One of mankind’s earliest known textiles, luxurious linen was reserved for ancient civilizations’ elites, and purportedly, Heaven’s angels. Coveted for its strength, durability, and superior wicking qualities, linen is an exceptionally good choice for bedding and sheets. If linen has a flaw, it’s singular drawback is that it remains exceedingly difficult and labor-intensive to produce – even to this day.
The best linen is made from European-grown flax. Yes, the same plant that yields healthy edible seeds and oils, provides the raw material for the world’s finest linen. However, the versatile flax plant requires specialized cultivation, and added care during harvest – and throughout the entire manufacturing process – which accounts for linen’s higher price.
When newly spun, linen’s characteristic crispness is attributable to the flax plant’s long, stiff fibers. Unlike cotton, linen lacks the same elasticity, giving it a rough feel when new – not the optimal texture for a comfortable night’s sleep.
However, linen is shy, and reveals its soft charms slowly. If you want your new linen sheets to feel like a treasured family heirloom quickly, try these tips for speeding up the break in period.
Soaking & Washing
New linen sheets look amazing straight out of their packaging – but you won’t want to sleep on them until you’ve washed them – at least once – if not multiple times.
Begin the softening process by washing your new linen sheets in cool or cold water, using the gentle cycle, and a mild laundry soap – but not detergent. (Learn more about the difference between laundry soap, and laundry detergents here).
Natural Fabric Softeners
You can further hasten the softening of linen sheets by adding ½ cup of baking soda, or 1 cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle. Avoid chemical softeners, instead put a terry cloth towel in with your sheets to increase friction on the fibers to accelerate the fabric’s softening.
You can also soak your new linen sheets in a stronger solution of 1 cup vinegar to one gallon of water in a basin overnight. Finish with another wash, and don’t worry about your sheets smelling like a tossed salad, as the scent of vinegar will dissipate in the rinse cycle.
Drying & Ironing
Next, toss your freshly laundered linen sheets in the dryer and tumble on low, (with wool dryer balls if you have them). It’s possible to “cook” linen fibers so avoid high heat and over-drying. Remove your linen sheets before they’re completely dry, then, iron on high heat.
Line drying is also a lovely way to care for your new linen sheets. While the sun works its solar magic, the gentle movement of sheets blowing in the breeze creates friction among the fibers, helping them to relax for a softening effect.
This natural fiber is well known for its rumpled, wrinkled look – we think it’s part of their charm. However, by following these initial washing, drying and pressing steps helps relax your linen sheets, and prevent wrinkles from permanently setting in.
Eco-Friendly Linen for a Healthy Life
Look to linen sheets as a long-term investment in your health and well-being. Naturally hypoallergenic, eco-friendly linen is the perfect choice for anyone with sensitive skin, or for those who suffer from allergies.
With proper care, your lovely linen sheets will only get softer and more supple with age – and, last you a lifetime. Or two.