April 21, 2022 9 min read

Have you ever brought home a brand new linen sheet set and been less than enthused about how it feels? Did you find yourself wondering how to soften your linen sheets, or, better yet, if linen bedding gets softer at all? Fortunately, you’re not alone. While linen’s breathable, lightweight, and eco-friendly properties make it a favorite in the sleep department, they might need a little TLC to reach that cloud-like softness you dream about. So let’s learn how to wash linen bedding properly for optimal comfort.

Why Wash Linen Sheets in a Certain Way?

If you have ever noticed specific instructions on the care label that’s usually sewn with the linen sheets and even the bed sheets and pillowcases in your bedroom, they tell you the dos and don'ts about washing linen sheets or ironing linen sheets. You must adhere to them, here’s the reason why:

Because certain washing practices may weaken the fabric’s weave

Although, as earlier mentioned, linen is as strong as it gets, the wrong washing intensity and the wrong products may cause its weave to loosen. And if this continues over time, you’ll end up getting the threads hanging out of your linen sheets, and all too quickly.

Because careless washing may lead to fabric deforming

A washing machine whose tumble dry and/or wash cycle isn’t preset correctly may end up wrinkling, twisting, and or pulling linen sheets. We’d also like you to note that certain temperatures of water can bring about fiber-shrinking, and thus, shrinkage of the entire linen sheet as a whole.

Machine Wash vs. Hand Wash: Which Is Better For Your Linens

If you have spent hours skimming the “how to wash linen duvet cover” or “how to wash linen bedding” articles on the internet, and you’re still unsure. We’ve got you covered. Read below the A-Z’s of natural linen bedding:

Handwashing Linen Sheets

As much as households and businesses rely on the washing machine when it comes to doing the laundry, show your Or & Zon linens some love by hand-washing them. Nothing beats this manual yet rewarding practice.

This is a highly recommended tip for bed linens, and much more so for those with looser weaves. It’s a step towards avoiding loosening their beautiful interlacing fibers. Doing so will not merely maintain their make but their life as well. You’ll get to keep them longer while helping retain their original form.

Additional Tip: Soak your linen sheets in Lukewarm water for a few minutes with a teaspoon of mild laundry detergent and gently swish the item around to avoid over-stretching the fabric. Rinse it repeatedly until all the soapy residue is gone. Voila! You’re done.

If Machine-Washing Is Unavoidable

Although the best practice would be to hand wash your linen sheets, you can definitely go for machine washing while following the instructions on the care label.

Following these instructions will prevent your bed sheets from wearing out too soon:

  • Use the gentle cycle.
  • AVOID full load to the washing machine. Otherwise, your sheets will tug against the rest of the clothing and will cause them to deteriorate.
  • When compared to cotton, linen requires much less water to produce. In most cases, simple natural rainfall is enough to irrigate most of the flax grown in Europe, while cotton requires approximately four times as much water to grow and harvest.
  • Wash your white and dark-colored linen sheets separately otherwise your white sheets will not remain white anymore.

As Warm As Lukewarm

Hot water is a no-no for linen. How about soaking for too long? Still a no. To stop its natural fibers from becoming constricted and weak (which ruins its shape too), lukewarm water is all that’s required when you wash linen. And a little bit in between lukewarm to room temperature than the opposite.

An important note to remember is that it shouldn’t go beyond the 40 degrees Celsius (104° Fahrenheit) mark. In case you’re not able to use a thermometer, you can always simply decide on what you feel is skin-safe. Dip your elbow in the wash-water. If it’s warm, yet not too warm to be scalded, you’ll be good.

Whether to Use Fabric Softener or Not?

The answer is the latter. Linens are exquisitely soft, and they only get softer with time. A fabric softener is unnecessary while washing linen duvet cover of yours or the other precious beddings. Not to mention (but “yes”, to mention) how many commercial fabric softeners today have too-strong chemicals that may wear down the natural fiber in the long run.

