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How to prevent linen from shrinking

How to prevent linen from shrinking

Linen is such an amazing material with so many benefits, such as keeping us cool in summer and warming us up in winter. Then, there is the fact it’s so eco-friendly and sustainable. 

In other words, it has a lot going for it. The only downside is that if it’s not looked after properly – especially when washing and ironing – then the material is liable to shrink a little. This is fine if you feel your linen table cloth or curtains are already a little long! But, if they’re just right and shrinking will make them look a little weird, then read on if you plan on washing them any time soon.


What makes linen shrink?

Linen shrinks when it ‘relaxes.’ According to the National Cleaners Association, this is because when it’s being manufactured, the fibres in linen actually stretch. And, it’s when the material is wet that this happens. 

When dry, the fibres relax and shrink between 2 and 4 per cent being a natural fibre.

The amount of shrinkage will usually be up to four per cent. In much rarer cases though, it can be as much as 10 per cent. Hot water will cause linen to shrink more than linen which is washed in cold water.


Stop your lovely linen from shrinking

Always wash your linen curtains, bed spreads, pillow cases, etc in cold water to stop them shrinking.

@TheLaundressNY: “Water temperature determines the strength of the cleaning process. However, selecting the appropriate water temperature for a particular fabric is essential… Warm water has good cleaning power without being too aggressive on fabrics. It’s ideal for cotton, linen, and durable synthetics that are somewhat dirty, but not heavily soiled.”

If you’re using a washing machine then wash linen separately. Just like with other textiles, make sure you separate the light from the dark colours. Don’t overstuff your machine and make sure the detergent you use is mild.

When hand washing linen in the sink add one teaspoon of a mild detergent to your water and let the linen soak for at least 10 minutes. When you return to the sink, swish your hands around so that the linen moves around the tub (don’t twist it as that’ll disturb the fibres). Rinse the linen until all the detergent has gone.

Of course, you can use dry clean linen, but it is more expensive. 


How to use a dryer for linen

And, on that note, you can also put it in the tumble dryer. But, don’t do it at too high a heat as this won’t just result in the fibres shrinking, it will also cause them to break.

Instead, place the linens on a low heat and remove them when they are still damp. If you want to iron your linen (so there are no creases), do so at this point using an iron on a medium heat setting.

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