Does Linen Bedding Get Softer?
Yes, linen bedding absolutely gets softer! Find out how the properties of linen result in the textile getting softer and softer with every wash.
Why Does Linen Feel the Way It Does?
Running your hands over new organic linen bedding, you’ll notice that it feels more open-textured than other bedding fabrics.
Linen comes from the flax plant, which is grown organically in Belgium, France, and the Netherlands—the “flax belt” of Europe. At harvest time, farmers pull the flax out of the ground and leave it to rest in the field for a few weeks—a process known as retting. During retting, the outer stem of the flax plant dissolves to leave the inner stem, or bast, which is then mechanically processed to make linen.
Unlike cotton, flax bast is not a single strand of cells—it’s made up of many cells packed together. This makes linen strong and durable: it won’t pill or tear as easily as cotton and will last for at least three years even with daily use. If properly cared for, linen can last for decades.
These thick strands give linen its characteristic loose weave, as well as its casual, rumpled look (although if you prefer your organic linen bedding without creases, check out our guide on how to get them out).
The Role of Pectin in Linen Texture
Flax bast contains a substance called pectin. Pectin is a starch that naturally occurs in many plants—particularly in apples and citrus fruits. It’s added to jellies and jams to get them to gel—without pectin, you’d just have sauce.
Pectin causes new linen to have a stiff texture. You know how professional cleaners apply starch to shirts to stiffen them? That’s the same effect pectin has on linen.
Unlike many other starches, however, pectin is soluble in water. Linen bedding, therefore, becomes softer over time as subsequent washes dissolve more of that natural pectin.
How Linen Bedding Companies Make Linen Softer
Linen bedding companies use various techniques to make new linen feel softer. Some companies use chemical softeners to disguise poor-quality, non-organic linen. These softeners wash off after a while, leaving you with scratchy bedding. Be particularly wary of this when buying your linen in-store—the best approach is to instead order linen bedding swatches online and run them through a few washes. Check out our selection of swatches in our shop.
At The Modern Dane, we garment-wash our organic linen duvet covers using biodegradable enzymes, breaking down the pectin naturally and minimizing our impact on the environment.
Can I Use Fabric Softeners With Linen?
Tempting as it may be, it’s best not to use fabric softeners on your linen duvet covers. Shop-bought fabric softeners can clog up the pores in linen fibers, impeding their natural thermoregulating properties. Instead, pop a little white vinegar in the softener compartment of your washing machine—it’s a natural softener, whitener, and odor-buster. Your bedding may have a slight vinegary smell when you pull it out of the machine but this will dissipate as it dries.
Does Thread Count Affect Linen Softness?
In short, no. Linen fibers are thicker than cotton fibers, so thread counts in the low hundreds are common for linen bedding—in fact, it’s rare for linen thread count to be listed at all, as it has very little to do with linen quality.
With consumers increasingly factoring thread count into their bedding choices, manufacturers have come up with all kinds of tricks to artificially boost thread count, such as twisting yarns together. A high thread count can actually cause bedding to wear down faster as the threads rub together.
How Often Should I Wash My Linen Bedding?
As long as your linen bedding is comfortable, you can wash your organic linen duvet covers around once per week. If it’s not yet soft enough for you, wash your organic linen bedding more frequently during the first few weeks. Wash on cold to keep the colors vibrant.
You can also make your linen bedding feel smoother by ironing it. For best results, line-dry your linen or—if you do use a dryer—remove your linen duvet covers from the dryer while still slightly damp and line-dry to finish. This will remove as many wrinkles as possible before you start ironing.Do you like the texture of linen? What tricks do you use to make your bedding feel softer? Let us know on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter!