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Cottages and Gardens - The Cottage Road
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Marsha Simkin
Cottage Advisor

Marsha Simkin lives in Joplin, Missouri and has spent much of her life learning the almost lost arts of home cooking, decorating, entertaining, gardening and many other everyday activities.  She is a wealth of knowledge on almost any domestic matter.  And if she doesn't know an answer, she will find one or just figure it out for herself.  If you have a particular question for Marsha or would like to see an article on a particular topic, you may contact her by e-mail at

Caring for Fine Linens!

The luxury of fine linens has about died in this fast pace, polyester, plastic world.  What a shame!  There isn't anything nicer than seeing a dining table adorned with freshly washed, starched and ironed to a crisp silky tablecloth and napkins.  When I was growing up, my mother only used her fine linens on special occasions and holidays.  Some of my linens are family heirlooms and some of them I have collected over the years while going to garage sales, flea markets and antique shops.  My collection includes ladies handkerchiefs, dollies, table linens, and pillowcases to mention just a few.  With linens, the hardest thing to do is to keep them stain free.  I thought bleach was the right choice for removing stains.  WRONG!   Bleach will break down fibers over a period of time and cause fraying, which will eventually ruin that beautiful piece of linen.  It has been by trial and error that I have learned to care for my linens.  Below are some suggestions you may want to consider in caring for yours:

1.   Remove table linens as quickly as possible and use a stain remover on stained areas but avoid using anything that contains bleach.  I prefer LOC, a product by Amway, which is biodegradable and  removes grease and food stains.  There are other products available that work, so check your store and ask friends what is available in your area.

2.   Wash your linens as soon as possible in a mild detergent.  The longer the stain sets, the harder it is to remove.

3.   Candle wax can be removed by placing a paper napkin underneath and on top of the waxed area and applying a warm iron to the napkin on one or both sides.  This process may need to be repeated several times.  The heat from the iron will melt the wax.  Be careful not to set the iron too hot.  Remove by hand any loose wax that you can after the wax has cooled a bit - you don't want to burn yourself on hot wax.   Then apply your stain remover to the remaining wax area and wash. 

4.   After washing linens, put them in a dryer just long enough to get most of the wrinkles out.  Then fold each line enough times as necessary so they can be placed on hanger.  Put the hanger in a well ventilated area that has open circulation to complete the drying process.

5.   When completely dry use a cylindrical tube such as wrapping paper roll or paper towel roll to 'cold press' the linens.  Do not press before doing this process.  Store the linens in a drawer loosely arranged to prevent wrinkling.  Another option is to loosely arrange them in a box. Where ever you store them, don't fold them as this will eventually break down the fibers over time.

6.   For the best presentation, iron your linens with a warm iron just before using them.  Consider starching them as you iron if you prefer the really crisp look.

I hope these suggestions help you care for your lovely linens so that you and generations to come can always enjoy them.

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