We all are trying to reduce our carbon footprint and there are so many different information on the subject that we all are getting confused. Many people turn to buying furniture made of natural materials for their homes, which is really great and romantic, but anyone who’s thinking about it should take some things in consideration. This is not a rant on linen or other natural materials that can be used in making of your couches or rugs, but as a person who cleans them and tries to prolong their life, maybe I could give you another way of looking at it, and maybe save you some money in future.
Linen fabric is made from the woody stem of the flax plant (one of the oldest textile fibers used by humans), which makes it very time consuming and labor demanding to grow and produce. Flax is still hand harvested as it was hundreds of years ago. It takes weeks, if not months of drying and curing time, because submerging Flax into the water for 1-3 weeks will loosen the bark as a part of preparation for spinning into yarns. Producing facilities have to be very big and with a lot of open-air space.
Linen has been around for thousands of years. At certain point it was used as a currency even. There is evidence of its use found in Switzerland’s prehistoric lake dwellings. Fine linen fabrics have been discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs. That’s why some pieces of furniture upholstered with linen can be very old and expensive, and super sensitive for maintenance.
The weave of linen fabric is large which helps with the breathability and air flow, the reason why it feels good on skin. It naturally comes in light brown to dark tan colour. Linen is twice as strong as cotton, and it’s stronger wet than dry. It is a great absorbent; it can take up to 20% of its weight in moisture.
As a derivate of Flax plant, Linen has cellulosic content. Lignin is a complex polymer in most plants that gives them support and rigidity and makes them woody. The trouble comes when cellulose structures (lignin) get wet. Fibres become soft, prone to shrinkage and wrinkling, and what we call, cellulose browning (same as when you bite an apple). Being good absorbent makes it so sensitive to spillages and stains. This kind of changes are very hard to reverse, even though there are some pretty cool products that actually work. Another thing is its poor abrasion resistance and resilience in general, and because of it becomes brittle over the time, especially on parts of furniture around arms.
Knowing all of the characteristics of linen fibres on our furniture gives us clear guidance on how to clean it and maintain. Most important, don’t get it overly wet. If you do, make sure you speed up the drying process to its maximum (bloat it whit a dry towel ASAP, and get some airflow, using your blow-dryer if needed). A way to prevent getting the linen couch wet is putting a cover or somewhat similar. Another way of prevention could be getting a professional cleaning company to apply Scotchgard™ or some other fabric protection. This kind of water repellant and soil retardant will prevent both liquids getting into the fibres and dry particles onto the linen. Which bring us to next part of the procedure of cleaning and maintaining. Every cleaning of this kind of couches should start with thorough vacuuming. Avoid using rotating brush of your vacuum cleaner’s tool due to fibres sensitivity. Dry particles are 80% of all the dirt on your furniture and as you move, seat or lay over them, they can abrade and scratch fibers; then fibres will reflect light differently and give you impression of dirtiness. This type of damage to fibres is irreversible. Reason why is so important to vacuum this kind of furniture often. I would say, twice a week even.
With right products, equipment and procedures it is possible to clean this type of fibres, still, to my fellow upholstery cleaners, it is totally ok to say no to jobs like this.
There is no simple answer to it. For some people yes, for some could be a complete disaster. It depends of your lifestyle the most. If you have little kids, pets or maybe couch is part of your office, then it may not be the best idea. You better look for some blends of linen, like linen-polyester blend. Polyester helps linen to wash better, wrinkle less, gives its wearability to linen, and retain colour-fastness; and you get to keep linen’s key feature feeling cool and comforting.
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