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    Keep Your Linen Sparkling

    July 10, 2020 3 min read

     

    Linen has the endearing quality of keeping clean, shaking off most day-to-day stains and off odors, but what to do when it needs a little extra help from its human?

    Ground rules:

    1. Sort like with like, and always wash whites only with whites.
    2. Use a cold water wash. Modern detergents are formulated to work perfectly well cold, so save some energy.
    3. Use half the quantity of detergent suggested by the manufacturer, and raise the amount only if you have to. This cuts down on residue, which feels harsh and smells a little too much for comfort. There are better things to smell of.
    4. Use wool dryer balls to dry your linens faster and keep them from wrinkling.  Don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets, they contain plasticisers which coat fibres and lessen their absorption.
    5. Dry your linens at medium or even high heat, as long as you pull them from the dryer still very slightly damp, and shake them out to dry more or less flat.  Wrinkles miraculously disappear. If you want to see what happens if you crowd your linens and bake them to a crisp, try it once!

     

     

    DEALING WITH STAINS

    Body oils and stains from humans and pets alike should be treated with enzymes, so it is good to know that detergents from The Laundress all contain enzymes - yes they are expensive, but they are ultra-concentrated so you use very little, which is a good thing.  

    If you have yellowing from body oils (a testosterone problem mainly) or stains from lotions and make-up, try an overnight soak in well-dissolved Biz. Biz is a peroxide soak with enzymes, and it is the enzymes which break down oils and proteins from lotions and makeup. You can buy it online, or at enlightened stores (are you still with us? This is riveting stuff!)

    You know all the fine print on laundry products? It’s there for a reason, so test on an unobtrusive spot if you are in any doubt. If you make a paste of a dry product, or use a detergent undiluted, there is a risk of lifting color as the mixture is strong. With Biz, I dissolve it well, dilute it and use an overnight soak. That will treat the whole cloth, and if anything is going to happen to the color, it is happening to the whole item, not making a mark in one area. This is especially important on natural linen, as it is truly straight from the field - dyed items are far more stable. Even with white, I always treat the whole item to avoid livid blotches. 

    For a stain like blood or mascara, I use Shout. I have experimented, spraying it on natural linen and letting it dry, and the colour is unaffected, so I use Shout with a lavish hand. Blood should be spot-treated immediately with Shout, and cold water is really important here.

     

     

    MAINTAINING COLORS

    Some people wonder why I advise against chlorine bleach, and Tide, this is why: bleach turns natural linen sickly yellow, and Tide turns it pink. Tide is formulated for synthetics which can sequester dingy discoloration and off odors, it is harsh on natural fibres. If you really must, you can use bleach or Tide on white linen, just make sure it is well dissolved/diluted to avoid blotches.

    I tend not to use OxiClean as it has peroxide bleach but no enzymes, so Biz wins.  

    Another fail-safe but fiddly method is the old-fashioned boil-wash, brilliant for yellowed pillowslips. Put the items into a big pan of water with a very small amount of detergent, dish soap will do it, and gently simmer for around half an hour. Too much detergent or too high a boil will give you suds everywhere. Drain and wash as normal in the washing machine, feeling very pioneer woman all the while. Hang to dry until you are sure the discoloration is gone, as the dry heat of a tumble-dryer can set stains.

    Another time-tested technique? Hang your white linens outside in the sun.

     

     

    So, in summary:

    • Shout is a good first stop for a stain.
    • Biz and The Laundress products have enzymes, so they are better than OxiClean.
    • Chlorine bleach makes whites whiter, at a cost.
    • Dish soap is good for spot-treating oils as it is pure detergent, no bleach.
    • Sunshine is free.
    • Avoid tumble-drying or ironing until you are sure a discoloration is gone. Dry heat can set stains.

    16 Responses

    Robin Richards
    Robin Richards

    July 12, 2020

    Hi, Thank you for the post, I found it riveting…REALLY! Linen sheets are an investment, so appreciated the linen lesson and am actually going to install a clothesline in my backyard. Being a child brought up in the 1950’s-60’s, our bedding was always hung outside until it became too cold (WI winter) to do so. But the first sign of Spring was our bedding smelling like “outside”. (‘good’ outside, not stinky outside). I have one suggestion for removing blood, (and it is not hydrogen peroxide!). Normal saline solution works great and has no chemicals. It is the same as “body fluid”, 0.9% sodium chloride, so the blood dilutes and can be rinsed with cold water. As always, it is best to get the blood dissolving ASAP. But I have had blood set (on a new white lab coat) and soaked the area in a large amount of saline solution (so as the blood dissolves, it doesn’t end up re-staining the article) and then washing in cold water. Here is the best news. You always have the ingredients in your house. For a one gallon amount, dissolve 8 teaspoons of salt in tap water, providing you will be using that amount in a few days. If you want to keep some in your laundry room, use distilled to slow any bacterial growth. There are more “rules” if you are using the saline for eye drops or nose flush, but for laundry, this works great. For a smaller amount, 16 oz of water with 1 tsp salt.

