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How to look after your Italian table linens

Photo by Bakhrom Tursunov on Unsplash


I always have lots of customers asking me how to care for their linen tablecloths and tea towels, so here is a quick run-down of my tips and tricks.

One thing to keep in mind is that linen is one of the strongest natural fibres. The fibres that make the fabric are even stronger when wet, so you don't have to be too gentle with your tablecloths, napkins and tea towels.

Washing your linen tablecloths and napkins

So, you've had a lunch or dinner, and the guests have all gone home, and miraculously, there have been no significant drips, sloshes or spills. Check your tablecloth carefully, and you may be able to get away with spot cleaning any marks. Throw the napkins into the wash!

As mentioned above, linen is a robust fibre, so it's perfectly safe to machine wash your linen tablecloths. Choose a low temperature (up to 40º) or wash in cold water (it's better for the longevity of your linen and the environment, too!).

If there are a few marks, try pre-treating them with a store-bought pre-wash spray or a mix of white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.

Stain removal for linen tablecloths and napkins 

No one wants to panic during a dinner party when someone knocks over a glass of red wine or spills some pasta sauce! If you can, pour a little soda water over the stain to stop it from setting and enjoy the rest of the dinner party. For red wine, sprinkle the stain with salt as it should prevent the stain from going deep into the fabric. 

Try to treat stains when they are 'fresh' rather than leaving them to sit for a day or two. And if the stains don't come out the first time around, avoid tumble-drying or ironing the linen, as this will only set the stain.Lots of stains will come out with some pre-treatment before a standard wash. Try pre-treating them with a store-bought pre-wash spray or a mix of white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda that you can use to blot the stain.

If you need to soak a tougher stain, follow the directions on your soaker. Always start with cool or lukewarm water to avoid setting the stain. Stains from turmeric and lily pollen are almost impossible to get out, so avoid these with your linen.

For oil stains, make a paste of bicarb of soda and water and leave it on the area to dry. Somehow as the paste dries, it draws the oil out of the fabric, too - this was a lifesaver for me as we cook with a lot of olive oil and usually forget to use an apron!

There is an easy fix if you've been very elegant and decorated the table with candles and have some candle wax on your tablecloth. Place kitchen paper on either side of the fabric and iron with a warm iron to melt the wax. Keep replacing the paper until no candle wax remains.

Drying your table linens

It's probably best to air-dry your linen table cloths if you can, as the dryer can tend to really set-in wrinkles and creases.

If your cloth is wet and your guests are arriving soon, you can toss it in the dryer on low heat. Either pull it out slightly damp and iron it or take it out immediately after the cycle finishes and shake out any wrinkles.


Linen is much easier to iron when it's damp, so either grab it off the line before it's 100% dry or damp it down with a spray bottle before ironing.

Many people love the crumpled linen look, so you can confidently skip this step too!

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