Tabletop Ideas
Sep 9, 2009

How to: Launder table linens

By: Seema Persaud

How to: Launder table linens Author: Style At Home

Tabletop Ideas
Sep 9, 2009

How to: Launder table linens

By: Seema Persaud
Where there is food there is likely to be a mess; dishes to be washed, pots to be scrubbed, and tablecloths and napkins in dire need of stain removal. Here’s how to take care of your table linens so you won’t need to buy new ones for every occasion.

Keeping table linens white
If your linens are machine washable, heed these suggestions for keeping them crisp and clean:

To eliminate yellow discolouration of white linens, try bluing your fabrics (using a colouring liquid added to the water of your load.) The blue colouring will offset the yellow hue and if any blue spots or streaks are left on the linens, wash them again and the marks will come out.

Keep your linen, cotton and cotton-blend table linens crisp and wrinkle-free by starching them. Choose from spray starch, applied when ironing, or liquid starch, which is added to a load or an item in the last rinse cycle. If you like folding your napkins decoratively, the starch will help them to keep their shape. The downside? Starching before storing can cause yellowing.

For synthetic fibres or blends with high synthetic content, use spray “sizing”, which gives linens the same wrinkle-free effect as starch but causes less stiffness. You can use it on linen and cotton, too.


Use a spray fabric protector on your linens so you can wash out spills with greater ease. Be sure not to spray the protector on a wood surface or you may ruin the finish.

Remove stains from white linens with a mild oxygen bleach. Avoid using chlorine bleach on whites as it can cause yellowing.

Use detergent
It’s just as simple as it sounds. Using regular detergent and water keeps linens clean and can remove many stains, too.

Getting rid of common stains
Candle wax

If candle wax accidently spills on your linens, simply place them in the freezer until the wax hardens completely. Gently remove the hard wax with a spoon or dull knife. If a spot remains, you may need to enlist the services of your local dry cleaner.

Coffee and tea

Apply an acidic liquid like vinegar or lemon juice to the stain. Launder with detergent as usual.

If possible, lift off any bits of chocolate that you can and add dry borax to the surface. Scrub gently with a toothbrush and add liquid detergent to the stain. Wash as usual.

White wine

Soak the stain with cold water and then wash as usual.

Red wine
Douse the stain with cold water and add vinegar. Use hydrogen peroxide on the stain (if you have vodka, that will do nicely as well!) and let sit for a few minutes. Wash as usual.

Spaghetti sauce

Scrape sauce off cloth and add liquid detergent to the area. Rub it into the stain before laundering as usual with detergent.
How to: Minimize wrinkles
•    Choose waffle weave, wool, corduroy, knit or velvet table linens to spend less time ironing.
•    When storing, fold tablecloths lengthwise and roll them onto gift-wrapping tubes.
•    For fabrics that wrinkle easily, hang on a towel- or fabric-covered hanger.
•    Unless you’re going to use the item soon, it’s best not to iron right before storing.
•    Iron linen fabric when it is damp from steam or a sprinkling of water, as ironing the dry fabric can cause the fibres to break down over time.

10 tips for prolonging the life of your linens

1 Treat stains as soon as possible. The longer the stain remains on the fabric, the harder it will be to remove.

2 Avoid using fabric softener or dryer sheets with your napkins; it adds a waxy layer to the linens, making them less absorbent.

3 Read the care instructions when buying new table linens. Buy machine-washable and dryable ones for every day usage.

4 Treat stains from the opposite side from which the spill occurred, pushing the stain out as opposed to forcing it into the fabric.

5 Blot liquid spills with a white cloth or paper towel as the dyes on coloured cloths can bleed, making a messy situation worse.

6 Don’t iron or tumble dry a stained fabric as it will cause the stain to set.

7 Keep linens out of plastic to prevent yellowing.

8 Remove linens from the dryer before they get too toasty, as over time excessive heat will cause the fabric to break down. Linens should be dried on a low heat setting.

Use cool or warm water, not hot, to prevent shrinking or setting a stain when laundering your linens.

10 Don’t mix different stain removal products together as they could react in unexpected ways!

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Tabletop Ideas

How to: Launder table linens