My Grandmother's Secret to Crisp Linens (Surprise: It's Not Starch)
Wrinkles, meet your match.
For most of us, fancy linens come out for the holidays and are then stowed away until the next year. Like clockwork, my grandmother pulls out her best linens for Thanksgiving and Christmas parties and by the time family has arrived, the tables stretching from our farmhouse's front room to the dining room looks like a line of soldiers ready for their daily inspection. "I know it's just family coming over, but we want to look sharp," she says to me with a smirk, before returning to her overflowing to-do list for the holiday morning.
As a little girl I was tasked with folding the napkins. While I was busy debating whether to learn a swan fold or stick with my typical triangle fold, my grandmother managed to press out all the tablecloths leaving no wrinkle to spare.
It was like magic. One minute they were on the ironing board and the next they were placed on the table, ready for her guests. As the only granddaughter, and the member of my family who will eventually have the responsibility of hosting the family holiday parties, I had to learn her secret to managing beautiful, pressed linens.
Although starch is a tried-and-true staple for many, it's not my grandmother's preferred tool. After spritzing her freshly laundered linens with water, she gives them a good spray with her favorite wrinkle-buster: Magic Sizing (BUY IT: $4.25; walmart.com).
You're probably wondering: What's the difference between sizing and starch? Why switch from the trusted source for generations of stiff church collars and flat tablecloths?
Starch can create an immediate stiffness on fabrics but sizing adds more body and lessens the chances of wrinkling during use. Often starch also leaves fabrics over-stiffened and scratchy.
Sizing can be sprayed on damp or dry fabric, but my grandmother believes damp fabric is a better surface for the sizing to bind to. Once you've sprayed the sizing, gently smooth over any wrinkles with your iron. This is not a process that can be rushed, my grandmother warns.
When you're ready to store your linens, avoid putting them in a drawer because it can cause deepened wrinkles from the folds and yellowing from disuse. Instead opt for hanging them in a closet (the wire hangers with cardboard tubes are best). This way you'll have less wrinkles when it comes time to use your linens again.
My grandmother's other tips include ironing napkins as soon as they're out of the dryer because "those pesky things never want to stay flat." But her most important piece of advice is to use your linens as often as you want. The worst thing you can do to a beautiful vintage tablecloth is leave it in a drawer never to be used, she says.
My grandmother's linens have seen every event from piano recitals to weekly Phelps family Thursday night dinners.
So the next time you're hosting friends for a dinner or drinks, consider pulling out one of your nice tablecloths and spray it with Magic Sizing for a wrinkle-free table adornment that's guaranteed to impress.