How to wash linen — from clothes to sheets

Our laundry experts reveal how to wash linen clothes, sheets, curtains and more at home

White pillow and bed sheets
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While natural materials have their benefits, figuring out how to wash linen can be a little tricky. Whether it's clothes, bedsheets, or curtains, you may be a little intimidated to throw them in the wash.

But before you panic and run out to the dry cleaners, check out our guide on the best way to wash linen at home without damaging it. 

Our laundry experts break down everything you need to know about how to do laundry properly starting with this breezy fabric.

How to wash linen

Linen is a great choice for clothes as it's comfortable and looks sophisticated too. Linen bedsheets, like these neutral sheets available from Amazon, are a great choice for those who sleep warm as they're light and breathable.

If your closet and bedroom are full of this natural material, you'll need to give it a wash eventually. But don't worry, it's actually easier than you think, once you have all the laundry room essentials you're going to need.

Arm holding pile of colorful folded linens

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Step 1. check the care label

Before washing anything, it's always a good idea to check the care label for instructions. It's especially important with linen as your garment may not be 100% linen and could have special requirements.

"First things first, always consult the care label on your linen sheets or clothes. Different blends may have specific instructions, so it's best to review these first before attempting to clean," says cleaning expert, Karina Toner.

The laundry symbols on the tag will tell you if you can machine wash, tumble dry, iron, and more.

Karina Toner, Operations Manager, Spekless Cleaning
Karina Toner

Karina Toner is a cleaning expert and the Operations Manager at Washington D.C.-based Spekless Cleaning. 

Step 2. separate by color

To avoid color bleeding, make sure to separate your linens by color, dividing into whites, colors, and darks. Make sure the garments have enough room and don't overcrowd the drum. 

"When placing your linens into the washing machine, make sure to give them some breathing room. Overcrowding is definitely not the way to go. Always allow your laundry the freedom to move, ensuring a more thorough clean," says Karina.

Step 3. wash in lukewarm water

Use a gentle laundry detergent (we love Tide Free & Gentle detergent, available on Amazon) and wash your linens in lukewarm water ( around 40°C/104°F). Using hot water may damage the fibers and cause them to shrink — a pretty common laundry mistake.

"You should avoid using hot water on natural materials like wool and linen. Instead, opt for lukewarm or cold water to prevent shrinkage," says Angela Rubin, a cleaning expert from Hellamaid.

Don't use fabric softener as linen will naturally get softer with every wash. 

Angela Rubin, cleaning expert at HellaMaid
Angela Rubin

Angela Rubin works at Hellamaid, a top-rated cleaning company in Canada. Hellamaid are industry experts specializing in residential and commercial cleaning services. 

Step 4. dry on low heat

Linen is safe to go in the tumble dryer but you'll want to make sure you're using low heat so it doesn't shrink. Using some dryer balls, like these wool dryer balls available on Amazon with over 75k reviews, can help prevent your linen from coming out stiff and distorted. 

If you'd prefer to play it safe, you can also air-dry your linen clothes and sheets using a drying rack, like this Amazon Basics rack. "Air-drying in the sun is great for linens. Not only will you save money on energy, your sheets will look and smell great," says Angela.


How often should I wash linen sheets?

Linen handles wear and tear well, so you don't have to hold back when it comes to washing. It's pretty breathable so may require less washing than other materials.

For the best sleep hygiene we recommend washing your linen sheets every one to two weeks depending on your preference. 

Can I hand wash linen?

If you don't have access to a washing machine or you'd prefer to give your linens a little more love, they can easily be washed by hand. "Simply fill a basin with lukewarm water and add a gentle detergent. Using your hands, delicately swish it around and squeeze, allowing the detergent to work its magic between the fibers," says Karina.

Laundry day isn't always easy but our expert tips and tricks should help your routine go smoothly. 

If you're looking to banish some stuck-on odors from your linen clothes and sheets, try adding a cup of vinegar to the wash. Or see some simple ways to make your laundry smell good without dryer sheets. Happy washing!

Emily Lambe
Deputy Editor

Hey! I’m Emily and I’m the deputy digital editor at Real Homes. I’m here to bring you the latest decor trends, inspirational ideas, informative how tos, the latest celeb homes style and the best budget-friendly buys. I live in a rented apartment, making the most of small spaces and using accent pieces to make things pop. When I’m not writing, I’m usually doing yoga, eating chocolate or working on my skincare routine.