The Lifecycle of a Linen Closet
Stocking Up for Every Life Stage
Your linen closet says a lot about you. From the type of towels you use to the state of your sheets, these everyday decisions can reflect where you are in your life — whether you’re settling in to your first apartment or you’re an empty-nester with a weakness for fine Egyptian cotton.
As your needs and wants evolve at every age and stage, you’re sure to encounter some questions when it comes time to shop for new linens. We’ll help you navigate the world of thread counts, fabric density and textile trends so you can build the perfect linen closet for your lifestyle.
College Grads: Towels
Towels are often the first items young adults choose to upgrade, and a fresh, matching set can bring together the look and feel of even the most basic apartment bathroom.
A towel’s fabric impacts its absorbency, comfort, and durability. Be sure to read the label carefully to ensure that you’re getting what you pay for.
- Egyptian Cotton // Highly absorbent, soft, and durable with a luxurious feel
- Pima Cotton // Strong and absorbent; soaks up water quickly
- Microfiber // Made with man-made materials that dry super fast; not always soft
- Microcotton // Soft, fluffy and absorbent with suede-like texture
- Turkish Cotton // A heavier feel with great durability
- Organic Cotton // Made with cotton grown without pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides; similar to non-organic options
Extend the life of your towels and keep them feeling soft and absorbent by caring for them properly.
- Always check your towels’ labels for proper care instructions, including recommended water temperature for washing.
- Wash before using to set the color and improve absorbency.
- Avoid using fabric softeners as they can reduce absorbency and create a stiff texture by coating your towel’s fibers. The same goes for using excess laundry detergent—follow care instructions.
- Shake them out before throwing them in the dryer to keep them fluffy and avoid over drying, which can lead to pilling and weakened fibers.
- Towels smelling musty? Add a cup of white distilled vinegar to the wash occasionally to combat an unpleasant odor.
- Fight the urge to overuse your towels between washings — experts recommend washing bath towels every third use, and hand towels even more frequently.
There’s no better time to upgrade your bedding than when you’re joining your home with someone else’s. Whether you’re filling out your registry or shopping for yourself, here are some bedding basics to keep in mind.
- Types of Cotton
- Good: American Upland // If a label simply reads “100% cotton,” it’s probably made from this widely used cotton that is typically more affordable but may have a slightly rougher texture. This may include options like flannel and jersey cotton, as well as cotton blends.
- Better: Pima Cotton // Grown in Peru, Australia, and the southwestern U.S., this fabric has a silky soft feel. Sheets labeled “Supima” are American-made sheets officially promoted by the Supima Association.
- Best: Egyptian Cotton // Grown in Egypt along the Nile River, this extremely high-quality, long-staple cotton has a luxurious, supple feel. Check the label to ensure you’re getting 100 percent Egyptian cotton.
- Types of Weaves
- Combed Cotton // A type of weave that has been combed to remove short fibers and impurities, resulting in a stronger, smoother fabric.
- Sateen // This weave of cotton and natural fibers has a lustrous feel.
- Percale // This close weave has a crisp, cool feel that’s perfect for warm sleepers.
Good-quality bedding is an investment, but even affordable options will last longer and perform better when cared for properly. Start by looking at the label. Here are some tips:
- Rotate your sheets weekly to keep them fresh and extend their life. Quilts, blankets and other toppers can typically be washed every few months.
- When washing bedding, avoid powdered detergent, bleach and fabric softeners, which can weaken the natural fibers.
- Dry your bedding using a low temperature, as overheating can cause color fading and brittle fibers.
First-Time Homeowners: Table Linens
There’s nothing like buying your first home to inspire entertaining, and you may suddenly discover a desire for new tablecloths, napkins and table runners. Here’s how to build a collection of table linens for occasions ranging from casual family meals to formal dinner parties.
- Cotton // Durable, versatile and affordable
- Polyester // Easy to care for with vivid hues and a shiny, sometimes rough texture
- Cotton-Polyester Blends // The look and feel of cotton with more wrinkle resistance
- Linen // A luxurious feel that will last for generations if cared for properly
- Vinyl // Ideal for outdoor events, messy occasions, and families with young children
Don’t Forget the Kitchen Towels
Besides bringing style to your space, linen kitchen towels are much more eco-friendly than paper towels. Discarded paper towels result in 254 million tons of trash around the world each year, according to The Paperless Project. Having a good supply of kitchen towels can help you break the cycle by saving trees and reducing pollution.
Young Families: An Expanded Collection
Once kids enter the equation, you may find the need for new linens, while some old favorites may be pushed to the bottom of the heap. Here’s how to create a family-friendly linen closet using items you already have, along with a few new additions.
In the Bedroom
- Because kids’ beds may need changing more often than adults’ beds, it’s a good idea to have two or more extra sets of sheets for each child’s bed.
- Opt for soft, stain-resistant, easy-wash fabrics like cotton blends in the bedroom.
- Colorful patterns and prints not only add a dose of fun to a kid’s room—they also hide the inevitable stains.
In the Bathroom
- Make bath time fun by trading in the basic white towels for more colorful options.
- Households with kids will go through washcloths like nobody’s business—be sure to stock up on extras.
- When teaching the importance of hand-washing, be sure to have plenty of fresh hand towels at the ready. You’ll likely need to wash them more frequently than usual.
On the Table
- You may want to skip the tablecloth—it’ll just soak up spills—and opt for placemats in easy-wash fabrics when setting a family-friendly table.
- If you do go with a tablecloth—and you have a toddler—consider clipping it to the table so they won’t be able to pull it down.
- Laminated cotton may be a good option for families with young children to minimize laundry and allow for easy clean-up after meals.
Empty Nesters: Paring Down & Upgrading
An empty nest often calls for a bit of fluffing—it’s the perfect time to upgrade your linen closet. Here are some tips for refining your collection for every situation.
On the Table
- Without messy kids to worry about, you can finally invest in finer table linens. Go for heirloom-quality fabrics like damask, linen, and lace.
- Elegant details like monograms and embroidery can add an extra-special touch to tablecloths and cloth napkins.
- Protect your table from heat and spills—and keep everything in place—with a table pad. It’ll also improve the drape of your tablecloth.
In the Bedroom
- Egyptian cotton, cashmere, linen, and silk are among the most luxurious fabrics for sheets—just check the label to ensure you’re getting the real thing and not a blend.
- Luxury fabrics such as linen and silk may require special steps for cleaning, but they’re often durable enough to last for decades.
- Down comforters are warm and insulating without being heavy. A thicker fill power (600+) equates to more warmth, while a lighter fill power (500 or less) is preferable for warmer weather.
Guest Room Essentials
Whether you’ve got friends in town or the kids are coming home for the holidays, a well-equipped guest room will ensure they have a comfortable stay. Stock your linen closet with the proper supplies so you’ll always be ready for overnight guests.
- Make the guest bed with freshly laundered, crisp white sheets to make your visitors feel like they’re staying in a fine hotel.
- Don’t make them search out a towel and washcloth in the morning—include a fresh stack in the guest room with two towels per guest per day.
- A fluffy down comforter works well for all seasons, but be sure to fold a blanket on the end of the bed in case your guests crave a bit of extra warmth.
- Include two pillows per guest, plus a couple of accent pillows for a bit of flair.
Experts mentioned in the above article: Donna Smallin Kuper of unclutter.com is an organizing and cleaning expert who offers tips on organizing your linen closets and writes about them for The Home Depot. Kirsten Grove of simplygrove.com is an interior stylist who provides advice on styling your bedding, table linens, and towels as great design elements.
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