Often regarded as a chore to care for in the past, linen care is a breeze today with high-tech, easy care finishes and treatments.
Maintaining the beauty of an Irish linen garment or household product over time is a very easy task as they are generally fully machine-washable and easy to iron, if line dried and not tumbled. Clear instructions are usually given on the manufacturer's label. Whatever way you clean it, always remember to follow the manufacturer's care label as these instructions take account of several variables such as the type of yarn, the fineness and composition of the fabric, the dye, the finishes and stain-resistant or crease-resistant treatments.
It is worth noting that often when the garment is laundered and worn for a period of time it can soften and the characteritic creasing may become less evident.
Many people prefer to wash linen with water, especially table and bed linens because the more it is washed, the softer and brighter it becomes. Its brightness comes from the nodes of the linen fibre, which reflect light. Linen washes well because it is stronger wet than dry. In general, linen can be washed at high temperatures, but a 60°C wash is usually effective as the smooth surface of the flax fibre allows stains to be released easily. As linen is highly absorbent, (it can absorb twice its weight in water before it drips), it soaks up more water during the wash cycle than most other fibres. It therefore washes better when the washing machine is not packed to capacity. As with all fabrics, wash dark colours separately.
Drying & Ironing
Linen dries quickly. It should not normally be tumble-dried as this can over-dry the fibres. However, some easy-care finishes have overcome this - products made from these fabrics will be clearly marked with the tumble dry symbol on the manufacturer's care label. White linens can be kept white by line drying them in direct sunlight and flat drying delicate items can help prevent creasing. Always iron linen when damp, first on the wrong side to eliminate creases and then on the right side to enhance the fabric's natural sheen. If the linen has already dried out before ironing, use a water spray to redampen it. A hot iron is usually recommended for linen, but with so many blends - especially in fashion fabrics - it is best to test iron first. A good steam iron will work best on pure linen.
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Caring for Linen While Travelling
Linen is ideal for hot climates. It conducts heat away from the skin, and its absorbent qualities leave the wearer feeling cool and refreshed in humid weather. It is a natural fabric, which allows the skin to breathe, and this makes it very comfortable for long journeys, particularly long flights. For people with sun allergies, or for protection in strong sun, linen is ideal. A long-sleeved shirt will help to protect the skin from harmful UV rays.
Linen is a very versatile fabric. It has very comfortable and casual, yet it also looks chic on more formal occasions. A small selection of linen garments can be mixed and matched to suit all situations from the beach to the cocktail party.
Most stains will come out at relatively low temperatures as the smooth surface of flax fibre allows stains to shed easily. This makes it ideal for use with travel wash is cool water. Linen dries quickly, so can be washed, dried and ready for wearing again very quickly.
The main points to remember when travelling with linen are:
- Pack linen in tissue or polythene if possible the plastic covers from dry cleaners are perfect. This will minimise creasing during the journey.
- Try to hang linen up as soon as possible - hanging in a damp atmosphere can often eliminate creases caused in transit. E.g. in the bathroom after a bath or shower.
- For absolutely pristine linen, use a good travel iron, preferably with a steam or spray facility.