A table setting with vases full of pink flowers and clean white and gold linens on the table

How To Wash Table Linens & Prepare Your Home for the Holidays

Steps to Wash a Tablecloth

  1. Determine linen material
  2. Set the washing machine to a permanent press cycle
  3. Add detergent and odor-removing booster
  4. Dry your linens
  5. Iron your linens
  6. Store your linens properly
  7. Entertain!

The holiday season is right around the corner and that means dusting off those annual decorations, place settings, and fancy special occasion linens in order to create the perfect ambiance for friends and family. 

Pulling out your holiday decorations and linens can be exciting until you venture into the basement or your attic storage spots only to be met with a musty smell and wrinkles. The evidence is right in front of you — the table linens need a good wash before they’re rolled out for guests or used to dress a table. 

It’s time to kick off those fresh traditions, and what better way than prepping those special occasion linens for your friends and family. Read on to find out more about how to wash table linens and a dirty tablecloth so your holiday table will be as beautiful as it can be.

Can You Wash a Tablecloth?

Even though you wouldn’t want to incorporate your special occasion table linens into an everyday load of laundry (especially if they’re made from fancy, high-quality material) they can, of course, be washed and freshened up with a little care and attention. 

If you pull a dirty tablecloth out of storage, there’s no need to panic or immediately take it to the dry cleaners. Follow our step-by-step guide for washing and ironing linen napkins and tablecloths at home, below.

Step 1: Determine the Linen's Material

Certain delicate materials like silk and lace shouldn’t be treated the same way as cotton or other synthetic fabric. If there are any labels, be sure to read them to figure out if they should be hand washed/air dried or put into a washing machine/dryer.

If you are hand washing, always use cold water and a small amount of detergent to gently massage into the fabric. Allow the linens to soak for about 30 minutes and then rinse well by pressing down on the fabric to eliminate suds. Do not wring out the material as that can cause ripping, warping, or wrinkles.

To air dry, lay your linens on a flat surface or hang on a clothing line. Try to drape the linen over the line versus using clothing pins, which can leave marks.

Step 2: Set the Washing Machine to a Permanent Press Cycle

It is safe to put synthetic material tablecloths and linens into the washing machine when set to a permanent press cycle. This helps reduce wrinkling.

Permanent press cycles can include warm or cold water, but it should not make a difference when it comes to laundering linen napkins or tablecloths.

Step 3: Add Detergent and Odor-Removing Booster

Your favorite laundry detergent for washing towels and blankets will do the trick. If the musty smell of your linens is too strong, or you find unpleasant stains, you may want to use a heavier detergent coupled with a laundry booster or fabric softener.

Our Fresh Wave Odor Removing Laundry Booster works to eliminate odors from linens — just drop in a few capfuls with your detergent and its powerful, plant-based odor eliminators will absorb lingering, set-in smells.

Step 4: Dry Your Linens

Once you remove your linens from the washing machine, take a good look to make sure all stains have been removed. If they haven’t, re-touch them and wash them again before putting them in the dryer. The heat from the dryer will only help set the stains more permanently into the synthetic fibers.

Just as you washed your linens on a permanent press cycle, dry them just the same. If you’re planning on storing your linens after drying, fold them immediately so as to prevent wrinkles.

Step 5: Iron Your Linens

Ironing linen napkins and tablecloths can be difficult, especially if the tablecloths are very large. Rest assured — it can be done!

Make sure you’re working with a clean iron and testing it on something else before applying to your linens. You certainly don’t want to leave burn marks or calcification streaks on your linens after you’ve washed them! If you’re being extra cautious, place a thin sheet over the delicate portion of your linens, and then iron.

Go little by little and give yourself enough space to take on ironing a large tablecloth. If you’re working with a small space, make sure the ground is clean for any parts of your linens that drape over the side of the ironing board.

Step 6: Store Your Linens Properly

You may be waiting until the very last minute to wash your linens so that you can place them immediately on the dining table. Or you may want to store them. If you are storing your linens, do so properly.

Make sure they are completely dry and as wrinkle-free as possible before neatly folding. Then, clean the area where you will be storing them (drawers, boxes, closets) so you won’t have to double up your cleaning duties once you pull them out for use again.

If you’re wary of a musty odor rearing its ugly head again while your linens are in storage, you can also throw in a Fresh Wave Odor Removing Lavender Packs. The natural ingredients from plant oils continuously neutralizes odor molecules so fabrics and linens stay fresh … even while in storage.

Step 7: Entertain!

Your guests will be in awe of your place setting once they see the crisp, fresh linens in front of them this holiday season. 

Here’s one more pro-tip for you while your linens are being used. Spills are bound to happen, so keep your favorite stain fighting products on hand in the event of a spill. And always remember to treat wine, food, or sauce stains as quickly as you can by soaking up as much of the liquid as possible with a towel or rag.

Restore and care for your fancy table linens like a pro with Fresh Wave. And when the holiday season is done, fight odors while your tableware is in storage with odor absorbing Packs, so you can get a jump on preparing your holiday ware before the season even ends.