What's the Best Way to Care for My Fine Linens?

So you've invested in some fabulous bedding or table linens or towels and your left wondering 'how do I care for them'.  Today's selection of laundry products have left you overwhelmed; and, if your washer and dryer is like so many, the settings options seem endless.

Caring for your fine linens can be easy if you follow some simple suggestions.  In return, you will prolong their life and preserve their beautiful appearance.  While most fine linens are made from natural fibers that generally can be machine-washed at home, please be sure to read the care label on each item for the best results.

Washing.  Pre-wash your linens before the first use.  Linens are treated with a sizing to improve the sewing process.  This sizing adheres to the fibers and this sizing can cause stains to adhere to them as well.  When washing your fine linens, separate your linens from other items in the wash, especially those containing polyester (which tends to create piling) and items with heavy zippers (which can damage fabric).  Separate light and dark colors.  Avoid overloading the washing machine, which can cause fibers to break down from excessive abrasion and agitation.  You can wash most linens in warm water on a gentle cycle with a cold water rinse, but be sure to check the care label.

Detergent.  Use a mild detergent without added bleach, whiteners, or fabric softeners.  Do not pour detergent directly on textiles; rather, add it to the water as it fills or dilute the detergent with water, then add it to linens.  Unless linens are very soiled, you will only need to use half the recommended amount of detergent.  Remember -- today's detergents are extremely concentrated.  As for fabric softeners; they are a type of wax that adhere to the natural fibers and can attract insects and inhibit the fabrics ability to breathe.  We do not even recommend dryer sheets; they are the same type of product, just in a different format.

Bleaching.  Chlorine bleach will weaken fibers and cause fabric to yellow.  If white fabrics need bleaching, use only an oxygen-based bleach.  We recommend Biz.  Yvonne has been using this for years even on her vintage linens.

Drying.  While line drying outdoors is gentle, safe, and imbues linens with the fresh scent of the outdoors and the natural bleaching of the sun, it is not always practical.  You can machine dry most linens on low heat, but be sure to check the care label.  Shake out damp linens before placing them in the dryer; this helps to minimize wrinkles.  Never use a high heat setting, this will weaken fibers, damage the fabric, increase shrinkage, and shorten the life of your linens.  Remove items from the dryer promptly, while still slightly damp, to minimize wrinkles.  Smooth and fold, or press with an iron, if desired.

Ironing. Check to make sure your steam iron is clean - mineral deposits could cause brown spotting from rust that cannot be removed.  Iron linens while still damp.  To restore the lustrous face of sateen fabrics, iron on the reverse side.  For embroidered linens, iron them on the reverse side atop a towel to preserve the three-dimensional effect of the embroidery.  Use a press cloth to protect delicate lace and cut work.

Storing Linens.  Store linens in a cool, dry, well ventilated area.  Linens stored long-term should be wrapped in white cotton, muslin (old pillow cases work well) or acid-free paper.  Avoid storing linens in plastic bags or boxes, which can cause permanent yellowing; natural fibers need to breathe.

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