I was inspired to write this post after finding sadly rumpled fitted sheets and other linens jumbled into closets and baskets time and again. Our lovely linens are slept on every night, they dry us off daily after we shower or wash our hands, we count on them to keep crumbs and stains off our tabletop and other surfaces. I love linens, old and new…I adore their function and beauty so lets give our linens some love and learn to care for them to help them last.
Think about all the linens you use in your daily life, how and where you use them, store them, fold them and treat them. Though I don’t necessarily fold everything as Marie Kondo does, I do take the time to thoughtfully fold or hang each linen, giving them adequate storage to keep things neat and tidy and allow for easy access.
Keeping Linens Clean
Because I have a degree in fibers, people often pick my brain about cleaning their linens, especially vintage and antiques. Though I won’t go into great detail about vintage linens in this post, I will offer some suggestions for cleaning which will help prevent damage to your linen collection, no matter the age. The most important thing to know is what fiber your linens are made of and feel them to determine if they are brittle and dry, if so they may not be strong enough to clean. Most vintage and antique linens are likely made of cotton, linen or a blend. Special linens like blankets and some towels may also contain other natural fibers like silk or wool. Cotton and linen are fibers made from plants, wool and silk are made from animals, therefore each type of fiber will need to be cleaned differently. If your not sure, check out this post for more helpful info. Generally speaking, treat your linens in a more delicate manner than you might some other household laundry. According to Victoria & Albert Museum (and other textile conservationists),
“If you wish to preserve your textiles, you need to avoid or minimise the need to clean them. It is important to prevent dirt accumulating rather than causing unnecessary damage by repeated cleaning treatments. Not all textiles were originally intended to be washable.”
If you get a stain on linens, pre-treat as soon as possible. Lots of people like to use products like oxy clean, which are safe and effective in a general sense. If you are stain prone and want more specific stain pre treatments, check out these specialized products formulated for specific stains. Use color safe (non-chlorine bleach) on colors, and chlorine bleach on whites as needed (use caution, this can degrade fibers over time). Add vinegar to substitute half or so of the detergent which will help remove extra detergent residue.
Sort linens by color and type of fiber, washing according to labels (if you can find them). Wash towels using cool or warm water (unless you feel the need to sanitize, if someone has been sick for example), without fabric softener which can prevent towels from absorbing water and doing their jobs:). Shake towels when removing from the wash to fluff them up before drying. I recommend cleaning delicate items separately, using delicate laundry bags for smaller items and hang them to dry. Hang dry as many items as possible which can help prevent wear and damage.
Dry cleaning may not be necessary if the linen is made of cotton, linen, acrylic (blends), nylon or polyester. When a label says “Dry Clean”, it is recommended but when the label says “Dry Clean Only”, that’s what is highly recommended to prevent damaging the item. The site “Tip Nut” offers some great recipes for cleaning vintage linens. If you are a linen lover like I am, see this excellent video to learn more about specific vintage linen cleaning products and techniques.
Where you store each type of linen, will of course depend on your home’s storage spaces. You may have room to store your extra towels in the bathroom, extra sheets in a closet or cabinet etc. Many homes have a “linen closet” in a hallway, outside the bedrooms. These widely vary in size and function. Take a quick evaluation of where you currently keep where. Furniture can also function as a great place to store linens, especially place mats, fabric napkins, table runners and other kitchen/dining room linens.
Overflow and extra storage can be placed in plastic bins if needed. Store less used items with cedar chip sachet’s (I can’t stand Moth Balls-who can!?) to protect them from moth damage. Always, always store linens clean. Body oil and food residue will attract moths and cause long term damage. Prevent linens from directly coming into contact with wood, some plastics and cardboard, which are not archival or acid free. We often find yellow stains on older linens that were stored improperly. If you have vintage or antique linens, invest in archival storage to preserve your treasures.
Kitchen & Dining Room Linens
Since these are often both functional and decorative, there are no “rules” to how many you might have. Some people collect liens, other use paper towels for everything, not sure why when there are so many fun kitchen linens! When it comes to purging kitchen linens, let them go when they are badly stained, miss matched, have holes or are “out of style” or you’ve changed your decor.
The kitchen is the obvious spot to keep towels, rags and aprons as well as frequently used place mats and napkins. If you have a spare drawer or two you can store these items directly in your cabinets. You can also keep some linens in baskets, neatly tucked into your pantry or other convenient spots. Keeping like with like w
ill minimize rummaging through and leaving linens in a jumble. I prefer to hang long table cloth’s and runners, ironed and folded. If you dry clean your larger table cloths, remove the plastic and leave linens hanging. I recommend storing seasonal linens with other seasonal decorations, with the exception of table cloths, which should be hung or folded neatly.
- Hand Towels
- Dish Towels-some people differentiate -for example using flower sack cloths for drying dishes
- Place mats
- Table cloth’s
- Fabric Napkins
- Cocktail Napkins
- Table Runners
As a rule, keep 2 sets of sheets for each bed in the household, that way you are only storing one set of extra. Reuse, donate or recycle old sheets if they are badly stained, torn or very worn. If you have extra closet space in the bedrooms, you might be able to store bedroom linens in each bedroom closet. This can help to identify what sheets go on what bed!
Keep like size sheet sets together, folded neatly (see how to fold a fitted sheet here) and either on a shelf or in a basket, labeled (with the roo
m/size). Like kitchen linens, bedroom linens can be seasonal and may contain body oils that should be cleaned before storing linens for the season.
- Sheets-flat and fitted in various sizes
- Duvet Covers
- Coverlets and quilts
Fluffy towels, who doesn’t love them!? Some people use a different towel every day, which honestly seems excessive to me, especially since we use our towels to dry off our Clean bodies! I recommend changing towels ever few days to week, depending on your personal preference and lifestyle. I prefer a tri-fold for towels, which make them look neat when hanging on the rod but also allows them to evenly dry between uses. However you like to display your towel, use the same fold when you store them so that you are not re-folding when you put out new linens.
- Hand Towels
- Bath Towels
- Wash cloth’s
- Floor mat’s
- Beach Towels
PS…I didn’t mention Ironing…did you notice? Bah, I don’t love to iron and tend to go for fabric’s that don’t require it, or I steam, or I store up ironing and do it all at once while watching a movie! How about you? Do you like to iron, love to do laundry, hate to fold? What’s your least or most favorite part of taking care of your linens?