Different types of fabric require different care methods. This is especially true with natural fibres such as linen. To make your linen stay looking good and to ensure that it lasts a long time, you must know the proper way to care for this type of fabric.

Introduction to Linen

To understand whether or not linen shrinks, you must first know how this fabric is made. This type of fabric is derived from the stems of a flax plant that is commonly grown in areas with a cool climate. 

Once the flax plant is harvested, the fibres are removed through several processes such as retting and scutching. The fibres then go through additional processes before they are spun and woven into the textile product, which is known as linen. 

The fibres derived from the flax plant are highly durable because of their crystalline structure. For this reason, linen is one of the most sought-after fabrics in the world due to its strength. This also makes this fabric highly sustainable as compared to synthetic fabrics. This is why linen is used for a variety of products including clothing, towels, bags, bed linens, and so on.

Even though linen is known as a strong fabric, it is also cool and comfortable to wear. It is an especially popular type of fabric to wear during the summer months since it is highly breathable.  

 techniques and approaches when caring for linen

Does Linen Shrink?

Despite its natural strength, yes linen does shrink. This is a natural process of the fabric after the initial wash. Pure linen, for example, has an average shrinkage rate of 4%. A lot of clothing manufacturers sell pre-washed linen fabric to retain the size and shape of the garment even after it is washed by the customer for the first time. Once you wash it after an initial wash, the natural shrinkage of the fabric will significantly drop.

This process of shrinking is described by the National Cleaners Association as a result of the fibres stretching during the manufacturing process. The fibres relax when it becomes wet, which also restores the natural size of the fibre. This causes the fabric to appear shrunk.

Aside from being wet, exposure to heat can also cause linen fabric to shrink. Washing linen in hot water will cause greater shrinkage than when you use cold water. 

Furthermore, putting the linen fabric in the dryer can cause greater shrinkage – again due to the exposure to heat. For this reason, you might want to hang your linen fabric in the fresh air instead of putting it in the dryer to prevent it from shrinking. Another option is to tumble dry your linen fabric on the lowest temperature setting. 

Just to be sure, always check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to care for your linen garments or items to preserve their quality.

Care Tips for Linen

As mentioned earlier, there are different care techniques and approaches when caring for linen. Make sure that you know the proper way to care for this type of fabric to avoid shrinking and preserve its quality.

  • Use the gentle or delicate setting on your washing machine when washing linen fabric. Do not use extreme temperature settings (hot or cold). 
  • Choose the maximum water level setting in your washing machine to wash this fabric. This will give the fabric adequate room to move freely. Moreover, avoid crowding the washing machine as this can twist and pull at the fabric during the washing process.
  • If you are hand washing the linen, use a gentle motion. Do not scrub at it or twist it too hard. Hand washing is recommended for this type of delicate fabric. 
  • If the linen is pre-washed, it is safe to put in a tumble dryer. Make sure to remove it while slightly damp. 
  • If possible, air-dry your linen clothes and garments in a well-ventilated area. 

What to Do if Linen Shrinks

If shrinking has occurred, is there a way for you to salvage the damage? Maybe. 

The first thing you need to do is wash it again using lukewarm water. Use a mild detergent for this. When you take it out of the water, gently squeeze any excess water and let it dry for a few minutes. 

With the fabric still damp, iron the fabric on a mild temperature setting. This will help to stretch the fabric out into its original size. Use only a gentle, pressing motion to avoid causing damage to the fabric. 

Final Thoughts

Giving proper care to your linen fabric is a must if you want to keep your garments or clothing items in good condition for a long time. This is important if you value the sustainability that this type of fabric has to offer. Giving this natural fabric the proper care will give you more wear out of it and prevent the need to buy new clothes all the time. 

May 11, 2022 — Al Dunstan