February 15, 2022
FABRIC CARE GUIDE: LINEN
This Linen Fabric Care Guide will help you understand this fabric staple a bit more to help navigate how to care for your summer linens for the long term. Linen is the light and airy fabric that we love to wear during the hot summer months to keep cool—and people have been doing this for thousands of years. In fact, we have the Egyptians to thank for this wonderful textile.
Linen is one of the oldest textiles in the world. The fabrication of linen goes back many thousands of years. Dyed linen fibers were found in a prehistoric cave in Georgia, which is evidence that woven linen fabrics from wild flax were used some 36,000 years ago. In ancient Egypt, linen was used for mummification and for burial shrouds because it symbolized light and purity, as well as wealth. Linen was so valued in ancient Egypt that it was used as currency in some cases.
Linen is a type of textile made from the fibers of the flax plant. The majority of flax for fiber is still produced in Western Europe (France is the world leader). Linen is similar to cotton chemically, but stronger, stiffer, more sunlight resistant, and faster drying.
Fun fact: Did you know the U.S. dollar bill is 25% linen? (The other 75% is cotton.)
From flax plant to summer dress, there are many steps involved in producing linen as the fiber we understand it as. Here is the process in five main steps:
- The flax plant is planted in the spring months and after about 90 days, the leaves wither, the stem turns yellow and the seeds turn brown, indicating it is time to harvest the plant.
- After harvesting, the fibers need to be released from the stalk of the plant, in a process referred to as ‘retting.’
- After the retting process, the flax plants are squeezed and allowed to dry out before they undergo the process called breaking. In order to crush the decomposed stalks, they are sent through fluted rollers which break up the stem and separate the exterior fibers that will be used to make linen.
- The long linen fibers are put through machines called spreaders, which combine fibers of the same length.
- These linen is then taken to dryers, and when the yarn is dry, it is wound onto bobbins for weaving or wound into yarn spools of varying weight.
SUSTAINABILITY & ENVIRONMENTAL WELFARE
The greatest environmental concern of linen is the chemicals used in the retting process. These chemicals must be neutralized before being released into water supplies, and sometimes they aren’t. The stalks, leaves, seed pods, etc. are natural organic materials and are not hazardous unless impregnated with much of the chemicals left behind in the retting process. There are more sustainable methods used for retting, though not as widely used (yet!).
Actually, the ‘use’ stage of a linen garment can generate the most important environmental impact. According to a 2008 report for the European Confederation of Linen and Hemp (CELC), almost 80% of linen’s energy and water consumption derives from washing and ironing the garment. Few, if any, chemical pesticides and fertilizers are required in the cultivation of flax. In fact, flax often comes close to the organic standard without trying. It requires significantly less fertilizers and pesticides than cotton, but slightly more than hemp.
Linen is not a year-round fabric that we wear, but the following tips will help this seasonal favorite stay fresh in our wardrobe for years to come.
- Always wash your linen clothes on your machine’s gentle cycle. Avoid washing in cold or very hot water—warm is preferred. It can shrink if the water is too hot!
- Do not crowd the washing machine with too many items at once. This can twist or pull the linen fabric out of shape.
- If you hand wash linen clothes, only use a gentle swishing motion – never wring, twist or scrub the fabric. Hand washing is recommended for clothes that are not heavily soiled, or for linen fabric with a loose weave. This might be more easily damaged during a machine wash.
- Always try to air dry your linen clothes flat. Hangers or clothespins can create marks on the fabric, and may also cause the garment to lose its original shape.
- We love the natural wrinkles in linen fabric, but if you like to iron your linen clothes make sure they are still damp before you start.
Linen clothes require less washing and at lower temperatures compared to clothes made from other fibres. But if you do accidentally spill something on your favourite item of clothing and need to get rid of a stain, these handy tips will have your clothes looking as new in no time.
Mix together equal parts dishwashing detergent and hydrogen peroxide. Pour the mixture over the stain and allow it to soak in. You should see the stain begin to fade almost immediately. After you have allowed the mixture to soak into the stain, launder the clothing normally.
COFFEE & CHOCOLATE
Rub liquid laundry detergent and a little cold water into the stain. Allow fresh stains to sit for three to five minutes. You can let it sit for longer, but don’t let it dry. For old coffee stains, you’ll need to soak the clothing in water after you’ve rubbed in the liquid detergent.
Use a dry paper towel on the area to soak up excess oil. Important: Act quickly—the sooner you notice the stain and start cleaning, the easier it will be to successfully remove it.
- Take a toothbrush with soft bristles and start rubbing the stain covered with dishwashing liquid. Gently rub in circular motions with little pressure. This will help the soap to penetrate deeper into the fabric. Once you have done these steps, leave your clothes for 30 minutes to allow the soap to penetrate them.
- Rinse the soiled area thoroughly with clean water to wash off the soap, then wash the garment as you normally would.
Try our Bicarbonate Stain Remover Soap to care for minor, everyday stains!