    Liz Boyle
    Liz Boyle

    July 12, 2020

    I have the same problem as Lisa with thinning and some small holes. It’s not big enough to make them unusable. I’ve had the sheets for about 8 years so I accept that may be just wear and tear. I don’t own a drier so always line dried and cold wash.

    Irina
    Irina

    July 12, 2020

    Thank you for a lot of helpful information on linen maintenance! I was wondering if some white vinegar could be used on rinsing linens, espesially pillowslips?

    Annette Ross
    Annette Ross

    July 12, 2020

    Thank you for the wonderful advice on caring for our beloved linens. It brought back fond memories of my Grandmother. a lovely Brit herself, “cooking” her linens which were always pristine and sparkling white. Now I know why!

    Mary Christine Weinberg
    Mary Christine Weinberg

    July 12, 2020

    Your advice is terrific – in particular using dish soap to treat a stain. I have used dish soap straight on fresh oil stains & it has it has worked brilliantly!

    Rhonda Niblett
    Rhonda Niblett

    July 12, 2020

    Hi Tricia,
    I use Seventh Generation laundry detergent in the lavender scent-all natural ingredients and plant based. I think this goes along with the natural fabric of linen. Also use their stain remover and have it remove oils and yellowing from my pillowcases really well ( I use essential oils , coconut oil and facial oils in my skin care routine). I love using your wool balls with a drop or two of lavender essential oil on the balls when I use the dryer in the winter months. . Right now I am using the power of the sun on my clothes line and love the crispness it gives the linen. Plus the nice breeze gets rid of any wrinkles. In my humble opinion I would also add that Tide and many other detergents should not be used on your fabulous linen because they have chemicals (some petro chemicals) and artificial fragrances. I want beautiful linen next to my skin not a bunch of chemicals. Most folks don’t realize that many cleaning and laundry products have petrochemicals which are toxic and unhealthy. My vote is that you help them understand (educate them) how to keep linen in pristine shape using natural means for a natural fabric. I love your RL sheets and other items I have. The Seventh Generation Stain Remover works really good on the napkins too! Note: the new Sky Blue color is SOOOO dreamy!

    Lisa Schmitz
    Lisa Schmitz

    July 11, 2020

    I am doing all the right things. I melt my homemade soap , add biz and hot water to melt and dissolve . Wash in cold water and hang outside to dry. I am just wondering about mending. some of my sheets and pillow cases have developed tears in thin spots. What would you recommend to get more use from them.?

    nancy k brown
    nancy k brown

    July 11, 2020

    Is there a problem washing linen in hot water? I like to use hot water for several things, like whites. I hear how it uses energy to use hot water but should the hot water just sit in the hot water heater? I never use a dryer for anything and hang all my clothes on the line. Don’t dryers use energy? Mainly I just want to know if hot water is detrimental on linen.

    Heather Sykora
    Heather Sykora

    July 11, 2020

    Thank you for the clear instructions. I like having confidence about taking care of nice article One of my bottom sheets tore after 4 years of weekly washing.. I usually used a scoop of oxi for smell/sweat. I wonder if that shortened the life span. I guess I will shell out for Laundress as the smell of biz bothers me. Does Biz make a scent free?

    Kaye Templeton
    Kaye Templeton

    July 11, 2020

    Thank you for taking the time to put together this article and for sharing, very good information. I love your linen.

    Beverly
    Beverly

    July 11, 2020

    Thank you for sharing the easy to follow basics. We do love our linens. Proper care just adds to the pleasure.

    Norine
    Norine

    July 11, 2020

    thanks for the specific enzyme recommendations

    Caro
    Caro

    July 11, 2020

    This is fabulous advice—thanks! I learned about boiling linens (including antique linens) from a friend who grew up in Alabama—she used a shake of Downy and a shake of Biz. Worked like a charm! I’ve been needing this advice, so thanks so much! Love love love your beautiful linens!

    Ann
    Ann

    July 11, 2020

    Thank you! Learned a lot from this article. Most appreciated!

    marcie zellner
    marcie zellner

    July 11, 2020

    Thank you 🙏

    Susan Lemire
    Susan Lemire

    July 11, 2020

    Thank you for sharing this!
    Brilliant!

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