We all know that entertaining can be stressful, but you have one less thing to worry about when your tablecloths are clean, presentable, and ready to use. Heirloom linens used only a few times a year can be kept looking their best by knowing how to wash, iron, and store them properly. If you do this, your linens will be ready to use at a moment’s notice.
Read here to know how linen tablecloths can be cared for properly.
Washing linen tablecloths
When used daily, linens and tablecloths can be spot-cleaned as stains appear and deep-cleaned at least once a year. Linens made from synthetic fabrics must be washed using the permanent press cycle. This has a cool-down feature to help reduce wrinkling. Most table linen fabrics can be washed in cold or warm water. To be safe, always follow the care instructions on the label.
However, heirloom items that are used infrequently or only during formal occasions need extra TLC to preserve their fibers and color. If you’re not familiar with how to wash vintage linen, lace, damask, brocade, and beaded or embellished fabric (since these things usually don’t have labels), you can’t go wrong with handwashing them in cool water.
If you have tablecloths made of linen, do not tumble dry them as it can over-dry the fibers and make ironing more difficult. Linen naturally dries quickly, so just spin and line dry. Also, avoid using bleach or any whitening detergents on this fabric, as it will change the natural white linen damask. Simply use gentle cycle and mild laundry soap.
Removing stains from linen
Before washing, always check table linens for stains. Different types of stains require different methods of removal. However, there are some essential tips that are worth keeping in mind when it happens.
- Remove the stain as soon as possible. Fresh stains are always easier to remove.
- If you have washed your linen before noticing a stain, don’t put it in the tumble dryer or iron it. Heat can make a stain permanent. Try to remove the stain at this point.
- Blot up any excess with a paper towel or clean cloth for liquid stains. Don’t rub it as it pushes the stain deeper into the fibers.
- Avoid vigorous rubbing, especially for linen and other sensitive cloths. It can ruin the fabric and also establish a stain.
- Always start with cold water, as hot water can cook protein stains (like egg and milk) into the linen. However, hot water can be helpful in removing oily stains.
- If you don’t know what caused the stain, start by placing a dab of enzyme-based stain remover or heavy-duty laundry detergent onto the stain. Use a soft-bristled brush to work in the cleaner and let the fabric sit for at least 15 minutes before washing it.
- If you have a white tablecloth made of cotton, linen, or a synthetic fabric that has yellowed or become dingy, brighten the linen with a warm water solution and oxygen bleach powder. Follow the product directions and allow the tablecloth to soak overnight. Then, wash as usual. An oxygen bleach soak is also safe for colored and printed fabrics and hand-painted linens.
Removing wax from linen
After hosting a candlelit dinner, a problem you’ll probably face is wax getting dripped onto the tablecloth or runner. While it seems hard to completely remove, this stain is actually relatively easy to deal with, using cold or heat.
You have two options:
- Freeze the wax. To do this, fold the entire tablecloth with the wax on top, and put it in the freezer. Alternatively, you can place an ice pack on top of the tablecloth while it’s still on the table. Once the wax is frozen, use a dull knife or fingernail to scrape the wax off with care. Then, wash it as usual.
- Warm the wax. To do this, put some paper towels on both sides of the stained area. Using a clothes iron, iron over the paper. Put it in a setting that’s not too hot. The heat will make the wax melt and soak in the paper. Repeat the process until all wax is removed, then wash the tablecloth as usual.
As you remove the tablecloth from the washer, shake it to help release wrinkles. Always check to see that all stains have been removed. Treat them again and rewash them before drying if you still see some stains. The high heat of dryers can make it harder for you to remove the stain next time. Most fabrics must be dried on medium to high heat or using a permanent press cycle.
If you know, you’ll be ironing your linen or tablecloth right away, removing them from the dryer while still slightly damp can make ironing easier.
But if you’re ironing table linens that are creased after being stored for a long time, here are some tips on how to smooth them out:
- Before starting, make sure that the soleplate of the iron is clean. If you’re using a steam iron, make sure the iron is leaving no mineral deposits. If you haven’t used your steam iron in a while, test it on an old cloth just to be sure. Mineral droplets can cause brown staining, which you don’t like appearing on your tablecloth.
- Set up your ironing surface. It’s best to use a well-padded ironing board with a smooth, heat-reflective cover. Put your ironing board next to a clean table when ironing large items like tablecloths, and roll up finished sections over the table rather than letting them pile under the ironing board.
- Start with the wrong side of the fabric first, pushing the cloth part by part over the board as you iron. Turn it over, and finish by pressing the right side of the cloth. For light-colored linens, iron on the wrong side first, then on the right side to bring out the sheen. But when ironing dark-colored tablecloths, iron on the wrong side only. Keep an even pressure, and make sure to keep moving the iron to prevent the fabric from scorching.
When ironing linens before use, usually there’s no need to use starch except for the finest linens since linen has its built-in crispness. If it has already dried out before ironing, use water spray to dampen it again, or use the iron’s spray function if it has one. A steam iron will work great on linen. Iron first on the underside of the tablecloth to remove creases, then on the right side to enhance its natural sheen.
You have to keep the stitched area looking crisp and smooth if you’re ironing tablecloths, napkins, and placemats with monograms. Iron it with the design face down against a white, thick terry towel. The soft texture will prevent the monogram from being flattened. After ironing the monogrammed part, finish it by pressing the right side of the napkin. Iron the rest of the cloth around the monogram.
There’s a lot to consider when correctly storing tablecloths and linens to make sure they won’t crease and be ready to use the next time you need them. Also, proper storage can ensure that the fibers of the linen remain intact. Here are some tips on how to store linen:
- Always wash and dry the tablecloths clean before storage. Some stains can provide food for insects and mildew.
- Don’t fold or store freshly-ironed linens if they are still damp. They must be spread out flat and smooth for some time to completely dry.
- To store the linens flat, wrap each piece of the tablecloth in acid-free tissue paper because regular tissue paper contains acids that can yellow white linens. Use tissue in between folds to soften the edges and prevent crisp creases that can weaken linen fibers.
- Put heavier pieces like placemats on the bottom of a drawer or storage container, followed by napkins and fabric tablecloths. Then, place the lightweight and more delicate pieces on top.
- If possible, store linens without folding them. It’s best to store linen tablecloths by rolling them around a cardboard tube.
- If you don’t have long enough cardboard to roll tablecloths, you can secure a long, wooden dowel and attach it near the basement ceiling. Drape your freshly ironed table cloths over it, then cover the cloth with a cotton sheet. When you need to use one, simply take it down and spread it out across the table.
- Avoid storing tablecloths and linens in cardboard boxes, plastic bags, or in direct contact with cedar chests or wood drawers. These materials can weaken the fabrics and contain acids that can cause yellowing.