How to Wash Linen Sheets [6 Steps for Proper Linen Care]

Before washing your linen sheets, check any tags on the sheets for specific washing instructions. If there are no special instructions for your sheets, use a gentle detergent to avoid damaging the linen fibers. Then, wash your linen sheets on the “delicate” or “gentle” washing machine setting. Next, partially dry your linens on a low-heat dry cycle before hanging them on a drying rack to finish drying. You can lightly iron linen sheets to remove wrinkles. Alternatively, you can use your linen sheets once they are dry, or you can store them for later use.

How to wash linen sheets

6 Steps to Washing and Drying Your Linen Sheets

The smooth, flat, durable fibers of linen sheets make them one of the best fabric options you can sleep on. However, without proper washing and drying care, your linen sheets can become damaged quickly. Use the following steps to not only clean your linen sheets, but also extend the years you can enjoy them.

Check the Label and Type of Linen for Specific Instructions

In some instances, linen sheets will have an attached label with specific washing and drying instructions. If the type and brand of linen sheets you own has a label, follow the instructions on the tag. Additionally, some types of linen won’t be preshrunk or colorfast, so they will require delicate hand washing in order to retain their size and color.

  • Check for any labels on your linen sheets for instructions on washing and drying.
  • Do not machine wash and dry linen sheets that are not preshrunk or colorfast.

If your linen sheets do not have a label, or you need more detailed instructions for how to wash and dry your linen sheets, continue to the next step below.

Choose Your Detergent Wisely

Always wash your linen sheets with a proper cleaning solution. Some laundry detergents, especially those containing brightening chemicals, can ruin the color of linen sheets. Use a mild, gentle laundry detergent, like this one, when washing your linen sheets. Never use a detergent that contains bleach.

  • Don’t use laundry detergents with brightening chemicals.
  • Gentle detergents are best when washing linen sheets.
  • Do not use fabric softeners or dryer sheets.

Avoid additives like fabric softeners or dryer sheets when washing and drying linen sheets. The broken-down debris from these products can weaken linen fibers over time.

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Choose the Right Settings

Set your washing machine to a gentle or delicate setting. While you can wash linen sheets on a regular setting, washing them on delicate will limit the amount of stress put on the linen fibers. Limiting stress will make your linen sheets last longer. White linen sheets should be washed in warm water, while colored linen sheets should be washed in lukewarm water. Never wash white linen sheets with colors, or colored linen sheets with whites.

  • Use the delicate setting on your washer to wash linen sheets.
  • Use warm water for white linen sheets and lukewarm water for colored linen sheets.
  • A washing machine bag can help protect any decorative attachments.

If your linen sheets have any fringes, tassels, or delicate attachments, put them in this washing machine bag, and then place the bag in the washing machine. This will help keep any delicates intact during the washing cycle.

Dry Linen Sheets the Right Way

While it’s best to hang dry your linen sheets outside, this isn’t always possible, especially during cold weather, or if you live in an apartment. You can use a dryer to dry linen sheets, but it’s important to follow specific guidelines to ensure your sheets don’t become damaged.

  • If possible, hang dry your linen sheets outside.
  • Only use a dryer setting with low heat for a short period of time.
  • Don’t overdry your linen sheets. Remove them from the dryer to hang dry or lay flat while still damp.

Only put one sheet in the dryer at a time. Use low heat and keep the drying time in the dryer short. Although the flax fibers in linen are strong and durable, they are also brittle, so the constant throwing around in a dryer can cause the fibers to break. Remove your linen sheet from the dryer while it is still damp, and lay it flat to dry, or hang it on this indoor portable drying rack. Never overdry your linen sheets in the dryer, or allow them to sit in a dryer for extended periods of time. This will cause wrinkles, give your sheets a crinkly texture, and ultimately snap the fibers.

Remove Wrinkles from Linen Sheets

It’s not entirely necessary to remove wrinkles from linen sheets, but it will give them a better texture and avoid holes and tears forming along the hems and seams over time. To remove wrinkles, start by making sure your linen sheets are still quite damp. Linen sheets will not iron well, and the brittle fibers will even break if done completely dry. Set your iron to a warm temperature, or if your iron has it, use the linen setting. Then, follow the instructions below to iron each part of your linen sheets.

