Caring for Your Linen Clothes

Published: 18th July 2008
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Linen is one of the most comfortable fabrics you can buy. It also requires a little extra care to own, this is due to the fact it is made from the flax plant, which produces long fibers from its stalk. These natural "yarns" are what wick moisture away from the skin to help create the fabric's light, airy feeling. The drawback, however, is that the "breathing" fibers are quite stiff. Once they bend, they stay bent, and the result is linen's trademark wrinkles. Even more frustrating is that the more you sweat, the more the fabric wrinkles.

Before washing any clothing, it is important to look at the label to view the manufacturers care recommendations. Although linen may be laundered with great results, the garment label will take in account any special instructions that may be necessary for the particular item you want to wash. Some garments may include different fabric types used for their lining, or some may be a blend of linen with another type of fabric. If the label says it's best to dry clean the garment, it would be wise to follow this advice.

Typically linen shirts and pants can be machine-washed in a gentle cycle in warm water. Of course it is preferable if you hand-wash your linen or have it dry-cleaned. Repeated hand or machine washings make linen soft, thereby eventually reducing wrinkling, while dry cleaning keeps it crisp and new looking.

To hand-wash a linen item, place it in a small tub with warm water and soap suds. Rub the linen in the mix and then pull it out of the tub. When it comes to stains, the treatment really depends on the source of the stain, but the general method is to rub immediately with cold water (which prevents the stain from setting in), or letting the garment soak in laundry detergent. Rubbing the stain with white vinegar, or sprinkling some talcum powder on the stain while letting the garment lay flat overnight, have also been proven to work. If the stain is oil based, it is usually best to let the dry cleaners do the work for you. If you choose to use a stain remover or treatment product, it is safest to test an inconspicuous area of the garment with the product first. Apply the product and let it sit for at least 5 minutes and then rinse. If you notice no color change, then proceed, using the product directly on the stain. After using the stain remover, rinse the garment and launder as usual. Remember that some stains just can't be removed.

Once you're done hand- or machine-washing, air-dry the linen garment. You can then iron it, or wear it as is.

It's in linen's best interest to never see the inside of a dryer. Ideally, you should let a freshly washed linen garment air-dry, whether by laying it flat on a towel or hanging it from a padded wooden hanger.

If you're ironing linen, do so on a high setting, while the garment is still damp. The dampness guards against burning the linen; the fabric dries quite fast. Iron first on the inside of the garment to remove wrinkles, and then on the outside to create a nice sheen. Also, be sure to iron until the linen is smooth , not dry. When it's to your liking, begin air-drying. As well, avoid folding your linen items; hanging is preferable.

And if you wear a linen suit or pants regularly, get in the habit of always pulling your pants up from the knees before you sit down. This keeps the fabric stiff between your knees and waist, and avoids the excess wrinkling in the crotch area that can be brought on by sitting, slouching and so on.

By simply caring for your linen clothing in the proper manner, you will be able to enjoy wearing your garments for many years to come.

Cory Davis is the President of LocoStyle, Inc., a leading provider of high quality men's, women's and children's guayabera shirts, also known as Mexican wedding shirts. For more information and to browse a wide selection of guayaberas, please visit

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