How to Clean and Care for Linen Bedding

Linen bedding with book and coffee mug

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Linen sheets, pillowcases, and duvet covers are durable, hypoallergenic, breathable, moisture-wicking, and grow softer and stronger with use. A natural fiber, linen bedding is as easy to care for as cotton bedding if you don't mind a few wrinkles.

How to Wash Linen Bedding
Detergent Regular liquid laundry detergent
Water Temperature 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 - 230 C/445 F, iron while fabric is slightly damp 

Project Metrics

Work Time: 5-30 minutes

Total Time: 1-2 hours

Skill Level: Easy

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Laundry stain remover

Tools

  • Washing machine or large tub
  • Clothes dryer, drying rack, or outdoor clothesline
  • Wool dryer balls
  • Steam iron
  • Ironing board

Instructions for Caring for Linen Bedding

  1. Sort the Laundry

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

    Tip

    New linen bedding should be washed before using it. New linen sheets can feel slightly coarse on the skin but frequent washing will help the fibers soften and flatten. Expect more lint than usual during the first washing as loose fibers are removed. Lint will lessen after several washings.

  2. Pretreat Stains

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

    Most bedding stains can be removed 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 as usual.

    Warning

    Do not use chlorine bleach when washing linen bedding because it can weaken the fibers. If you decide to use chlorine bleach to disinfect fibers, be sure to dilute the bleach with water and never pour it directly on the fabric.

  3. Select a Washer Cycle and Water Temperature

    Linen bedding should be washed 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.

  4. Load the Washer Correctly

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

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

  5. Drying Linen Bedding

    Linen bedding can be hung 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.

    If drying in an automatic dryer, choose a timed dry cycle with a medium heat setting. 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 the two—10 minutes in the dryer and air drying to finish—leaves sheets soft and with fewer wrinkles.

    Tip

    Use wool dryer balls instead of fabric softener or dryer sheets to help linen keep its moisture-wicking and breathability. Excessive use of commercial softeners will leave a residue on the fibers that can make the fabric "sleep hotter."

    If you want to add scent during the drying cycle, sprinkle the wool dryer balls with a few drops of essential oils.

  6. Ironing Linen Bedding

There are two schools of thought on ironing linen. Some embrace the natural, rumpled look and never iron. Others like a neater look and iron 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 at a temperature of around 445 degrees F. Allow the freshly pressed linen to dry completely before using it to prevent excessive wrinkling.

How to Repair Linen Bedding

Small rips and tears can be easily repaired by hand sewing or with a sewing machine. Linen thread is available to match most bedding colors.

Storage

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 to accumulate.

Tip

To help make linen bedding last as long as possible, consider having three sets of sheets for each bed. When used in a rotation of one set on the bed, one set in the closet, and one set in the wash, the linen bedding has even wear, a chance for fibers to recover between uses that extends the lifespan of the sheets.