Taking Care of Your Table Linen

Taking Care of Your Table Linen

Table linens are the lifeblood of a restaurant. Soaking up any spillages, covering the furniture, linen napkins for wiping faces – the list is truly endless. This is the reason why we need to take special care of linen tablecloths, napkins and even tea towels. Follow these top tips and you can keep your kitchen linens in the best possible condition. As we mentioned, table and kitchen linens take a real hammering, what with wine spills, candle wax drips, lipstick marks and food staining.

So, when you invite guests into your restaurant for a meal, your aim is to ensure that the food and drink are perfect but it is also very important to get the setting just right. Our blog post about making sure that your table linen is ready to be used at a moment’s notice and if you’ve ever pondered how to deal with stains on your linen tablecloth or simply keep them in really good condition, here’s a handy table linen care guide.

Act with haste

If you can get to a stain swiftly you have a much better chance of removing it from your restaurant linen. You can postpone the washing up until the next day, fine, but don't forget to get out any stains as they are stubborn things and will only get more embedded into the fabric’s fibres. Choose a treatment that contains enzymes and gently pat onto the stain. Don’t rub as you will just work it more into the fabric. Check for colour fastness and lightening by initially applying to a small, hidden area if using a product for the first time. Chlorine bleach will cause yellowing and eventually erode the fibres of linen, so it is to be prevented. If you are feeling very organised you could print it off, laminate it and pin to the wall of your laundry area for quick reference in case of red wine, coffee or a major spillage disaster.

Soak them

If your restaurant linen is machine washable, you can pop it in the washing machine and let it fill with hot water, but don’t put it on a full cycle. Alternatively, find a big pan and fill it with hot water. Soak the linen overnight for maximum stain removal.


Wash machine washable linen on a short cycle, or hand wash, being mindful not to scrub it hard. Linen does not like vigorous scouring or pummelling (and neither do we, for that matter). Gently do it.


Ideally, you’ll want to hang your linen out to dry naturally. The sun actually helps to bleach out stains, this as well as tumble drying can just fix in marks more permanently. At this point, if the stain has not been removed, you are better off re-treating and washing than just tumble drying. Be sure you dry linens flat where possible so they keep their shape.


You may be a restaurant owner who embraces the rustic charm of a natural crumple of a linen tablecloth, however to adhere to the classic restaurant standard do not attempt to iron them. Rather than this, roll and store flat rather than folded. It can be a pain trying to find the right size tablecloth in a rush, so why not sew coloured tabs onto each one in accordance with the size, and then go on to hang them up ready to be found and laid in no time and without rummaging in piles of linens. Precious vintage linens can be stored in sealed bags accompanied by a fragrance pouch if desired for freshness.

Tablecloth stain removal

If you have noticed some especially stubborn stains on your table linen, you might need to treat them directly. So how do you go about removing stains from linen?

How do you remove stains from linen

Different types of stain can require different methods of removal, and there are tailored methods to removing specific substances from your table linen. Moreover, there are some stain removal basics that are worth bearing in mind for when disaster happens!

Remove the stain as quickly as possible

Fresh stains are simpler to remove. For liquid, blot up any excess with a fresh cloth or paper towel. Never attempt to rub blobs into the table linen as it pushes the stain further into the fibres. Various substances are easier to remove after the stain has dried - for example, think of mud. Brush off any excess prior to washing.

Start cold

Hot water can often cook protein stains (such as oil or egg) into the linen. Hot water is useful for oily stains. If you’ve washed your linen and then spotted a stain, don’t iron it or put it inside the tumble dryer. The heat from this can make the stain permanent. Try to remove the stain at this point.

Don’t attempt any vigorous rubbing

In addition to potentially damaging your table linen, it can also establish a stain further.

How to remove wax from a tablecloth

A common problem after candlelit dinner is when the wax has dripped from the candle onto your tablecloth or runner and made a mess. While it seems like a difficult problem, removing the wax is actually relatively easy using either cold or heat.

How to tackle a wax stain:

Idea 1: Freeze the wax

Fold the whole tablecloth or runner with the wax on top, and pop it in the freezer. As an alternative, put an ice pack on the linen while it is still on the tablecloth. Once the wax has frozen, use a dull knife (for example a butter knife) or your fingernail to scrape the wax off with care.

idea 2: Remove the wax with heat

Put paper towels on both sides of the stained area. With a warm iron at a medium temperature - iron over the paper. The heat will make the wax melt and soak into the paper towel. Repeat this process with fresh paper towels until all the wax is removed, then wash the linen as you normally would.

Ironing your linen

If you choose to iron linen, to make things simpler, we advise that you undertake this process in advance of the day that you want to use the tablecloth and other linen. This can help you to concentrate on your various other duties in advance of your guests arriving.  Firstly, prep the tablecloth. It works best if it is slightly damp (but not wet). You might want to apply some starch to it as well. Once you have ironed your tablecloth, fold it and hang it with a hanger.

How to iron your napkins

The ideal place to iron napkins is unsurprisingly on an ironing board. All you need to do is apply the same method to napkins as to your clothes - keep an even pressure and make sure the iron keeps moving to prevent scorching.

Since 1975, Johnsons Stalbridge Linen Services has been providing linen napkins, table linens and restaurant tablecloths to our customer base across the UK. We have extensive experience within the industry which has permitted us to develop a fantastic reputation for the quality of our table linens and cloth napkins as well as our customer service. As a manager and owner of a restaurant, you’ll know just how important it is to concentrate on every detail of your property, from the decor and the theme all the way to the restaurant linen. If you are looking to change your supplier and would like to consider linen napkin hire, serviette hire or any other form of restaurant linen hire, look no further. We can provide bespoke options on all of the above and always endeavour to provide the very best service. To find out more about how we can help you, get in touch today to find out more.

Posted: June Fresh thinkingLinen HireTablecloth stain removaltable linen