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How To Wash Linen Clothes in Washing Machine (Step-by-Step)

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Linen garments are relatively easy to wash, but following the wrong procedure may ruin this luxurious fabric. Fortunately, it is one of the few fabrics that improve with subsequent washes.

Start by reading the washing instructions, then separate dark and bright linen garments. Then, turn them inside out before putting them in your washing machine. Use a mild laundry detergent because regular detergent may damage the fabric. Wash on the Delicate or Gentle wash, then dry immediately.

Keep reading for an in-depth description of how to wash your linen clothes in a machine. I will guide you through the recommended step-by-step process and hopefully answer your questions.

How to Wash Linen Clothes (Step-By-Step Guide)
I recorded a step-by-step video guide on how to wash your linen clothes for you as well.

1. Read the Washing Instructions

Read the washing instructions on your garment tags to learn about the specific washing requirements of each item. This step is necessary because some garments are made from a blend of different fabrics and need extra care when washing.

Here is the tag on my shirt. It says maximum 30 degrees, no chlorine bleach, and that it can be ironed.

You will also confirm whether the linens can be machine-washed or hand-washed.

2. Separate the Dark, Medium, and Bright Colors

Whether you are hand-washing or machine-washing your linens, separating darks, mediums and brights are essential. It prevents dark, bleeding dyes from ruining your brightly colored garments.

Here I have separated the whites from the dark colors. It can also be beneficial to further separate the delicates from the more sturdy clothes.

Avoid mixing linen clothes with other fabrics because of the different requirements.

Furthermore, darker linens should only be washed with cold water because it reduces color bleeding (and fading).

After a few washes, your clothes may no longer bleed color, and you can skip this step. However, I recommend doing this every time just to be safe.

More on what clothes you can wash together here.

3. Turn Your Linens Inside-Out

It is quick to turn the clothes inside out, and they will last longer.

Turning your linens inside out before washing has the following benefits:

  • Eliminates all the sweat and dead skin that builds up on the inside of your clothes
  • Reduces fading and color bleeding
  • Protects the fabric by reducing pilling
  • Protects embellishments from excessive friction that may detach them from your linens
  • Keeps detergent stains inconspicuous because they only form on the inside of your clothes
  • It makes it easier to hang the clothes after washing

4. Treat Stains on Soiled Linens (Optional)

Pretreating the garments with stains using some gentle detergent or stain remover is really effective overall.

If your linens are soiled, first treat the stains. You can do so through the following methods:

  • Soak the stains in a mix of cold water and some stain remover for five minutes(check that the product is safe on linen).
  • If the stains are from red wine, pour some club soda on the stain, then rinse with cold water.
  • Eliminate pen stains using hairspray. Turn the item inside out and spray onto the stain while holding a towel against it on the outside.

I recommend that you also read the following in-depth articles that I wrote previously on removing the following types of stains:

5. Don’t Overfill Your Washer

Loading up the washing machine.

Experts recommend machine washing linen garments on a half load for the following reasons:

  • Overfilling may damage the linen fabric by twisting or pulling your clothes out of shape.
  • Linen is pretty absorbent, so it needs to be washed with a lot of water.
  • Adding too many clothes in a cycle forms a large clump that bars detergent from fully penetrating all the clothes.

Wash linen on a half load to ensure that your clothes get clean without getting tangled.

6. Use a Mild Laundry Detergent

Adding a very gentle detergent to the washer.

Add laundry detergent into your washer’s soap compartment, not directly on the linen clothes. You may also use half a cup of baking soda instead.

Avoid regular detergent because it contains ingredients that may be too harsh on the linen fabric. For bleaching, never use chlorine bleach. Instead, opt for oxygenated bleach, which is more gentle on the fabric.

Fabric softeners may also contain harsh ingredients and should not be used on linen garments. Instead, add a quarter cup (59 ml) of vinegar to the fabric softener compartment. It works just like a fabric softener, except it is more gentle.

Only use mild detergents formulated for washing linen or delicates. Whenever possible, use a liquid detergent because it doesn’t leave a soapy residue on clothes. 

TYLER Glamorous Wash, Diva (Amazon paid link) is what I recommend. This product is specially formulated for delicate fabrics such as linen. It is multipurpose and can be used for hand or machine washing. Tyler Glamorous Wash also has a pleasant, long-lasting aroma.

7. Wash on Delicate or Gentle Cycle

I used the handwash in the video guide, but a delicates cycle will also work great.

Choose Delicate Wash (also called Gentle Wash on some washing machines) for your linens. If your device has neither option, wash on a long soak and short wash and spin cycle. 

The ideal temperature for washing linen is 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). This will adequately eliminate dirt and body oils without causing shrinkage or damaging the fabric fibers. 

As mentioned earlier, linen is pretty absorbent. Therefore, select the highest water level possible for effective cleaning. A safety tip here is to confirm the maximum water pressure and level allowed for your washing machine from the instruction manual.

8. Remove the Clothes Immediately After the Cycle Ends

Tor holding linen shirt.

Linen wrinkles easily, so leaving your clothes in the washing machine long after a cycle will cause creases.

Moreover, linen is prone to mold because it is an organic fabric. Letting your linen garments stay for too long in the washer encourages mold growth. Unfortunately, even removing mold from the clothes leaves behind conspicuous mold stains.

9. Dry Correctly

Dry Clothes WITHOUT a Dryer (Using Indoors Drying Rack)
Here is a video I made on how to dry your clothes using a clothing rack.

Before drying, read the instructions provided on each garment tag. These will guide you on the exact temperatures for drying your linens.

One way to dry them is to hang your linen clothes out to air dry. This method saves electricity and is convenient because you don’t need a dryer.

A dryer is also suitable for this task, but you should keep the temperature low to prevent shrinking and wrinkling. Remove the clothes before they are completely dry to ease the ironing process (which should only be done when necessary).

Final Thoughts

Caring for your linen garments when washing sustains the fabric and prevents wrinkling. 

By following the recommended steps, you will get your linens clean without compromising the fabric and keep wearing them for a long time.


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