Caring for Linens

Linens are a staple of every household. We sleep with them, use them in our kitchens, and linens make our dinner parties even more beautiful. Whether you have a special tablecloth passed down in your family or lovely everyday sheets purchased from your local variety store, linens need special care. Protect your investment (or heirloom) with proper cleaning and storage.

Cleaning Linens

Wash linens rather than dry clean. Launder stains when fresh. After testing a small area first in case of color bleeding/fading, soak for several hours in cool water to break down the soil. Add a non-detergent soap (Ivory Snow, Biz) while soaking. Wash by hand and rinse well or agitate in washer for 10 seconds, followed by rinsing and gently spinning for 10 seconds. Be sure to rinse well as residual soap can cause large brown spots to appear later. When cleaning heirloom linens, you may want to use distilled water for the final rinse to prevent deposits such as lime and iron in the cloth.

Some linens need extra help to become brighter or to remove stains. For white linens, you may use oxygen bleaches such as hydrogen peroxide. Chlorine bleach may cause yellowing. If a pesky stain remains after laundering, apply freshly squeezed lemon juice (only to fabric in good condition) and salt. Set outside in the bright sun for 20 minutes, then flush with boiling water.

You can dry linens in a machine, on the line, outside on the lawn, or by rolling in terry cloth towels. To prevent linen from becoming stiff and brittle, bring it in while still slightly damp. This is the best time to (groan) iron linen. If you don't have the time at that moment, put the cloth in a plastic bag and refrigerate until you are ready. Make sure iron is clean and use a medium to hot setting with steam.

Storing Linens

Before storing, make sure linens are clean. Dirty linens can attract bugs and cause mildew (yuck!) It is best to store linens by rolling/wrapping them in acid-free tissue paper. You can put rolled linens in a poster tube or a bag made from cotton or muslin, but never store in plastic bags. If you must fold them, insert layers of acid-free tissue paper and refold occasionally to avoid permanent creases. Keep them in a dry, well-ventilated location. Do not store in cedar, unvarnished wood, or cardboard as they contain acids that may cause rotting, streaking, or yellowing.
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