This Is How to Soften Your Linen Sheets
What do wine, art and linen share in common? All three get better with age. It's a cliché but it's correct—investing in 100% pure flax linen bedding will allow you to get your nightly six to eight while gently cooling you in summer and warming you in winter with its buttery soft texture. So, how exactly does linen soften over time? Let us explain.
Why is linen so special?
Linen is one of the oldest natural fibres still in existence, with some of the earliest records of the material being used dating back more than 4000 years to the times of ancient Egypt. Deployed by the noble classes of ancient civilisations for burial rituals and robes, the textile grew in popularity due to its strength and durability. Its singular downside? Linen was and still remains significantly more expensive to manufacture than its cotton counterpart.
The reason linen is more costly than cotton is that the flax plant from which linen originates also demands special care and attention during harvest and—lacking elastic properties—is harder to weave without risk of snapping threads. Exacerbated by the geographical and climate limitations of where the flax plant will grow, linen production is a costly project. Nothing worth having comes easily though and, boasting twice the strength of cotton, linen is also comparatively more environmentally friendly and more moisture absorbent, making it the obvious bedding choice.
Why does linen keep getting softer?
This moisture absorption is key to the unique ability of linen to soften over time. Each time your linen is washed, it becomes softer and more absorbent—no fabric softener necessary. Instead, we advise that you avoid using traditional fabric softeners as these may contain chemicals that leave residue on the linen once washed. Interestingly, in many parts of Europe, it is tradition for families to inherit linen sheets from their parents. Vintage linen is soft, luxurious and possesses a fabric handle that is impossible to achieve through any mechanical process.
How can you help flax linen to soften?
There are some tips you can try to help aid the softening process of your linen. One is baking soda. This simple yet hardworking kitchen staple helps to regulate the pH level in the rinse water inside your washer. By using baking soda, the rinse water never becomes too acidic or too alkaline. The addition of a mere half cup of baking soda to every linen wash cycle will balance the rinse water and suspend detergent and mineral deposits from redepositing onto your sheets.
Another tip is to use dryer balls, which are laundry accessories that aid the process of relaxing and softening your linen. The individual balls work at the level of each layer of fabric, helping to separate these and increase their friction. The balls can also be used during your tumble dry cycle to speed dry time and further massage the linen fibres for premium softness.
Here is how to look after your linen bedding to aid the softening process:
- Wash your bedding in lukewarm or cold water using a mild liquid detergent to protect the fibres.
- Avoid using detergents which feature colour brighteners as these formulas will weaken the fibres of your bedding and may discolour it. If you are unsure as to whether your detergent is appropriate, test it on a small area of the linen before washing the entire piece.
- You are able to machine wash your bedding but choose a gentle cycle.
- Wash items of a similar colour together and don’t overload your machine—the more water the better, as linen is highly absorbent.
- Whether washing your linen by hand or by machine, always ensure that it is thoroughly rinsed in plenty of water to remove all traces of soap, detergent and residual soiling. This will prevent the formation of age spots which are caused by oxidation.
Should you opt to sit back and let your linen do its thing, hold out a little longer and you’ll soon be in for a treat. We advise you to relax and enjoy the journey—that’s the beauty of linen after all—just wash, wear and watch as your Bed Threads get better and better with time.