|A view of the linen cupboard at Freshford, Avon|
When you get your sheets home and before washing, you may want to remove any stains and/or ironmould marks. There are several good chemical solvents that work well, but I find the best are in the supermarket shelves in France next to the detergents - they seem stronger and are more specific. Rubigine anti-rouille rust stain remover is brilliant, but be careful,as it does not harm the linen but is actually a very powerful and toxic acid.
Old discoloured linen needs a good long soak in several changes of plain cold water over several days to soften the inner core of the fibres and to remove the tobacco stains that seem to invade all French fabrics and soft furnishings. After this, give the linen a good hot wash with an oxygen based powder (bleach is not recommended unless you are desperate). If there is delicate embroidery or fine lace, wash on gentle programme in a pillow case or by hand in a bath - do not spin or twist, and hang out to dry on a line in the sun and wind or flat on the grass. Use a light starch for a crisp glossy finish but remember that this does yellow in storage. I would never send precious lace and embroidery to an ordinary laundry - fine decorations can be ruined and you may not even get your own linen back as some of the staff have a good idea of the value of the finest items and several of my clients have had unfortunate losses.