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Holiday Tips: How to Clean Table Linens the Right Way

When celebrating the holidays is done and guests have gone home, there are usually well-used table linens waiting to be cleaned. But with all the drips, dribbles, and stains of a holiday meal, it can seem as though they’ll never look the same. Don’t worry though! We’ll detail how to clean table linens like tablecloths, runners, and napkins, including those made out of linen fabric. We’ll help your linens be ready and waiting for your next celebration.

How to Clean Table Linens in 4 Simple Steps

While holiday prep begins by learning how to defrost a turkey, washing your table linens is part of the inevitable cleanup. But how to clean table linens the right way doesn’t involve labor-intensive steps and fancy supplies. Follow these steps to get the job done and keep your linens looking their best.

Step 1. Pretreat Stains

How do you get stains out of a linen tablecloth or napkins? Pretreating can work wonders. While knowing what the stain is can dictate specific pretreating methods, here’s how to treat mystery spots:

  • Place an enzyme-based stain remover or heavy-duty detergent on the stain.
  • Use your fingers or a soft-bristled brush to rub it into the stain.
  • Allow the cleaner to sit for at least 15 minutes before washing.


how to clean table linens

Step 2. Use the Right Detergent

You can wash a table runner, tablecloth, or napkins with regular detergent, though a heavy-duty version may work better for heavily-stained items. Fabric softener is also recommended, as it can coat fibers and prevent stains from setting in at your next gathering.

If you’re going to wash linen napkins, tablecloths, or runners, we recommend using a gentle detergent on this natural fiber.

Step 3. Choose the Wash Cycle and Water Temperature

Can you machine wash a linen tablecloth? This material can certainly withstand a spin in the washer, but we suggest using warm water and a gentle cycle. Wondering how to wash a tablecloth made from cotton or synthetic fabrics? Using cold or warm water works equally well, but we recommend the permanent press cycle. This setting usually ends with a cool water rinse that can lessen wrinkles. 

can you machine wash a linen tablecloth

Step 4. Dry Linens

Knowing how to clean table linens ends with proper drying. These tips can ensure that your linens are dried correctly:

  • Before placing in the dryer, check to make sure all stains have been washed away. If lingering spots remain, repeat the above steps before drying, which can set the stain.
  • Give each piece a good shake to remove wrinkles. 
  • Dry on a permanent press setting. 
  • Remove table linens as soon as the cycle ends to avoid excessive wrinkling.


Linen tablecloths, runners, and napkins that aren’t pre-washed can shrink in the dryer, especially on a high heat setting. It may be best to air dry this material outside on a clothesline, out of direct sunlight, or indoors on a drying rack. If you must use the dryer, choose a low-heat setting, and remove items while they’re still slightly damp to avoid shrinking.

Storing Table Linens

After your table linens are clean and dry, storing them correctly keeps them fresh until the next use. Here’s how to store tablecloths and other table linens to keep them looking their best:

  • While table linens can be folded or hung, always store them in a cool, dry place.
  • When storing flat, wrap each piece in acid-free tissue paper.
  • Stack heavier items (tablecloths, placemats) on the bottom and lighter items (napkins) on top.
  • Refold the linens twice a year to avoid deep creases and stress in a particular area.


At Best Service Company, we go beyond cooking appliance repair to offer the best uses for all your laundry and cooking appliances. From how to clean table linens to helpful oven maintenance tips, we can answer any question!

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