How to Iron Linen Shirts and Pants

ironing board and linen clothes

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Linen shirts, pants, dresses, and bedding are perfect choices to wear during humid, hot weather. The natural flax fibers help to wick moisture away from the skin. Linen clothes can be made from light to heavyweight woven fabrics and will wear well if handled correctly. Most linen clothing will shrink slightly when washed so consider that when you purchase clothes.

Linen fabrics are washable but you may see clothes that have a dry clean only tag. If the linen garment is structured like a jacket or is lined, you should heed the dry cleaning instructions. While the linen fabric is washable, the inner linings or materials used to help a jacket keep its shape may not be. Water and agitation may cause those materials to shrink and become misshapen. That damage can not be reversed.

After linen is washed at home, it should not be dried on high heat which causes fibers to shrink together and break. Instead, air dry on a padded hanger to prevent creases or tumble only briefly in a dryer set on a low heat temperature. Some people prefer a crisp look, others a more relaxed, rumpled linen. If you choose a crisp look, follow these tips for ironing linen clothes. The same tips can be applied to ironing linen tablecloths and napkins.

Required Tools for Ironing Linen Clothes

  1. Spray bottle. Linen is nearly impossible to iron unless it is damp. Fill an inexpensive spray bottle with clean water to dampen the clothes.
  2. A good quality steam iron. High heat and plenty of steam are essential for ironing linen. Your iron should able to produce both. A spray feature is also helpful for those areas that need even more dampness.
  3. Sturdy ironing board. Ironing linen requires steady, even strokes. That's hard to do if the ironing surface is wobbly or small. If you don't have a good ironing board, follow these tips for ironing on other surfaces.
  4. Pressing cloth. It is always important to have a buffer between the hot iron and the linen fibers to prevent flattening them to the point of creating a shine.
tools for ironing linen clothing

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Tips for Successfully Ironing Linen Pants and Shirts

  • At least five or ten minutes before ironing linen clothes, give them a good spritz with plain cool water. Pay particular attention to shirt collars, cuffs, pocket flaps, and button plackets. Roll the garment loosely and let the moisture penetrate the linen fibers.
  • Set the steam iron on the cotton/linen setting or high heat. Be sure the iron's faceplate and water tank are clean and that the tank is filled with water.
  • If your ironing board cover is wearing thin or has heavy staining, use an old terry cloth towel under the linen. This will pad the surface, protect any buttons on the garment, and give you a clean finish.
  • Padding is particularly important if there is embroidery on the linen. Always iron on the wrong side and iron the embroidered area first.
  • Start with the heavier areas of the shirt or pants first (collars, cuffs, waistbands) and use a bit more water if necessary to get a smooth finish.
  • Keep the iron moving constantly and smoothly to prevent scorching. Staying too long in one spot can bring a disaster.
  • As you iron, gently stretch the garment to square corners and even edges. While the fabric is damp and hot, you can reshape crumpled areas.
  • Press linen clothes on the wrong side or use a pressing cloth to prevent shiny spots. This is particularly important with darker colors.
  • Use spray-on starch or fabric sizing for areas like collars and cuffs that you want particularly crisp. The starch also helps to protect the linen from stains.
  • When ironing is complete, hang the garment in an uncrowded space to dry completely. Wait at least 10 to 15 minutes before putting on the freshly ironed piece to allow the fibers to cool and relax. Wearing linen while damp will cause excess creasing.
using a pressing cloth to iron a linen shirt

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

5 Tips to Avoid Having to Iron Linen Clothes

  1. Adopt a relaxed look. The more often linen is worn and washed, the softer and more supple it will become.
  2. Skip the clothes dryer. After linen clothes are removed from the washer, shake well to remove wrinkles. Hang on a padded hanger or lay the garment flat on a towel. While the fabric is wet, gently pull the seams, hems, and any misshapen areas like curled hem edges to smooth.
  3. Use a clothes steamer. You won't get a crisp look but the steamer will remove sharp creases and heavy wrinkles.
  4. Always test wrinkle relaxing fabric sprays on an inside hem before using. Some can cause spotting and stains on linen, especially on dark colors.
  5. Avoid folding linen clothes. Hang in a closet with plenty of room to prevent wrinkling from overcrowding.