Linen is a fine, soft, silky, somewhat brittle vegetable fibre produced by retting the stems of the flax plant. The fibre is grey, brown, or tan in colour. Linen undergoes a comprehensive manufacturing process before it becomes a finished fabric.
Linen withstands high water temperature. Its ability to absorb moisture and then release it quickly makes it easy to clean. Concentrated mineral acids such as hydrochloric, hydrofluoric, nitric and sulphuric acids will damage the fibre, but dilute solutions (3% or less) may be used if properly neutralised and rinsed. Concentrated volatile organic acids, such as acetic or formic acids, do not adversely effects linen. However, non-volatile organic acids, such as oxalic or critic, weakens the fibre (especially if hot), if not properly neutralised.
Linen withstands weak alkalis, and cold, highly diluted solutions of chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) will not harm it, unless left unneutralised, in which case the fibre slowly degrades.
The older the linen fabric, the more likely it is to brown while drying. Dyes used on linen may not withstand high alkalinity or chlorine bleach without colour loss. Hydrogen peroxide (3%) and sodium perborate do not damage linen and are less likely to harm dyes if properly controlled. Dilute reducing agents, such as sodium bisulfite or sodium hydrosulfide have little effect on the fibre itself, although dyes may be affected. Careful testing is imperative.
Linen is much more brittle then cotton. Carefully inspect it for any signs of abrasion, particularly in heavy-use areas such as cushions, armrest, headrest, and on pipping. Agitation during cleaning may have to be limited to avoid fibre damage.