Not all linen is created equal, but when you find that magical linen bedding set, I promise, you will practically be a changed woman. Take it from me, a lifelong bedding novice who used to scoff at the idea of line sheets. Isn’t it, like, itchy? I’d think to myself and say out loud. No, the linen evangelists would assure. I wasn’t having it—until one linen set in particular came upon my desk one day and altered my bedding POV.
Sijo French Linen, $225 and up, is the bedding that made me see the linen light. The brand only uses linen from France made by harvesters who are committed to sustainable processes. It’s stone-washed for softness and free from chemicals or fabric softeners, unlike some linen brands, which can rely on chemicals to soften them up quickly. I feel like I actually somehow sleep better on linen; perhaps I’m more comfortable so I’m not awoken in the middle of the night from tossing and turning. I’m not sure, but I feel exponentially more comfortable in linen bedding than I ever did in cotton or percale.
Linen might be trending at the moment, but it’s hardly a new material. It was used by the Ancient Egyptians and is made from flax fibers, specifically from the middle of the flax plant, giving it a thick yarn. A number of countries have become prized for their linen market and skillset, including Belgium, France, Eastern Europe, and Portugal—flax plants from these countries, in particular, are highly prized for their quality and lack of industrial pesticides.
Still a linen novice? Here’s what I’ve learned about the luxe bedding since I started using it and why you’ll be a convert too.
Linen Gets Softer With Time
The thing with linen bedding that I didn’t understand until now is it’s a journey or a marathon and not a sprint. Linen bedding reveals itself over time, not immediately soft and cozy like its cousins flannel and cotton. With each wash, linen softens and becomes cozier. “Well-cared-for linen sheets are meant to last two to three decades when cotton sheets are meant to last four to five years,” says Jacob Xi, founder of Sijo. “We have friends from Europe who are sleeping in sheets from their grandparents that were passed down as an heirloom.”
Beware Cheap Imitations
If it’s meant to last generations (or at least a good while), you’ll have to pick a high-quality option. Be hesitant over cheaper options. You’ll want your fabric density—aka denier—to be higher than 150, Sijo is at 175, and brands like Serena & Lily and its Cavallo Linen Sheet Set, $328 and up, is around 180.
Beyond comfort, if you love that unstructured, relaxed look, linen is for you. “ It is more durable and absorbent than cotton and cooling when worn or used as bedding,” says Corinna Williams, cofounder of Celsious, Brooklyn’s coolest and most eco-conscious laundromat.
Follow the Care Instructions to Make Them Last Longer
If you want them to last, you’ll have to heed a few warnings and tips. When it comes to washing, linen is actually wonderfully machine washable. Wash on a cold water setting, ideally gentle cycle if possible, with a biodegradable detergent, always with like colors, says Williams. Never use products that contain chlorine bleach, as they may stain.
Linen Can Stain Easily
Got a stain in your beloved linen? It stains easily because it’s an absorbent material, but you can easily remove them if you act quick. “Pre-treat any stain as soon as you can after it appears,” says Williams. “Soaking the entire piece in a non-chlorine bleach oxygen brightener or 1:1 white vinegar/water bath if the stain is acidic (coffee, tea, juice, or fruit) will yield the best results as opposed to spot treating.”
Linen Can Shrink If Dried on a High Heat Setting
Now that they’re clean, drying them is trickier. The best way to dry linen is also the easiest: air drying in open air fully spread out. That’s not exactly possible for most small space–living individuals though. If a dryer is preferable, that’s great, as linen fibers are able to perfectly withstand high heat. But shrinking and wrinkling can be associated with those high heat settings. With those woes in mind, opt for low or medium heat setting to preserve the life cycle of your bedding.
For shrinkage, make sure you buy pre-washed bedding, which means the fabric has come into contact with water before being sewn into the finished item, says Williams. “This will ensure you are less likely to experience excessive shrinkage.”
Don’t Stress About Wrinkles—It’s Part of the Look
For wrinkles, shaking linen between washing and drying cycles helps to prevent large scale twisting and wrinkles. But also, linen will always have a certain level of wrinkling, as it’s part of the appeal and aesthetic. You can minimize wrinkling, though, by adding some dryer balls to your dryer, ideally three balls per load. Also, as soon as the dryer stops, remove your bedding and fold immediately to prevent new wrinkles from forming.
If the wrinkles are still bothering you, ironing is an option, although a time-consuming one. While it’s slightly damp, try flattening out the fabric with your hands, and then run a warm iron over the bedding. It might take a bit, but it should work on any fold or wrinkle.
*Please note this was written from my linen-covered bedding, as I refuse to leave my bed because it’s so cozy. Thank you for understanding.*