How To Remove Stains From Linen

How To Remove Stains From Linen

Dinner parties that go on late into the night, muddy pets on beds, small sticky hands and day-to-day clumsiness: spillages and stains are a natural consequence of a full and busy life. At Piglet, the last thing we aspire to is a completely mess-free home (remember visiting distant relatives as a child where you weren’t allowed to touch anything? Shudder). We do however, like our linen to look its best, so we’ve compiled a helpful guide on how to get all sorts of stains out of your linen bedding, clothes and linen tablecloths. Handily, they all work on cotton too! Read on to find out how to get stains such as wine, wax and even fake tan out of your linen. 

Act quickly! 

The absolute golden rule when it comes to stain removal is acting quickly. The longer the staining agent has to soak into the fabric, the harder it will be to remove it. You won’t regret moving quickly as removing old stains is significantly more challenging. 

Pre-treat the stain.

The first step is to pre-treat any stain with a stain remover. As well as a plethora of great commercial options widely available, there are some natural solutions you can try as well, such as: 

  • Mix bi-carbonate of soda into a paste in a 3:1 ratio with water and scrub into the stain with an old toothbrush. Plain soda water will do the trick too.
  • White vinegar: combine two tablespoons of vinegar with one cup of water and soak the stained area of the fabric.
  • Lemon juice: combine lemon juice with an equal amount of water and scrub it into the stain.

A small spillage on a linen tablecloth can be pre-treated with minimal fuss during dinner then put in the wash afterwards, so you don’t need to whip the tablecloth from underneath the plates, magician style. 

Wash the item.

After you’ve treated the stain in question, it’s time to put it in the washing machine. The question of whether to use hot or cold water really depends on the stain. Certain stains, like ink, coffee and wine can be treated with hot water, which is more effective at breaking them down and fully removing them. However, hot water on protein-based stains like gravy, grease or blood will essentially “cook-in” in the stain. Not ideal. Linen tablecloths, for example, might have a variety of stains, so we would advise to stay on the side of caution and for the first wash, wash with cold or warm water (max 30 degrees celsius). 

What about bleach?

Bleach can be an effective stain remover though we would advise to use with caution, as it can end up damaging the fibres of the fabric. Never use on coloured items and use as follows: 

  • Dilute 1 part bleach to 2 parts water. Soak the stained portion of your linen for five minutes, then rub the area gently with a cloth or sponge to break up the stain. Wash in the machine as usual.
  • You can also add half a cup of bleach along with your detergent, which will remove less stubborn stains.

Dealing with white linen? Harness the power of the sun! 

Sunshine is a wonderfully natural bleaching agent and is very effective on white linen. After laundering the linen, place it wet in the full sunshine (flat, if possible) and let nature do its thing. This works great for any white fabrics, including bed linen, towels and white shirts. 

Does white wine neutralise red wine spills?

The short answer is: it’s better than nothing. If you have a red wine emergency out and about, the chances are that white wine will be in the vicinity, so it has the advantage of being on-hand! It is unlikely to completely remove the stain but it will dilute the red wine, minimise it and it is preferable to using water. The best thing is still to use a tried and tested strain removal product to pre-treat any stain. 

How can I remove wax stains?

Our love for candles knows no bounds, but wax on tablecloths is a pesky business. 

  • Use a knife to carefully scrape as much wax off the fabric as possible.
  • Place a clean paper towel over the remaining wax. With your iron on the lowest setting, take one pass over the paper towel; replace the paper towel with a new one and repeat. This process will transfer the wax from your tablecloth to the paper towels.
  • After you've removed the wax, treat the area with a stain remover and launder.

What about fake tan on bed linen?

If you wake up to fake tan stains on your bed sheets or pillowcase just make sure you put them quickly in the washing machine, treating any particularly bad areas with a localised stain remover as described above. It can be done! 

Finally, be sure to store your linen properly, so that when you aren’t faced with any nasty surprises just as you are setting the table! Before folding it up, it needs to be completely dry to avoid water marks and mould. For more tips on how to wash, care for and store your linen, check out our complete care guide

Photo by @haveeyeon

Hero photo by Louis A. W. Sheridan @louisaws


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