightly damp to reduce wrinkling.

    A combination of 10 minutes in the dryer and air-drying to finish leaves sheets soft and with fewer wrinkles.

    Linen bedding dried on drying rack
    The Spruce / Sarah Lee
  5. Steam Away Wrinkles

    To remove the creases from your linen bedding, use a clothes steamer or regular iron set to high heat. If using a standard iron, it's best to iron it when it is slightly damp or use the steam option on your iron to get out stubborn wrinkles.

    Steam iron passing over linen bedding

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

    What Is Linen?

    Linen is made from a natural fiber manufactured from the stem of the flax plant. The threads are woven into linen fabric, which is sturdy and durable. It's hypoallergenic, breathable, moisture-wicking, and moth- and bacteria-resistant. It is a little weaker than cotton when wet and is prone to abrasion, so it should be washed with care. Linen gets softer and stronger with use. However, it's prone to wrinkling easily.

    Treating Stains on Linen Sheets and Duvet Covers

    If there are visible stains on your linen bedding, pretreat the area following the guidelines for the specific type of stain. Oily stains, blood, or nail polish each require a different kind of removal treatment.

    You can remove most bedding stains by applying a tiny amount of your regular laundry detergent directly to the stained area. Work in the liquid detergent with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush. Allow the detergent to work for at least 15 minutes before washing the linen bedding.

    Always test a stain removal product on an inside seam or hem before treating the stain. Spread a dab of the stain remover on the seam and then rub it with a cotton swab. If color transfers to the swab, don't use the product. Test and use another product instead.

    Linen Sheet and Duvet Cover Care and Repairs

    Small rips and tears can be repaired by hand-sewing or with a sewing machine. Linen thread is available to match most bedding colors. Larger tears might be best left to a sewing professional, or take the item to your local dry cleaner. If your dry cleaner mends clothes, they might also repair sheets.

    Ironing Linen Sheets and Duvet Covers

    There are two schools of thought when it comes to wrinkled linen. Some embrace the natural, rumpled look and never iron it. Others like a neater look and iron their bedding after each washing.

    If you decide to iron, always iron linen while it is slightly damp. If the fabric is already dry, mist it lightly with distilled water, and press it at a temperature of around 445 degrees. Pass the iron over the material in fast movements. Do not let the iron linger on the fabric; high heat can damage the fibers. Allow the freshly pressed linen to dry completely before using it to prevent excessive wrinkling.

    Storing Linen Sheets and Duvet Covers

    Linen bedding should be completely dry before storing to help avoid mildew and mold growth. Storage should be in a temperature-controlled, well-ventilated area and away from direct sunlight to prevent fading and damage to fibers. Never store linen bedding in plastic bags, which can encourage dampness.

    How Often to Wash Linen Sheets and Duvet Covers

    Once a week, wash daily-use linen sheets, pillowcases, and other items like a duvet cover that touches your body. If you don't sleep in your bed daily, you can extend the period to once every two weeks. New linen sheets can feel slightly coarse on the skin, but frequent washing will help the fibers soften and flatten.

    Tips for Washing Linen Sheets and Duvet Covers

    • Expect more lint than usual during the first washing as loose fibers are removed. Lint will lessen after several washings.
    • Consider having three sets of sheets for each bed to help make linen bedding last as long as possible. When used in a rotation—one set on the bed, one set in the closet, and one set in the wash—it gives the bedding fibers time to recover between uses, extending the lifespan of the sheets.
    • Use wool dryer balls instead of fabric softener or dryer sheets to help linen keep its moisture-wicking and breathability.
    • Fabric softeners leave a residue on the fibers, making the fabric feel tougher and "sleep hotter." Instead, if you want to add scent during the drying cycle, sprinkle wool dryer balls with a few drops of essential oil.
    • Can you put linen in the washing machine?

      It is safe to put linen bedding in the washing machine; wash it separately from your other household laundry. If you must mix, combine it with fabrics that are the same color and natural fibers (cotton, bamboo, or hemp). Use cold or warm water, the permanent press setting, and no bleach or fabric softener.

    • Can you put linen in the dryer?

      If the care tag says using a clothes dryer is OK, set it to the lowest temperature and pull out the bedding before it thoroughly dries. Either hang dry or lay flat to dry to relax the wrinkles. If using an iron, use high heat while the item is still slightly damp.

    • Does linen shrink when washed?

      Soaking and agitating the fabric in hot water or exposing it to high heat in the dryer can damage the linen fibers and cause the flax fibers to contract and shrink. Use cool or warm water only.