Each year, a day or two before Christmas, my grandmother goes to her sideboard and gets out the nice tablecloth that was only used for holidays. It is always the signal that the festivities are almost here. Now that I’m starting to amass my own collection of special occasion* linens, I’d like to take the same level of care with them that she does. So we asked for advice from the experts at La Tavola, a linen design house and national rental company who have styled everything from celebrity weddings to award shows. Here’s how they recommend you care for your linens.
How to store linens – Larger linens and tablecloths can be stored in a closet lightly folded over a rounded hanger to avoid creases and wrinkles. Napkins are best stored with minimal folding to prevent creasing. To have napkins party ready, use a rectangular fold.
How to remove wrinkles – The steam setting on your at-home iron usually can do the trick. A no-iron option is to lay the tablecloth or napkin flat on a table, lightly spritz it with water, then smooth about the wrinkles by hand allowing the linen to dry overnight. Depending on the fabric, beware of tossing tablecloths in the dryer, as there is a good chance they will shrink. If you have a few days and don’t want to deal with it yourself, you can take linens to the dry cleaner.
How to remove candle wax – While candles create a wonderful atmosphere, their dripping can be a disaster for linens. For a small drip, try freezing the wax with an ice cube before attempting to remove. Another option is to scrape off the candle wax with a dull knife and then put the stained part of the fabric between two paper towels or paper bags. Using a low-setting iron, iron the paper towels or paper bags where the stains are. This technique will transfer the stain onto the paper towel or paper bag.
How to remove stains – The number one thing is to treat the spill as quickly as possible so it does not set in the fabric. For almost any stain, you can soak the linens in baking soda or soda water. For red wine specifically, you can blot the fabric with white wine vinegar. For more sturdy fabrics, coat the stain with salt and allow it to sit for five minutes. When dealing with oil-based stains, like salad dressing, start by rubbing in cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb the oil, then let it sit for about 20 minutes and then brush off the powder.
*And aren’t any weeknight gatherings a special occasion? Let’s use those linens! And when you need a certain color napkin or a sequin covered tablecloth, rent.