Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum. Linen is labor intensive to manufacture, but when it is made into garments, it is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather. It is superior to cotton in this regard.[who?]
Textiles in linen weave pattern made of cotton, hemp and other non-flax fibers may also be loosely, if improperly, referred to as "linen". Such fabrics generally have their own specific names other than linen, for example, fine cotton yarn in linen weave is called Madapolam.
The collective term linens is still often used generically to describe a class of woven and evenknitted bed, bath, table and kitchen textiles. The name linens is retained because traditionally, linen was used for many of these items. In the past, the word "linens" was also used to mean lightweight undergarments such as shirts, chemises, waistshirts, lingerie, and detachable shirt collars and cuffs, which were manufactured almost exclusively of linen.
Linen textiles appear to be some of the oldest in the world: their history goes back many thousands of years. Fragments of straw, seeds, fibers, yarns, and various types of fabrics which date back to about 8000 B.C. have been found in Swiss lake dwellings. Linen was used in the Mediterranean in the pre-Christian age.
Linen was sometimes used as currency in ancient Egypt. Egyptian mummies were wrapped in linen because it was seen as a symbol of light and purity, and as a display of wealth. Some of these fabrics, woven from hand spun yarns, were extremely fine, and cannot be matched by modern spinning techniques.
Here you will find a few suggestions that will help you retain the beauty and long life of your linen.
Linen just loves to be washed and ironed. The more linen is washed the softer, nicer and shinier it becomes.
First, use the right washing agents. The detergents that contain bleaching agents are perfect for white linen but should not be used for washing colored linen or else your linen would get discolored or spotted. Only bleach-free detergents must be used for washing colored articles. Use pure soap or gentle detergents. Soap works best in soft water. Never use chlorine bleaches to avoid damage to the fiber. Only oxygen-type bleaches should be used for white linen laundering. However, no bleach should be used when washing spun, colored or embroidered linen.
If the water you use is hard due to a high lime content add a softening agent, especially for darker-colored articles. Use plenty of water because linen is very water-absorbent. Water temperature should be selected according to the care instructions attached to your linen article. If the temperature exceeds the recommended maximum temperature it may lead to fabric shrinkage.
Never wash darker-colored pieces together with lighter-colored articles - if you do, you risk spoiling both.
Do not overload your washing machine, so linen can move freely - if you do, the fabric color may get streaked. When machine washing, put delicate or fringed items in a pillowcase or a net bag to reduce wear and tear.
Whether washing by hand or by machine, linen items have to be thoroughly rinsed in plenty of water to remove all soap, detergent and residual soil and prevent the formation of the so-called age spots due to the oxidation effect.
Do not soak, boil off, rub or wring out embroidered articles.
When washing colored embroidered articles, add a touch of salt. Also add a touch of vinegar when rinsing colored linen - that will help prevent color fading.
Remove stains when still fresh. If allowed to set, stains may be hard, if impossible, to remove at a later date (for more information see our Stain Removal Tips below).
If you take your linens to an outside laundry, don't forget to tell them that your articles are linen-made.
Do not wring out linen before drying. Whatever drying method you choose - line drying, tumbler drying or lying out on a terry towel - make sure your linen articles are slightly damp before ironing. That will make your subsequent ironing job easier. Drying white linen in the sun helps retain the original white color. It is a good idea to lay out your laundered item, pull it into shape and pat it flat to minimize wrinkles and thereby save your ironing time. Over-drying leads to the loss of the natural moisture content and makes linen brittle. Over-dried items restore their natural moisture content after re-absorbing moisture from the air.
As it has just been pointed ou,t ironing is easier when the laundered items are still slightly damp. Be sure that the soleplate of your iron is clean and smooth. If you have a steam iron check out the soleplate for mineral deposits - they can cause brown spotting. Use well-padded boards with smooth heat-reflective covers - it will reduce your ironing time. Iron linen articles until they are smooth but not dry, then hang or spread them out to become bone-dry.
If you postpone ironing until some later time put laundered items in a plastic bag and place it in the refrigerator or a freezer from 6 to 24 hours. It will help them remain damp and prevent mildew formation.
For extra crispness spray the laundered items, especially napkins, with starch and iron at a medium to hot setting - it will allow you to fold napkins into a variety of fancy shapes. If you prefer a softer look, use spray-on fabric sizing.
In case of light-colored linens, iron on the wrong side first, then on the right side to bring out the sheen. As regards dark-colored articles, iron on the wrong side only.
When ironing embroidered linen, keep the embroidery stitches rounded and dimensional and iron on the wrong side on a soft terry towel to avoid the risk of flattening it out. Special care should be taken while ironing delicate lace and cutwork to avoid tearing it with the iron - use a press cloth to safeguard against it. Press cloth also helps to avoid press marks over seams, hems and pockets.
Do not iron on a patterned cloth because there is a risk that it may get imprinted on the embroidery. Do not fold up the items just ironed - they should be kept spread out for some time to dry.
Place a table next to the ironing board when ironing large items such as tablecloths. Roll finished sections of the cloth over the table rather than letting it pile up under the ironing board. You can prevent tablecloth creasing by rolling the tablecloth around a tube as you continue ironing.
Dry Cleaning Tips
If care instructions provide for both dry cleaning and washing the choice is entirely yours. If you prefer dry cleaning to laundering, turn to dry cleaners who work on the premises. It would be also a good idea to find out whether solvents are regularly changed. If they are not, there is a risk that your white linens may turn gray or yellow.
Linen is best stored in a cool, dry and well-ventilated area. Always launder or dry-clean linen before storing to prevent mildew growth. If mildew does strike, brush the mold off outdoors to avoid spore scattering in your house, soak the item in an oxygen-bleach water solution, launder it and dry in the sun. Use pure linen, cotton or muslin and acid-free paper to protect against dust or as bags. Do not use synthetics or regular tissue paper, plastic bags, cedar chests or cardboard boxes for storing your linens. If linen articles are stored for a long time, refold them from time to time.