Pro Tip: You can use wool dryer balls with a few drops of essential oil on them to give a beautiful scent to your sheets without compromising on durability.

Air Drying or Tumble Dry?

A straightforward answer to your confusion: Air dry linen sheets. This is how you can aid their longevity. However, if you need them dried quickly, a mix of both air and machine drying is acceptable to dry the sheet well (you’ll have to double-check the label as not all weaves are suitable for these). Machine-dry the sheet on the lowest setting and at the gentlest spin. Next, hang it out to dry when it’s still slightly damp.

Then again, similar to sticking to hand-washing, a manual is the best way to go.

Does Linen Bedding Get Softer?

Linen’s flax plant-sourced fibers are naturally coarse, giving the fabric an almost rough, itchy texture at first. And then, there’s also the stiffness caused by leftover residue from the manufacturing process. We know: it’s not the most appealing description. Still, don’t write off this ultra-strong, biodegradable textile based on the first touch.

Sand Linen sheet Set Navy Blue Linen sheets

The short answer to the age-old question, “Does linen bedding get softer?,” is fortunately … yes!

Though linen fabric may initially feel rough, it ages beautifully. So don’t worry about wear and tear — the more you use it, the more luxurious it becomes. But time isn’t the only solution to scratchy bedding. There are plenty of simple hacks on how to soften linen sheets and linen duvet covers.

Does Linen Need Softening?

What Type of Bedding Keeps You Cool? Best Bedding for Hot Sleepers

You’re certainly not required to soften your linen bedding before sleeping on it. If you’re okay with the fabric as is, then no worries! However, it’s helpful to think of this textile as new shoes: it might take a bit of breaking-in to become perfectly suited to you.

But sensitive sleepers might not be game to leave it be. Skin conditions and sensory sensitivities, among others, can make it tough to wait out the breaking-in process. If this sounds like you, learn how to soften linen fabric with baking soda or other DIY methods.

Bedding for Hot Sleepers

Learn How to Soften Linen Sheets Using Various Trusted Methods

Do you have a bedding duvet cover set that needs some more love? Years of use isn’t the only thing that’ll turn those rough textiles into cozy covers. We’ll teach you how to soften linen with baking soda, dryer balls, and more. Don’t worry about turning your laundry room into a science experiment — these hacks are easy enough for anyone to do!

Still, note that these techniques can only do so much. Choosing high-quality linen makes for much softer sheets than cheaper alternatives. Buy the best bedding you can for the most luxurious results.

How to Soften Linen Bedding With Vinegar

Add “natural fabric softener” to the endless list of vinegar’s uses. Vinegar softens linen, prevents static, deodorizes, brightens, and tackles soap buildup. However, frequently adding vinegar to your washing machine can damage rubber parts, so be cautious with this method.

Here’s how to soften linen sheets with vinegar:

  • Load washing machine with linen bedding.
  • Add a mild detergent.
  • Turn the machine on using the gentle cycle.
  • Add ½ cup white vinegar to the fabric softener tray right before the final rinse cycle.
  • Optional: Add a few drops of essential oils to the vinegar for lightly scented bedding.
  • You can also soak your linen bedding with vinegar:

  • Combine one cup white vinegar with one gallon of water.
  • Submerge your bedding in the solution and let it sit overnight.
  • Wash as usual.
  • Always use white vinegar. Apple cider, balsamic, or red wine varieties can stain your linen duvet or bed sheets.

    How to Soften Linen Bedding With Baking Soda

    Laundering linen with baking soda (not powder!) naturally softens the garment without compromising the quality. There are two ways to use baking soda as a fabric softener.

    Try the pre-soak method:

  • Dissolve one cup of baking soda in one gallon of water.
  • Submerge your linen bedding in the solution.
  • Let soak overnight.
  • Wash the garment as usual.
  • Use baking soda in the washing machine:

  • Load machine with your linen bedding.
  • Add a mild detergent and ½ cup baking soda to the washing machine.
  • Run your machine on the gentle cycle.
  • How to Soften Linen With Dryer Balls

    Dryer balls are a staple in any sustainable household, but did you know they can help soften your linen too? Available in materials like wool and rubber, dryer balls prevent garments from clinging together in the machine, which can also help reduce drying time.

