Linen is a precious, noble and beautiful fibre, capable of lasting intact over the years with the right care, which is why they are often handed down from generation to generation. This characteristic of linen fabrics was well known even to our grandparents, so much so that it has become a tradition to include beautiful linen sheets in the wedding trousseau, which will accompany the life of the bride and her new family for years to come. If you have purchased linen made of this precious fabric or if, like me, you are lucky enough to have inherited it, you may have wondered how to treat it to preserve its beauty and unique breathability. In the first case, it's just a matter of getting familiar with this fabric, which is actually quite easy to handle, with a few tricks: if linen sheets and tablecloths pass through generations, this means that there is always a way to stain them! On the other hand, when dealing with old linen, it can happen that we have to deal with unexplainable stains, often due to incorrect storage, perhaps in forgotten wooden trunks. Don't think, however, that this is the reason why sheets should be disposed of because they are irretrievable: thanks to my advice, you can manage all your linen in the best possible way, with simple habits that require just a little practice.

How to Wash Linen Sheets?

Linen can be easily washed both by hand and in the washing machine, always using natural-based detergents as much as possible. In general, linen loves water because with time and washing it swells and softens, creating an even more pleasant effect on the skin. This is why I recommend that you periodically wash even linen that you use less to refresh it, using natural-based detergents as much as possible and avoiding the use of bleach because it hardens the fibres and damages them. As for the temperature, this depends on the colour of your sheets, so remember to wash white and coloured linen separately, not exceeding 40 degrees for coloured linen and 60 degrees for white linen. Even if you are faced with particularly dirty sheets, it is important not to exaggerate with the quantity of detergent, always bear in mind that the size of a sheet in the washing machine could make it more difficult to remove all the detergent and traces could be deposited on the fabric, with the risk of ruining it.

If you then notice that your linen sheets have stubborn or difficult stains, you can intervene before washing. There are many stain removers on the market, more or less aggressive, but know that for centuries grandmothers have used natural and very effective methods to restore linen to its original splendour and perfect whiteness. Let us look together at natural remedies for the most frequent problems.

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Natural Remedies for Staining Linen Laundry

One thing that must always be kept in mind is that every stain is different and the more we know about them, the more we can act promptly and with the right remedy: let us look at the most suitable remedies for the most common types of stains.

  1. Red wine stains on the tablecloth: you can stain them with white wine, or as long as the stain is damp you can pour salt on the stain. The salt will absorb the stain, at which point you can rinse, and then re-wash with normal soap;
  2. Coffee stains: If you happen to stain the linen tablecloth with coffee, rinse it well and as quickly as possible with cold water. If, on the other hand, the stain is dry, dab with alcohol and then wash the whole tablecloth thoroughly with warm water and Marseille soap;
  3. Egg spots: are very tenacious and difficult to remove. You will have to wash several times with cold water and scrub vigorously with a laundry brush;
  4. Chocolate stains: should be rubbed with soap half an hour before washing. Let the soap work well and then proceed with a classic water wash;
  5. Oil or grease stains: this category should be treated with talcum powder, possibly on the stain while it is still damp; I also recommend washing them with dish soap, which has a strong degreasing effect;
  6. Blood stains: ammonia is good to help you remove blood stains, which should however be washed while the stain is still fresh in plenty of cold water.
  7. Yellowing or mould stains: If the linen has been in a cupboard or trunk for a long time, you may find signs of yellowing or mould. In the first case, soak it in milk for a few hours and then wash it well with Marseille soap. Against mould, on the other hand, take action with lemon juice and coarse salt, rubbing gently;

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If you find scattered specks of which you do not know the origin, rub some ordinary Marseille soap on the dry sheet when slightly damp, then leave the sheets to soak for a couple of hours in warm water with some bicarbonate of soda and coarse salt. Once the necessary time has elapsed, check the state of the stains and then wash them in the washing machine: if the stains have not disappeared, do not be demoralised, it may in fact take several washes to make the stains disappear completely. In these situations you can add Marseille soap to the washing machine drum, which you can also find in flakes on the market and is very useful for adding to the washing, as is hydrogen peroxide, which when put directly into the water has a bleaching effect. Try as often as you can to dry your white linen in the sun because the direct rays of the sun have a strong whitening effect and an antibacterial and anti-mite function, and remember not to iron stained sheets as the iron will fix the damage. Coloured linen does not like bleaching detergents, those that contain small blue fragments, because they are too aggressive on colours so it is a good rule to avoid them when washing these types of fabrics. To preserve the beauty of the linen, a further piece of advice I would give you is to use little fabric softener. This in fact is responsible for the piling of linen, the appearance of small balls of fibre that form with use and maintenance, giving it an aged and neglected look. As I said above, to get soft linen, wash it often and rinse it well, air-drying it when possible.

How to Iron Linen Sheets and Tablecloths

A first trick I suggest to keep your linen beautiful is to air dry it, as this will create fewer creases. If you wash it in the washing machine, try not to leave it in the drum too long at the end of the wash and do not overspin. The simple benefit of water on linen fabrics means that by air-drying the creases will stretch, maintaining a very natural and beautiful movement that is part of its nature and that I prefer not to iron. However, if you like your linen sheet or tablecloth to be starched, I recommend ironing it damp: you can use a common sprayer with water and moisten the fibres well before ironing. If you have several garments to iron, dampen everything and keep your sheets folded while you iron the others. Linen can be ironed at high temperatures and also tolerates steam very well and, indeed, the thicker the yarn, the more heat you will need, but remember that when the cloth is dry, it will be more difficult to remove all the creases. If your linen tablecloth or sheet has fold lines because it was stored folded in a cupboard, you can, without ironing it, dampen the lines with a spray bottle and leave them to dry directly on the table or bed, ironing out the folds with your hands.

How to Fold and Store Linen.

Linen sheets and tablecloths are valuable garments and should therefore be stored carefully to make them last as long as possible. Folding them carefully and storing them in a cupboard free of moisture and mould is a minimum measure to keep them looking good. In the old days, it was customary to line the inside of wardrobes with paper or, better still, a durable fabric that kept the linen clean and dry, protected from moisture and dirt. It was also customary to embellish the shelves with a border, which also served to conceal the nails, splices and staples needed to secure the fabric or paper. If you like this slightly retro detail, you could try your hand at this little DIY job that will make your linen cupboard really special and with an inimitable style. One thing I really love is to place small lavender bags in the corners of the wardrobe, to give an extra touch to the linen, with a scent that will be released every time you spread the sheets on the bed or set the table with your elegant linen tablecloth.

If you have space, you can adopt the method we use at Borgo delle Tablecloths: we store them folded on wooden hangers to hang in the wardrobe, this will keep them fluffier and minimise fold lines. Another really good method is to insert sheets of tissue paper between each fold of the tablecloth, whether you store it lying flat in a cupboard or as we do hanging it on a hanger like a precious evening dress. The paper ensures that the fibres do not crush and the folds are less noticeable.

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