Laundering linen bedding at home is simple: use less soap, reduce the drying time, and let gravity do the ironing for you. Forget about dry cleaning. Forget Victorian era ideas of straining over a hot iron, pressing with great effort and frustrating results. Linen is a beautiful, natural fabric that will soften dramatically with time and use.
Start with a natural, biodegradable laundry soap such as Ecos, Biokleen, or Seventh Generation. Any soap will do, but natural soaps don't harm the environment, and protect sensitive wildlife. You'll find an informative review of several popular green laundy detergents at Organic Authority's website. Never use chlorine bleach. Oxygen bleach can be used occasionally for white linen sheets only. Fabric softener is not necessary. If you must, use a non silicone based softener. At Linoto we love the Seventh Generation blue eucalyptus and lavender scent.Use cold water for bright and dark colors, use warm water for whites and neutrals. It's o.k. to place the entire set into the washing machine.
Air drying is best for the longevity of your linen sheets, but can leave the linen feeling stiff. If you plan to air dry the sheets, 10-12 minutes on medium heat in the dryer before you hang them out to dry helps to re-orient the fibers after washing and leaves a soft finish on the surface of the fabric. When drying linen sheets in the dryer, put one sheet and one pillowcase together in the dryer at a time. Because linen dries so quickly, the whole set will be too much for a home dryer and you'll end up with a wad of linen that is over-dried near the drum and still damp in the center. Turn the pillowcases inside out. Dry the single sheet and pillowcase for no longer than 20 minutes on the low or medium heat setting. Repeat this process for the remaining items. Remember: linen dries much faster than cotton.
Remove the sheets from the dryer while they are still slightly damp. Spread them out neatly on the bed or hang them over a railing or shower curtain rod to finish air-drying. Gravity will do the work of eliminating nearly all wrinkles. The cool, gentle flutter of a ceiling fan is also great for the final stage of drying. Remember these steps and you'll be amazed by how quickly the linen is dry and how soft it becomes with each wash.