    Beyond that, dryer balls circulate in the machine, striking your bedding repeatedly. This process may sound harmful to your linen bedding, but it’s not. It softens them. Beating the linen fibers in this way allows them to relax and grow oh-so-cozy.

    Swap out dryer sheets for a few dryer balls, and enjoy smoother sheets.

    How to Soften Linen With Regular Washing

    Practice makes perfect, right? That theory stays true for linen: repeated washing is an age-old method for softening your bedding.

    Of course, this technique is best for patient people as your sheets will smooth out with each wash, not immediately. Still, if you don’t want to experiment with any laundry additives, this is the way to go.

    Always check the manufacturer’s instructions to learn how to wash linen bedding safely. Still, there are some general best practices:

  • Pre-treat any stains.
  • Place linen bedding in your washing machine. Be sure to separate your garments carefully — don’t leave them balled up.
  • Add a mild detergent. The fewer chemical additives, the better.
  • Turn your machine on to the gentle cycle.
  • Remove bedding immediately after the process is complete to prevent creases and mildew.
  • Machine dry your linen with minimal heat or hang up to air dry.
  • If machine drying, remove the bedding while still slightly damp. Let it air dry the rest of the way to avoid stiff sheets.
  • New linen sheets often “sheds” during the first few washes. This is normal and occurs because it’s a natural fiber. It’s temporary!

    Can You Buy Pre-Softened Linen?

    What if you want buttery-soft linen bedding ready for immediate use? Can you buy pre-softened linen?

    You sure can!

    Or & Zon’s stonewashed linen bedding collection features perfectly smooth sheet sets, duvet covers, and pillowcases. The secret? We really do wash them with stones to achieve the best possible texture and appearance. Stone-washed linen sheets offers several advantages such as softness and a relaxed look and feel. No prep work needed. And don’t worry about linen’s notorious shrinkage either: our pre-washed bedding is already at its final size.

    stone washed linen sheets
    Sand linen sheet sets

    Best Tips to Care for Linen Sheets

    Linen is an ideal bedding material for many folks. It only gets better with each wash, can last for decades, and is incredibly breathable. Still, proper care is vital to help your linen perform at its best. How to wash linen duvet covers or Sheets? Consider these care tips to preserve your linen sheets:

    • Skip fabric softeners and other chemicals. Fabric softeners and harsh detergents can leave a residue on linen bedding, causing them to stiffen. It can also weaken the fibers. So, opt for natural substitutes instead. And since linen softens with use, fabric softeners aren’t necessary.
    • Watch for shrinkage. Linen is notorious for shrinking. Avoid an “oh-no!” moment when you go to make your bed by air drying your linen, machine drying on low temperatures, or buying pre-shrunken bedding.
    • Avoid laundering linen bedding at high temperatures. High heat and linen never pair well together. It’s not just about shrinkage, either. Hot cycles are harmful to the fibers and can compromise their strength.
    • Wash linens weekly. What better motivation to wash your bedding weekly than knowing it’ll grow softer? For cleanliness’ sake, you should try to clean your sheets frequently anyways. Linen may be more breathable than other fabrics, but it still traps sweat and other grime.
    • In the washing machine, less is more. Be careful not to overload your washing machine. It’s always better to do multiple loads than end up with some uncleaned pieces (which you’ll have to wash again anyway). A crowded machine also prevents detergent from rinsing away entirely, leading to a stiffer feeling fabric. Oh, and less is more with the detergent itself for the same reason.

    Final Thoughts on How to Soften Linen Sheets

    Now that you know how to soften linen with baking soda, vinegar, dryer balls, and frequent washing, you’ll never have to ask, “Does linen bedding get softer?” ever again. Your linen sheets will prove that it’s possible! Then continue using proper care techniques to bask in your super soft linen sheets for decades to come.