Do I Really Have to Iron My Linen Napkins?

Do I Really Have to Iron My Linen Napkins?


To iron or not to iron?

In my recent stories in instagram on @shoplot8, I asked a question. 

How do you feel about ironing?

These were the choices: 


      1. I’d rather poke out my eyes.
      2. It’s my fave zen task.
      3. I could take it or leave it.


Want to guess which one won?

Yup. I’d rather poke my eyes out.

The reasons for this are many:
  • Life is too short
  • You have a crappy iron
  • It’s a seemingly endless task with too many wrinkles, folds, shirts etc.
  • They get wrinkled again

 I could go on.


For me, ironing is a new beginning. A way of restoring order. A bit of a meditative task where I can lose myself in my thoughts. And that's a good thing, since in this business I have to iron ALL THE TIME!  Having said that if I don’t get the desired results, it’s a great opportunity to curse! Which is also kind of cathartic and leads to that feeling of zen.


A favourite customer of mine (let’s call her Sophie) reached out the other day to tell me how much she loves the linen dinner napkins she ordered from me (Get Yours Here). But now that they are laundered, they are all crumpled. She HATES ironing and is afraid they will never look as beautiful as when they first arrived. 

An iron skims over the surface of a taupe coloured linen napkin. I imagine there is swearing in the background.

This is a picture of Sophie swearing as she irons.



We had a little chat. I offered a few tips. And she decided to dust off her iron and give it a shot. I thought I’d share these few tips with you.


Tip #1 Embrace the Rumple

If you hate ironing, just don’t do it. Life is too short. Find another way. Just enjoy those freshly laundered linen napkins, rumples and all. 

Knot them

Stuff them into a glass

Drape them into the centre of the plate

Mound them into a basket in the centre of the table

 A rumpled white dinner napkin knotted in the centre and looking gorgeous.

Whatever way they get there, pat yourself on the back. You are offering sustainable, reusable napkins at dinner. And making dinner! Everyone should be grateful.  Enough.


Tip #2  After washing, let your napkins air dry

Air drying will not only save you money and help the environment, it will also save your fabrics. Hang your napkins from a clothesline. Drape them over a chair. Use your fancy laundry drying rack. Either way you do it, air drying means that there will be more body in your linen. They will be a little more stiff, so easier to fold or dare I say it, iron.


Tip #3 Get crafty with your dryer

If you have one, use the steam function on your dryer to remove most of the wrinkles from your napkins.

If you don’t have a steam function, you can apparently add a few ice cubes to a sock and throw it in with the napkins. I guess you want to make sure it is a clean sock?  When the ice cubes melt, they give off steam which is supposed to help your garments ditch their wrinkles. I can’t say as this worked for me. When I tried it all I could hear were the ice cubes battling around in the drum of my dryer which shares a wall with my tv. I couldn’t hear a word of dialogue in The White Lotus, so I nixed the experiment. But if you don’t care for that show, go ahead and try that solution or look for a few others here:

10 ways to unwrinkle your clothes without an iron 

Finally, remove your napkins from the dryer when they are damp dry…this will make ironing easier, basically taking away the need for the next step below.


 Tip #4 Use Distilled Water in a Spray Bottle When Ironing

A clear glass spray bottle labelled "Distilled Water" sits beside an iron

Adding distilled water to the reservoir of your iron and keeping a spray bottle of distilled water for spritzing while you iron is a good idea. Now going out and buying distilled water seems just silly to me. Not only because you have to make a trip to the store, but also because it is often found in a plastic jug (remember, we’re trying to create less plastic waste!).  So just boil some tap water. Let it cool. Voilà, you have distilled water (or water that has fewer of the minerals that can ruin your iron). 

If you really want to precise or are a real distilled water nerd, learn more here: 

Learn more about making your own distilled water.

Anyhoo, most irons require distilled water in the steam reservoir to keep the steam valves open, so use this water to fill your reservoir. But my iron’s steam function kind of sucks so I keep a spray bottle of distilled water close by and simply spritz the napkin then iron.


Tip #5  Use Spray Starch (but not just any old spray starch!)

Spray starch is used to add body (i.e. crispness) to fabrics, especially cotton and linen. You get this gorgeous crisp fabric that is purported to repel stains and helps to prevent wrinkles.  Growing up we used Easy On Speed Starch on everything! Tea towels, napkins, pillowcases. Sheets!  Yes we ironed our sheets! I’ve since outgrown that practice. 

I’m unclear whether Easy On Speed Starch with Crisp Linen Scent is still available in Canada, but I have a can hanging around from like a million years ago. On a whim, I thought I’d  read about the ingredients. As you can imagine, they’re not good. According to the cpid (Consumer Product Information Database), there are 3 chemicals of concern, notably isobutane, ammonium hydroxide and propylene glycol. These chemicals have been linked to respiratory disorders, skin conditions and some other stuff that I stopped reading about.  You can read more here:

Ingredient List in Easy On Spray Starch

My next step is to deliver this spray starch can to the hazardous waste disposal area at my local waste management site.


Another alternative to traditional aerosol starch with all of these nasty chemicals is Mary Ellen Best Press which is labelled as a starch alternative.

A screen shot of Mary Ellen Best Press Website showing a cartoon woman and Mary Ellen in red cursive splashed against the page

The internet, and in particular quilters on the internet, rave about this product. However there are no ingredients listed on the product nor on the website. I read a forum where someone suggested that the product smelled of formaldehyde, but most of the comments disagreed. I reached out to the company about the ingredient list, but at the time of writing, have not heard back.


When I can’t find something I’m looking for, I make it myself. There are two common and non-toxic DIY spray starches out there.

 One involved a mixture of boiling water and cornstarch. I made it. It was kind of gloppy and the colour of skim milk. I used it. It kind of worked. Then I read another site that said because starch is a food, spraying fabrics with this solution might attract pests.  Hard no.


The second DIY spray starch is Vodka Spray Starch


DIY Vodka Spray Starch

Mix together:

Add to a spray bottle:

    • 24oz distilled water 
    • 3 oz. vodka (Vodka is made from potatoes , a natural starch)
    • A drop or two of essential oil (lemon or bergamot would be nice)


I haven’t actually tried this because I’m heading more toward wrinkled napkins with each bit of research. Do I really want to waste vodka on the perfect fold? Will this homemade version still attract pests, but they’ll be tipsy?  I’ll never know. 


The long and short of this blog is that ironing your linen napkins is a personal choice. I hope this article helps make it an informed one.

 I'd love to hear your comments! Or better yet, a pic of your beautifully ironed or beautifully crumpled linen. 

In the end, it's really all about the food, wine and the company. 

Happy (not) ironing,


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