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Does linen fabric shrink when washed?

Many of us love to surround ourselves with linen fabric, textiles and clothing. We love its soft texture, its cool feel and its long-lasting durability. As a fabric it’s super-easy to care for, as it’s machine washable and can be tumble dried. But does linen shrink when washed?

To make sure you don’t buy a stunning linen dress only to wash it and find it one size smaller. In this post Ill explain how and why linen can shrink and how to fix it.

Does linen shrink?

Yes linen will shrink naturally after its first wash. The average is around 4% shrinkage for pure linen. To prevent changes to the shape and size of clothing and textiles, many companies sell pre washed linen fabric. Thanks to this initial wash, the fabric will only have minimal shrinking when it’s next washed. Now you are probably asking what linen I am using. Is it pre-washed? The answer is yes, I am working only with pre-washed linen so I can provide customised orders for you and make the clothes most suitable for you.

Cold water or hot water? How to wash linen

Most linen can be washed in a washing machine using mild detergent (delicate/handwash cycle) in lukewarm water or handwashed in lukewarm water. If you have doubt washing linen in washing machine hand washing first in cold water will minimize any further shrinking or changes to the garment’s original size. Both high temperatures and very cold water are more likely to cause shrinkage, so stick to lukewarm water. There’s no need for fabric softener as linen gets softer and more supple with every wash.

Cleaning linen in a washing machine

This is the easiest way to wash your linens, and with most good quality linen fabric you can simply throw it in the washing machine. In fact, linens get softer with each wash so as long as the washing tips on the item specify a machine wash, go for it!

Turn linen clothing inside out to protect the fibers in the washing machine. Always use the gentle cycle and mild detergent, and avoid using hot water. If your linens have been pre-washed you can use a hotter wash, but check the care directions first. You can use fabric softener with linen laundry but it’s not necessary as the fabric will keep on softening naturally. After washing on a low heat, shake your linens and hang to air dry. Many linens can be tumble dried on a medium temperature so if needed, this is a quick, if less eco-friendly option for drying your linen laundry.

We love the inherent natural wrinkles that all linen fabrics have after washing, and so ironing is entirely optional. If you’d like to iron your garment, make sure it’s still slightly damp. Keep your iron on a low temperature.

How to hand wash linen

If you choose hand washing, then fill a large tub with lukewarm water and mild detergent. Swill the item in the water and rub gently to remove any stains or marks. Empty the water away and refill the tub. Rinse the linen, making sure the water is a cool temperature. Repeat until no detergent remains. Reshape your hand washed garment while still damp and hang to air dry on a line, or lay flat on a drying rack

Drying linen clothes

I don't recommend using dryer machine for linen. You can use the old school method of hanging linen clothes outside in the garden or even inside with open window.

What to do if your linen shrinks

If you wash a linen item and it shrinks, don’t panic. There are things you can do:

  • Soak the fabric in lukewarm water and mild detergent for around 10 minutes

  • Remove from the water and gently press out any excess water

  • Hang to dry for a few minutes, to allow any extra water to release

  • While the linen fabric is still damp, lay flat on a towel on an ironing board

  • Using a mild temperature on the iron, press the fabric or garment outwards, carefully stretching the fibers back to their original size. Don’t rub or press hard as this will damage the fabric. Just use a firm but gentle pressing motion.

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