• Michael Moon

Helping Linens Look Their Best

At the many family dinners, festive parties, and neighborhood open houses this holiday season, you want your table to look perfect. Many linens are special, especially when they are gifts or heirlooms handed down from generation to generation. Unfortunately, even on holidays, people have accidents and spill food and drinks. Read on to learn more about the steps you can take at home to treat these stains yourself. Remember that if you have any doubts about how to approach your specific item, you may always bring it to us.

Tips for cleaning most types of linens

If a stain occurs during a party, don't rub it. Gently wipe away any large residue while being careful not to stain clean parts of the item. Afterwards, blot gently with water. This will increase the probability of removing stains when cleaning the item after the event has ended.

When cleaning, you should consider the item's age/condition, stains/damaged areas, fiber content/fabric construction, trims, and how it was stored. Before cleaning, thoroughly inspect the item for stains, damage from insects and light exposure, and damage to trims. Remove or reinforce trims, and check and mend tears.

On colored linens or linens with colored trims, test for colorfastness prior to cleaning. Apply a water/detergent solution to an inconspicuous area, then blot with a paper towel. If dye transfers to the towel, the item should not be washed. Colors in embroidery will need to be individually tested.

A tip to ironing linens is to do so while the items are still damp. This will remove many unwanted folds and creases that are not easily removed when trying to iron the item while dry. Take note of the heat level on your iron. Most linens tolerate very high heat but some delicate items may burn if ironed too hot.

Before storage, make sure your linens are cleaned and stains are removed. Soiling and stains attract insects that may damage the item during storage if left untreated. Afterwards, be sure to store your linens in a cool, dry, dark area. If in doubt on how to properly care for your linens, consult us.

How do you care for antique linens?

Many families use heirloom linens during the holiday season. We may not be able to restore previously damaged heirlooms, but careful cleaning can help to prevent more damage. Whether you take an heirloom item in to be cleaned prior to or after use, let us know the age, fiber content, and even how it has been stored. This will help to determine the best possible cleaning methods.

If you choose to clean an heirloom yourself, limit yourself to hand washing only. Many items made within recent years will even recommend specific cleaning methods for the item for long lasting heirloom quality. Before beginning, inspect the item for damage and test for colorfastness (see tips section). Hand wash using warm water and a mild detergent, rinse thoroughly, and air dry. For some items, soak using enough water to cover adequately. Do not crowd.

Soak between five and 10 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly. Do not pull, tug, or wring while wet as this can cause some fabrics to tear due to abrasion caused by these actions.

How do you care for lace?

Lace tablecloths are also a favorite for holiday dinners and parties. Lace can be made of a variety of fibers including cotton, linen, ramie, and polyester. Crochet, knitting, embroidery, and cut work are the most common techniques used to create lace tablecloths. Check lace for holes and loss of tensile strength before washing. Loss of tensile strength can be determined by gently pulling the fabric in one direction and then the other. If the fabric feels like it will tear or pull apart, the lace may be too fragile to clean. Embroidered designs should also be checked for loose or pulled threads.

If the lace tablecloth isn't too fragile, machine wash with a mild detergent on gentle cycle to avoid damage. Very fragile tablecloths should be soaked with no agitation. Soak in a mild detergent, follow with two rinses, and extract lightly.

For more durable laces, bleach using hydrogen peroxide if needed. Do not use chlorine bleach since lace can be easily weakened and damaged. You may not notice the damage initially, but it will become apparent after cleaning. Many laces will need to be blocked back to their original size after washing. For this reason, it is important that you measure the tablecloth beforehand. Using these measurements, smooth and stretch the tablecloth, and air dry.