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Does Linen Stretch? (Tested & Answered)

During the summertime we see a lot of linen clothing items being sold in shopping centers, however, some people tend to stay away from this material because they do not know how to take care of the fabric. Linen is a strong fabric that can keep you cool during the warm seasons, but in order to take care of it properly you need to learn a few things, and we are here to help you out with that.

Linen is not elastic fabric, meaning it does not naturally stretch. Linen, actually, tends to shrink after being washed in hot water. However, if you want to stretch out your shrunk linen clothes, you can, here’s how.

Key Takeaways

  • Linen is a strong natural material made from the flax plant.
  • Indeed, linen shrink, especially after being washed in hot water.
  • The linen fabric is very strong and breathable.
  • Linen does not naturally stretch while washing.
  • The linen fabric can shrink if washed with hot water, but it can return to its original size fast.
  • Linen fabrics are very eco-friendly and sustainable.

Where Does it Come From?

Linen is a natural fabric and its fibers are made from the flax plant. The fibers are then spun into a thread that is then bleached and colored. It does not need a lot of resources to be produced and it has been around since ancient times. The flax plant fibers are strong, making linen a durable fabric that can be manufactured in a sustainable way.

Can I wash the linen in the washing machine?

You can wash linen, but you have to be careful not to use a fast setting on your washing machine. Linen fibers are very strong and do not absorb water, in fact, they get stronger when wet, but because of their low elasticity, the fibers can break if folded in the same place repeatedly. This is why linen garments tend to wrinkle easier. The best way to take care of linen is by washing it with cold water by hand or taking it to a professional dry cleaner.

Can I stretch linen out?

After washing your linen put it on an ironing board while it’s still dumped. Heat your iron to medium heat and iron from the center to the sides applying even pressure. Make sure the fabric doesn’t scrunch or twist along the way and repeat the process until the linen is dried up. This will stretch your fabric back to its original size if it shrunk while washing it, but not any bigger.

How do I take care of linen?

As we already discussed, when washing linen it should with lukewarm or cold water and mild detergent. Bleach or other strong chemicals that are usually added to strong detergents may cause the color of the fabric to fade away. Also, hot water causes it to shrink up to 10%, but some manufacturers today make “pre-shrined” linen. This is done by building heaters in the weaving machines which help regulate the shrinking rate of the material.

It is also recommended you dry your linen on a flat surface or air dry it and hang it up to prevent wrinkling.  If you want to use your iron to get rid of wrinkles and help stretch your shrunk fabric back to its original size, make sure not to overheat your iron because high heat causes damage to the fibers and they might tear over time.

A handy trick to getting rid of wrinkles on linen is by hanging it up on a hanger and putting it in a steamy bathroom, leave it for as long as the room is steaming and there you have it.

How to test it out?

If you are confused about what to do with your linen and how to test if it will shrink, we have a simple solution. Just test by comparison. Take a piece of old linen and put it in the washing machine, take a newer peace and wash is the way we explained in this article. Dry the old one in the dryer and let the new one air-dry, then simply compare the two. This will erase any doubts in your mind.

Is it worth it?

Linen is a natural fiber that is breathable and comfortable. Its lightweight properties help regulate your body temperature by allowing the heat to escape and wick moisture. This makes it the perfect fabric for warm summer days, not to mention that it only gets softer after every wash.

If you suffer from allergies or have very sensitive skin, linen is the perfect option for you since it’s antimicrobial and anti-allergenic.

Plus, clothes from linen look very cool, the draping effect looks flattering on the body, and the neutral colors its often found to look very stylish.

Is it sustainable?

Linen is by far one of the more sustainable fabrics used today. Sadly, it sums up only 1% of the global textile fabrics consumption. Not only is it a natural fiber made from the flax plant, but it also does not require a lot of water, unlike cotton for example.

It also lowers your carbon footprint and it can be grown without fertilizers and pesticides that normally go into the soil. Actually, the entire flax plant is used for fiber, meaning there is no waist left. And yes, linen is biodegradable and can start to decompose after only two weeks.


Don’t be afraid to buy linen garments because you think they are too difficult to take care of. As we explained in this article, linen is pretty easy to care for, you just need to remember a few key things.

The fibers are made from the flax plant that is strong and due to that, the fabric can be a bit stiff. However, it will start to loosen up after a few washes, but it will not stretch out. Be careful not to shrink your linen by washing it in hot water and using the dryer.

Remember to always hand wash your linen garments in lukewarm water and air-dry them for the best effect. If you are not sure how to do this on your own, or just don’t want to, take your garments to the dry cleaners.

And last, enjoy your clothes, linen is a very comfortable and breathable fabric, not to mention it’s incredibly stylish.

Further Reading

As this article is aimed at linen fabric and whether it stretches, you may also check if polyester stretches.

Something else that you may want to check out is the dry cleaning part, and it is important to know if you can dry clean leather and if silk can be dry cleaned.

Also, check out how to store sweaters and the exact way of storing fabric in general.