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If you work in an industry that typically uses a lot of linens, such as the healthcare or hospitality industry, you probably spend a fair amount of time choosing fabrics types and cleaning them – but you probably aren’t too familiar with how linens are made. As a business owner, it’s important to know about the linen production process, so you can choose quality products that best portray your company’s brand.

Where Does Linen Come From?

You’ve probably heard about adding flax or flaxseed to your diet because of its high fiber count. However, linen is actually constructed from the flax plant, which is grown all over the world. Not only is flax cultivated for food and for linen, but it’s also is the main ingredient in oil that’s used for oil paintings. There are several different types of flax, that yield multiple qualities of linen.

Linseed flax is mainly used for oil production, while other flax plants (known as the flax variety) are better used for linen. Cultivating flax can be a bit tricky, as the plant must be harvested before it’s fully mature to yield the best fibers. However, doing this produces poor quality oil. Therefore, two different types of flax must be used to cultivate oil and linen.

Harvesting Flax

It’s time to harvest flax when the fibers (stalks) begin to turn color. This means that the plant is approaching maturity – to get the aforementioned higher-quality flax, the plant must be harvested beforehand, but this is a much more laborious process. The highest quality linens are harvested completely by hand, and to date, there is no machine that better streamlines this process. Flax fibers are held together by calcium and proteins, and must be separated during the harvesting process. The best way to separate them is with water–known as the retting process.

The Retting Process

Water retting produces the best linens. Flax fibers must be held down in stagnant, still water in order to separate them. Bogs and ponds are great for this method. Dew retting is another possibility. Fibers are spread out so that the morning dew helps to separate them, and are pulled as the day warms. Flax can also be retted in a tank with cement, or using a chemical process. Both of these processes produce lower-quality linens.

A Long Way to Linen

After the fibers have been separated, the flax needs to dry and cure for several months. Then, the fibers need to be further broken down with a process known as scutching. This is a labor-intensive process that a person usually does by hand. An entire day’s work only yields about 15 pounds of usable flax. The fibers are now known as stricks, and are ready to be spun using a distaff. You may be familiar with this long pole, typically used in spinning. After the stricks are spun, it’s time to weave the actual linen. At this juncture, usually a machine is used for weaving, however, some linen is still woven by hand.

Choosing the Best Quality

Those in the industrial textile products field certainly want to choose the best linen. Rather than location, the retting and harvesting process used should determine how you choose your linens. Belgian flax linen is certainly considered some of the best quality, as is retted in Ireland. South America also produces high-quality linen because of their retting process. One of the best things to do, if you’re using linen services, is to ask where the linens were made. While the location doesn’t have any effect on the quality, it will give you a good idea of the production process in that particular region.

You Can Rely On Wilkins Linen

For a quality linen management professional that offers the best linens for your industry, contact Wilkens Linen today. We provide linen rental and services to healthcare facilities, restaurants, and hotels in the Houston and surrounding area. You can rely on our over 60 years of experience and timely delivery and pick-up services for your company’s products.

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