Tips on Caring for Linen Clothing

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During the summer months, it is always common for laundry providers to experience an influx of dry cleaning orders for clothing that are made with the best fabrics for hot weather. Apart from cotton, the most popular seasonal fabric that our dry cleaners work with on a regular basis is linen.

Linen is an incredibly interesting and versatile material, but there are some serious misconceptions about linen and how to wash or care for linen clothing. Read on for important information about linen and linen garments.

3 Things to Know About Linen Clothing

1) What is Linen Made From?

Linen is made from the flax plant, and it is incredibly laborious to manufacture.  There are a number of steps involved in the creation of the linen fabric. The flax plants must first be very gently harvested to retain the longest fibers possible (the longer the fibers, the softer the material they can be made into- shorter fibers result in a more course fabric). The plants then go through a drying and de-seeding process called “threshing” and “winnowing.” To loosen the fibers of the plant, the flax goes through a process called “retting” where the fibers are loosened with bacteria (or chemically), and then the loosened flax gets rolled by machine in a process called “scutching.” Finally, the fibers of the flax are combed in a step called “heckling,” where the coarse short fibers are combed away with a heckling comb, leaving only the longest, softest fibers in place. These are then spun into yarns or woven into the linen textiles that we’re familiar with!

Linen production
Linen production

2) Can Linen Be Washed?

Yes, linen can be washed. However, there are important things to consider when deciding how to care for your linen clothing. Linen garments require extra TLC; in other words, if you want it to stay looking like new, take linen clothing to a professional dry cleaner!

Linen is durable and strong, but what happens when it gets wet? Linen is actually one of the few fabrics that gets stronger when it is wet. Pure linen fibers don’t stretch, and they are resistant to abrasion. However, because the fibers of linen fabric have such a low elasticity, they can break if they are folded and bent in the same area over and over. Constant creasing and pressing linen in the same area in a sharp fold can cause the fibers to deteriorate. This is why linen wrinkles so easily, and why the collars and hems of linen items can eventually begin to show wear and even break over time. However, the wrinkles of the linen are part of it’s charm, and give it a cozy lived-in vibe.

Wrinkled linen

3) Does Linen Shrink?

Yes, linen can shrink. Linen is just like cotton in this tendency. This is why it is very important to avoid hot water when washing or cleaning linen clothing. Use warm (NOT hot) or cold water when washing linen items, and only use cold water for bright linen clothing to prevent fading. Or take your linen garments to a dry cleaner if they are particularly fine or fragile.

Linen is Worth the Special Care!

Have you ever seen someone in linen that didn’t look cool? We didn’t think so :). Linen is a universal staple, and you can find it in leisurewear as well as formal attire all around the world. And since linen feels cool to the touch, and absorbs moisture, it will literally help you feel cool in the summer.

To try the linen look for yourself, pick ONE linen item at a time (it’s easy to go overboard!). Since linen comes in all kinds of natural colors (ivory, tan, grey) as well as brights (bleached white, blues, reds, and greens), you’re sure to find at least one linen  item you can incorporate to your existing wardrobe.

Linen shirt