Viva Life Hacks: How To Care For Your Linen Clothing
Prepare for a long summer lounging in linen by caring for yours correctly
Ah, linen; the perfect comfortable, breathable material. With its pleasingly light yet sturdy texture, it's the perfect fabric to wear over summer.
First things first — what is the actual difference between linen and cotton? While both are natural fibres, cotton comes from the cotton plant and linen is made from the flax plant. Linen is said to be the world’s strongest natural fibre, and this means it’s a durable fabric that, with proper care, will last for a long time.
Linen is thought to have natural 'wicking' properties, meaning it attracts moisture away from the body, hence why it's an excellent choice to wear in the warmer months. So, what’s the best way to care for it?
Unlike most other fabrics, it’s recommended that most of the time you don’t dry clean linen unless it's a very structured suit or blazer. The chemicals used in the dry cleaning process can react with the linen, and weaken the fibres. Like cotton, linen can also shrink so a lukewarm or cold water wash is the way to go.
It's recommended not to bleach linen, even if it's white already, so whether you're machine washing or hand washing, choose a detergent that's gentle and free of brighteners and bleach. A short, gentle cycle is best if machine washing, at the same time as similarly delicate fabrics — no jeans or heavy sweaters.
Linen is a fast-drying fabric, so because of this it's usually best to air-dry anything made from the fabric, lying flat. If you do want to use a tumble dryer, dry on a very low heat setting and remove from the dryer while it's still damp to avoid it becoming crispy and brittle, or shrinking. Laying linen clothing on a towel and then on a clothing rack is a good way to avoid marks in the fabric.
Some would say part of linen's charm is it's slightly crinkly, textured look, but if you're not a fan of too many wrinkles, you can iron on a medium-high setting while the fabric is still damp. White linen can be ironed on both sides, while with dark linen it's best to iron on the reverse side to avoid fading or shiny patches.
If your fabric is already completely dry, spraying it with water from a spray bottle then ironing is a good idea. You can also use a spray bottle to soften creases in linen without ironing — simply spray on a crease, smooth with your hands and allow it to air-dry.
If you happen to get a mark on your linen clothing, don't fret! For coloured linen, it's ideal to patch-test any stain removers on the seam on the inside of the garment with a cotton tip to see if it will lift the colour off. Try baking soda and water as this is less likely to weaken the fabric and lead to rips later on.
Yvonna van Hulzen of Ponsonby-based label Widdess recommends another trick: "Often we get asked by customers how to spot clean after they have split some food. What is usually left behind is the oil from the food, so a good trick is to use ordinary talcum powder! Dust some on the stain rub it in a bit and leave for a couple hours then simply brush off. The talcum will have absorbed all the oil. This works a treat on natural fabrics."