How to Clean and Care for Linen Bedding

White linen bedding

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 29 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Linen sheets, pillowcases, and duvet covers are durable, hypoallergenic, breathable, and moisture-wicking. Plus, they grow both 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.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

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

Materials

  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Laundry stain remover

Instructions

How to Wash Linen Bedding
Detergent Regular
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 (445 degrees); iron while fabric is slightly damp 
Linen bedding cleaning supplies

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  1. Sort the Laundry

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

    Basket with laundry sorted by color

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Select 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.

    Washer cycle being selected

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  3. 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.

    Washer loaded with linen bedding

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  4. Dry the 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 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

Storing Linen Bedding

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.

Repairs

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. Larger tears might be best left to a professional seamstress.

Treating Stains on Linen Bedding

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 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.

Ironing

There are two schools of thought when it comes to ironing 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. Allow the freshly pressed linen to dry completely before using to prevent excessive wrinkling.

Steam iron passing over linen bedding

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Tips for Washing Linen Bedding

  • New linen bedding should be washed before using. 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.
  • To help make linen bedding last as long as possible, consider having three sets of sheets for each bed. When used in a rotation—with one set on the bed, one set in the closet, and one set in the wash—the bedding has even wear and a chance for fibers to recover between uses that extends 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. 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 oil.