For a flat sheet, start by folding it in half, with the top of the sheet facing outwards. This will allow you to work wrinkles out of both sides of the sheet at the same time. Stretch and smooth the sheet flat before ironing. Slowly work your iron across the surface of your stretched linen sheet, working out any visible wrinkles. Be careful not to iron too close to the crease where you folded the sheet in half, as this can cause cracks in the fibers. You may need to reposition a larger linen sheet a few times on your ironing board to remove every wrinkle. Follow the same steps for pillowcases, but you can skip the step of folding them in half.

  • Only iron linen sheets when they are still damp. Never iron or try to remove wrinkles from dry linen sheets.
  • Use a warm temperature, or the linen setting, on your iron.
  • Iron your flat sheet and linen pillowcases with proper technique. Ironing your fitted sheet is optional.

You do not need to iron the bottom fitted sheet. Your mattress will help naturally remove wrinkles when the fitted sheet is pulled tight. The pressure of you sleeping on the fitted sheet will also help remove wrinkles over time. If you do still want to iron your fitted linen sheet, follow the same steps as you would for a flat sheet, but skip ironing the corners to avoid damaging the fibers.

Store Your Linen Sheets Properly

When storing your linen sheets, avoid folding them along the same crease every time. Because linen is a stiff fabric, the pressure and longevity of the crease can lead to tiny cracks in the fibers, weakening them. If you plan to keep a set of linen sheets stored away for a while, take them out after a month or two and refold them along a different crease until you plan to use them.

  • Fold your linen sheets at a different crease after each wash.
  • Refold stored linen sheets along a different crease if not used within a month or two after washing.
  • Do not apply starch to your linen sheets. 

Avoid applying starch if you are ironing your linen sheets prior to storing. While it can help with wrinkles, common house pests like silverfish can become attracted to starch while your sheets are in storage.

How Often Should You Wash Your Linen Sheets?

You should wash your linen sheets and pillowcases once per week to prevent oil and grime buildup. It’s always a good idea to keep two or three sets of linen sheets on hand, so you can easily switch them out every week. This will also make sure you don’t wear out one set of sheets too quickly.

Can You Bleach Linen Sheets?

Never use chlorine bleach on your linen sheets. It is unnecessary, could damage your sheets, and will reduce the lifespan of your linen. If you need to whiten your linen sheets or remove tough spots, try sun bleaching your sheets first. Similar to how linen used to be bleached prior to the creation of chemical products, the heat from the sun can help whiten or remove stains.

To start, put a protective layer on the ground. Another sheet is a good option. Lay your clean, damp linen sheet that you want to bleach on top of the protective layer, in the sun. Allow your linen sheet to sun bleach until it is whitened, but no more than 2 to 3 hours.

  • Do not use chlorine bleach products when washing your linen sheets.
  • Sun bleaching is the best option to whiten your linen sheets.
  • An alternative to chlorine bleach can also be used to whiten linen sheets.

If that doesn’t work, or sun bleaching isn’t an option, try using this chlorine bleach alternative when washing your linen sheets.

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Do You Have to Wash Linen Sheets Before Use?

Wash your linen sheets before using them for the first time. Linen sheets are made with smooth, flat, flax fibers that naturally get softer and more comfortable as they age. Washing your linen sheets before using them for the first time kick-starts the process of breaking the fibers in. Additionally, washing your linen sheets for the first time before use will remove any unknown and unwanted germs and bacteria.

How Do You Wash Linen Bed Sheets?

To care for linen sheets, do the following:

  • Check for any labels or instructions attached to your sheets for specific cleaning instructions. Do not put linen sheets that are not preshrunk in the washer and dryer.
  • Only use gentle laundry detergents when washing your linen sheets.
  • Use the delicate setting on your washing machine and set the proper water temperature for the color linen sheets you are washing.
  • Dry your linen sheets properly to avoid fiber damage.
  • Iron out any wrinkles in your linen sheets while they are still damp.
  • Safely store your linen sheets to preserve fibers and protect against pests.

With proper washing and drying care, your linen sheets can last you a long time. Remember, a gentle cycle and low-heat drying is the best way to make sure your linens remain of top quality for as long as possible.

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