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Sanity check: laundering linen?
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jducoeur
I've finally finished unpacking everything from Pennsic, and today is quiet enough to be largely dedicated to laundry. But I am suddenly butting up against yet another of those moments where I realize that I don't know how my life works. Specifically: how does one wash linen?

My Pennsic garb is heavily linen -- after all, when dealing with the heat of Pennsic, why would one wear anything else? (This is why you see me in so much medieval garb at Pennsic. My Renaissance outfits are mostly cotton; my medieval ones are in many cases head-to-toe linen, and much more comfy in the heat and humidity.) So I have an entire hamper made of nothing else. The articles and colors vary wildly, but all of it is linen.

But of course, Jane used to do all the laundry, and I've never washed this stuff. So I'll toss the question out to the network: what should I do or not do? My instinct is that machine-washing on delicate is probably okay. (Should I get some Woolite or such instead of using ordinary detergent?) Not sure whether it is appropriate to tumble dry on a cool setting, or whether it all needs to be hung to dry. I'm not terribly worried about it wrinkling (it's linen -- wrinkles are a feature), and I'm not *too* worried about wear, since I wear each of these outfits only a couple of times a year. I am a great believer in the principle that linen is at its best when it is a little worn, and the fabric starts to relax.

So: opinions? I'm flying blind here, so words from the fabric geeks would be welcome...
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I'm *so* glad I'm not the only one getting to Pennsic laundry only this week (actually, one of the bags was hidden...).

Linen is easy, wash it however you like, no need for the delicate cycle. I wash them on medium and dry them on medium. Do whites and colors separately though. Since it's been awhile, you might want to run them through twice.


Me, I wash mine in cold or cool water, like colors together, and then either hang them up to dry or run them through the dryer until they are nearly dry. If the pieces have been washed often enough, they won't run (much), which is why I use the cool water and ALWAYS use Shout color-catcher cloths. Most important in my experience -- take them out as soon as they finish washing. The colors will bleed onto one another as much from the clothes sitting on each other wet than from the loose dye in the wash floating around and settling back on something.

(Good question. I had to think about it, since it's been a while since I washed more than one piece in a standard load.)

Weird. I never have problems with linen running.

Plain linen can pretty much be washed just like cotton. Linen takes heat pretty well even.

I tend to wash linen on delicate & hang to dry to extend the life of the fabric, but, it's not nearly as difficult as wool. I use regular detergent even.

I've been told that oxyclean will destroy linen. I haven't tested it myself.

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It does get "boardy" but I then iron it. That said, I have some linen dresses with wool trim, so, there's some conflict in my garb fibers.

I wash linen cold/cold and dry until it's almost dry and hang up to lessen wrinkles.

I treat linen the same as my other normal clothes -- machine-wash on normal (lights and darks separate), dry on medium heat, remove and fold promptly.

I'm in the same camp, but it should be noted that it depends how the linen was treated prior to turning it into a garment.

If you're (Justin) sure she threw it into the wash, then go ahead and do that, ditto the dryer.

(When I'm prepping linen for sewing, I wash and dry it on hot a couple of times, and then step back to medium when the garment is done. If I feel like line-drying it, I'll often set it to tumble at low afterwards to remove the stiffness.)

I treat linen like I do my other clothing - heck the more you wash it the softer it becomes...only thing I do is I pre-wash it before making anything with it on high hot temperatures for maximum shrinkage. I haven't had any real problems with dye issues either after making clothes with it.

In reading other comments, perhaps I am too cautious with my linen. I do wash it on regular (I have a front load washer, so it's like delicate cycle for a top loader as far as wear on clothes) with woolite or other delicate wash. When I started having linen garb, I read up on the internet and was told by the ever-reliable oracle that linen fibers are not as strong as cotton's when wet, so a super-agitating top loader might cause undue wear. Also to use a soap like woolite rather than a detergent as it's better for the fiber; I cannot cite my source. I use warm for whites and cold for colors because of potential for bleeds, but it is not usually a problem *except with RED*. I wash reds separately if possible, as some bleed like mad.

Internet also said that heat drying will over time weaken linen, but I believe we're talking hundreds of dryings, not dozens. I line dry my stuff if feasable, because I have few dresses I wear often. It sounds like you are the opposite, so go for it with the dryer on medium or low.

Yes -- Jane beat the red lesson into my head many years ago. (And now that I have one lovely pink shirt, I am being much more careful to remember it...)

I always pre-wash all my linen fabric in warm (sometimes hot, but not really hot) water and put it through the dryer on hot; I figure if it's going to shrink, better then than later after I've sewn it up. For general care, I usually use cool-to-warm water, a modest amount of ordinary detergent (for me, that's usually one of the free/clear types), tumble dry medium, and then iron it before wearing it. (Yes, I iron everything, even chemises; I suppose it makes me a glutton for punishment, but I can't help thinking that, for stuff I'm wearing, it just looks much better if I iron it first. YMMV, of course.) If you're not sure how it was dried in the past, I'd say either hang it to dry, or use a low setting on the dryer & check frequently, perhaps taking it out when it's still damp & hanging it to finish drying. Also, since it's been sitting around a while, I'd check it for obvious stains, grease spots, etc., and treat those before washing--a bit of detergent scrubbed in w/an old toothbrush works on most stains, and dishwashing liquid is especially good on grease. Oh, yes, and wash whites & similar shades apart from colors, and red all by its lonesome, but it sounds as if you already knew that. :-)

I pre-wash all linen and dry on hot and then machine wash and dry on medium.

Pennsic being Pennsic, I also add in a cup of white vinegar per wash to deal with any mold or mildew that a delayed washing can allow to fester.

Don't think there's any mold/mildew danger -- in general, my laundry went into the hamper dry. But good point: I'll at least give it a good poke and sniff first...

Wow. I wash all it all by hand, hang it to dry, and if I'm organized, iron it while it's still damp. Living in the past even in the laundry department, I guess.

I wash mine on delicate, cold water, and my regular detergent (but I use a green, gentle, dye and scent free detergent for all my stuff). I dry on the gentle cycle in the dryer. My stuff is fine and the linen i've done this too for a few years is very soft.

as someone has already noted, it really depends on how it was pre-washed. as store bought, I might check for wash instructions. (i think some of them have them)
I usually wash mine warm like everything else, but that is my home made stuff. since it sounds like you have enough for straight loads anyways, I would probably just wash and dry it all on delicate/cool to be safe. or you could test wash a couple of pieces with normal laundry and see if they have any problems.

Woollite, or shampoo for protein fibers (silk, wool, etc.)
Regular detergent for cellulose fibers (cotton, linen)

I have been told by numerous people that drying linen in the dryer will break down the fabric. So for our voluminous RevWar linens (everything that isn't wool is linen), we wash them in the washer on either warm or cold (depending upon whether it's white or colored) and then ALWAYS hang it dry. When I first make a garment, I prewash the linen fabric on warm (any color) and dry it ONCE on hot, but after that, it gets hung-dried.

Yes, this does make the linen stiff (for my lord's shirts, they resemble sails). But after you put it on and wear it for a few minutes, they soften right up. And this has allowed my lord's shirts to survive for *ten* years - with many wearings per year, and a lot of hard usage.

(It's scary when you start counting the age of your *clothing* in decades.)

Hmm. I suspect that frequency of usage comes into play here. It likely matters much more for you (where you are wearing each outfit frequently) than for me (each outfit 1-2 times/year)...