Does Linen Shrink?

  • We make linen fabric of natural flax plant fibers. The fact that humans don’t synthetically make linen fabric provokes several issues regarding its maintenance. 
  • Linen is prone to shrinking on many occasions. For example, this natural fabric will shrink after washing in hot water (above 40°C/104°F) if we expose it to high heat when dryer linen or a too high temperature of iron. Yet, there are ways to do these things, keeping in mind several precautions. 
  • By skillfully reducing the chances of shrinkage, you can save this high-quality, gracious textile. So say yes linen and carefully follow care instructions. Read our guide to learn how to do it.

Pros and cons of linen fabric

We love wearing linen clothes; we love to sleep in bed linen and use this natural fabric as part of our home interiors. 

It’s fair to say that linen is one of the most timeless and charming fabrics, considering those of everyday use. 

The price of linen fabric isn’t one of its drawbacks; it’s not over-the-top expensive.

Yet, there is a dark side to this fabulous material.

It likes to crease; it’s hard to iron, wash, and dry. It’s not rare to see linen shrinkage; its fibers occasionally break if ironed many times on the same fold. 

This natural fabric needs a bit of special care with maintenance. 

Linen or cotton?

Taking into consideration these pros and cons, isn’t it easier to just pick cotton?

Some say that linen is just as easy to look after as cotton, given you know the care instructions. 

Trust us; it’s (relatively) hard only at the beginning. 

Linen fabric is more durable than cotton. 

Pure linen gets softer and nicer to wear with each wash. You know “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” don’t you?

On the opposite, during the long process of wear and tear, Cotton becomes more and more threadbare; its fibers get weakened.

A crucial point is sustainability. 

Linen is eco-friendly as it uses fewer resources in its production.

Linen shrinkage

Despite all these advantages, one thing is sure: Linen does shrink.

Linen shrinkage is one of the prevailing reasons for people to look for information about linen online. 

Not to mention that it’s often done in panic, and usually after the linen fabric shrink already happened.

Could we have done anything to avoid it?

Let’s have a look.

Does linen shrink when washed?

Linen items, whether it’s linen clothing or bed linen, shrink in the washing machine if we forget about a couple of rules. 

If you wash linen in too hot temperatures, above 40°C/104°F, it will shrink. 

The average is around 4% shrinkage for pure linen. 

To keep its original size, never set the washing machine for high temperatures. 

Instead, go for lukewarm water to cold water when you wash your linen.

Also, don’t worry too much if shrinkage happened. 

You can bring a linen made item back to its original by stretching your linen after you exposed it to hot water and, in consequence, shrinking. 

Read about it on “Does Linen Stretch?

Important: No matter what water temperature you use for washing your linen made clothes or sheets, the first wash will provoke a bit of shrinkage. You’ll notice that natural fibers of linen will only shrink if the fabric wasn’t pre washed by the producer. Thanks to the initial wash of the manufacturer, the fabric will only have minimal shrinking when a consumer next washes it.

What else should you know to keep our fibers of flax plant turned into linen fabric happy when we wash them?

  1. Separate white, light colored, dark, and colored linens and wash them separately from other fabrics.
  2. Use the gentle cycle in the washing machine and don’t overload the washing machine.
  3. Use mild detergent formulated especially for delicate fabrics.

Keep in mind that linen will shrink if you forget to take good care of your linen clothing, bed linen, and other linen items. 

Does linen shrink when dry cleaned?

First things first, should we invest in dry cleaning for our linen fabrics?

Does linen need it?

The quick and easy answer is no. 

Linen is entirely okay with the washing machine or hand washing treatment, given that we provide it with the right temperature and use mild detergent.

It’s necessary to notice that washing linen by dry cleaning isn’t any better for shrinkage. 

Dry cleaning linen can also lead to shrinking.

We imagine that linen will not shrink when dry cleaned because it is not having direct contact with water. 

Unfortunately, since linen is highly absorbent, it absorbs the water from the steam.

There are only a few linen clothes that are better to be dry cleaned. 

We’re talking about structured, tailored items like linen jackets or suits. 

Does linen shrink when ironed?

For an exhaustive description of using iron with linen clothing, check this “Can You Iron Linen” article.

Apart from iron, having:

  • ironing board, 
  • pressing cloth, 
  • steamer, 
  • and a bottle to spritz water

will give you impressive effects if you want to iron your linen and keep its original size;

Does linen shrink when dried?

As a rule of thumb, it’s much better to let your linen clothes air dry than drying linen in the machine. 

Linen shrinks in a dryer more easily than, for example, cotton. 

For a precise explanation of the process, do’s and don’ts, read the article “Does Linen Shrink in the Dryer” by House Rituals.

However, as with every linen-related activity, you can use a dryer to dry linen if only you keep in mind some care instructions. 

It can even be—better not overdo it, though—tumble-dried on low temperatures. 

Yet, if possible, choose to air dry your linens from start to finish. 

Tip: When drying linen, remove linen from the dryer when still slightly damp. It will help to avoid the linen becoming stiff. Then, hang or lie flat to finish the drying process.

It’s worth knowing that trends in fashion are utterly aware of the natural linen form and encourage users to leave it wrinkled. 

How to undo the shrinking of linen?

If you want your linens to get back to their original size, follow a guide that teaches how to stretch the linen, as these two—shrinking and stretching—are the opposite actions.

Read also ”Does Linen Stretch?” on House Rituals

Let’s review what to do in seven steps:

1. Fill a sink or tub with lukewarm water and add a mild detergent, gentle shampoo, or soap. 

2. Soak for up to 30 minutes, i.e., until the fibers begin to loosen.

3. Gently squeeze water from the clothing, but do not rinse the items.

4. Lay the clothing on a flat towel and roll the towel with the clothing inside. Squeeze gently to release a bit more water. Do it until the clothing is damp rather than wet.

5. Take another dry flat towel and position your clothing on the towel.

6. Stretch the fabric gently back to its preshrunk size.

7. Let the clothing air dry.

Related articles

Frequently Asked Questions

Linen requires following care instructions, but it's not very hard to maintain. Of course, this classic, timeless, and durable fabric needs to be refreshed regularly and treated with more attention than cotton. But, if we remember a few rules, it becomes an easy-to-care-for fabric.
Linen clothing and other linen items are household textiles that prefer cool, dry places. Steer away from plastic bags, cardboard boxes, and cedar chests. Natural flax plant fibers that we make linen of have inbuilt insect-repellent properties, so you don't have to fear moths or other nibbly creatures. When you take the linen out, give it a good airing and wash if it needs some refresh.
Leave a Comment