Material: All you need to know about linen

A deep-dive into linen fabric — one of the world's oldest known fibres. How sustainable is linen and is it a good alternative to cotton?

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6 Jul




 min read

What is linen fabric?

Linen is a popular fabric that comes from the flax plant. It’s a strong, lightweight, and highly absorbent fabric.

It's one of the oldest known fibres — dating back to 8000BC! The word linen comes from the Latin word for flax — “linum usitatissimum”.

It's most commonly used for curtains, bedsheets, rugs, towels, clothing. The natural plant fibres are extracted, spun into yarn, and woven to make linen fabric.

What is the difference between cotton and linen?

Both cotton and linen are made from natural fibres. Linen is a more lightweight fabric than cotton.

Cotton is initially softer than linen — though linen gets softer after each wash. Linen dries much faster than cotton which makes it perfect to wear in hot weather.

Linen is moth resistant and anti-bacterial — which means bacteria have a hard time sticking around. So your clothes will stay fresher for longer. Read our organic cotton guide for more detail.

Is linen environmentally friendly?

Linen uses a lot less water than cotton. Not very surprising, as cotton is the thirstiest crop in the world.

It needs fewer pesticides to grow well. And it's fully biodegradable if left untreated or dyed. Even though fewer pesticides are needed — it doesn't mean that's always the case.

To be sure look out for organic certifications like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or for brands that are transparent about their supply chains.

What are the disadvantages of linen?

It creases very easily which can give the fabric a crumpled look. Be sure to keep your iron handy.

A more limited choice of colours — you'll most commonly see natural tones and colours.

This is down to how the fibres are processed. Heavy, chemical, bleaching processes are needed to get pure white linen. So it's usually best to go for natural-looking colours.

What country does linen come from?

It doesn't matter where you are — linen will be a naturally grown fibre. It's most common in Western Europe, but also throughout Asia and the USA.

How do you wash linen?

You can wash linen in your washing machine — it's not essential to hand wash. The fabric will soften after each wash. Though just like cotton — linen can be prone to shrinking.

Some brands will pre-wash garments to account for this shrinkage. Though it's usually a good idea to wash linen in cold water.

Photo of the author of this article.

Words by 



Sep 8


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