Irish Linen Tablecloths & Napkins, Vintage or Antique: How to Care for Them

Irish Linen Tablecloths & Napkins, Vintage or Antique: How to Care for Them

Published by L. Roth on Jan 6th 2023

I love the look and the quality of luxury linen tablecloths, napkins, and pillow cases. Personally I lean towards the minimalist side of the spectrum favoring a white-on-white pattern or white with a beautiful monogram. My latest obsession? Vintage Irish Double Damask 100% linen tablecloths and napkins that are "New" old stock from late 19th c. to mid 20th c.

What Makes Irish Double Damask Table Linens Special?

What I especially love about these "New" old stock linens is that they are new stock and have never been used. They still have their original labels.


© Copyright Sugar et Cie

This means that you can be a little more relaxed and spend less time worrying about their condition. They have never been used, yet they are vintage. Made of 100% linen, they are high in quality which you can see in the workmanship and feel when you handle it. The kind of quality that is now almost prohibitively expensive to produce. There is only one company left in Ireland manufacturing these linens - Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen, Banbridge, County Down.

Originally purchased as wedding gifts or for elegant entertaining, many have sat tucked away in someone's linen drawer, armoire, or chest, for 60 years or more. Most likely deemed too nice to use - until now that is!

The white-on-white patterns remind me of today's French jacquard linens. I have added some to my personal collection and also offer them for sale in our boutique when we can find them.

Vintage Table Linens Buying Tips

It is helpful to buy from a reputable dealer with a good return policy. You should feel free to ask about the condition. While they have not been used, there may be stains or discoloration from storage. When they arrive they will not be pristine, as they were not made yesterday. However, it is likely that if the spots are minor most should disappear with a good soak.


Because they are "New" old stock they have never been laundered. I wanted to know what they would look like after a wash. Would the age discoloration disappear easily? Would they still be cream or brighten a shade? How they would look as part of a modern table setting.

So I went looking for one that would was large enough for my mahogany dining table and decided to document my experiment.

I hope by sharing this you will be able to see how you too can get your hands on luxury linens at a more reasonable price.



© Copyright Sugar et Cie

It is probably due to age, but most of these "New" old stock Irish Linen Tablecloths are more off-white, some bordering on cream. They have a quite a bit of sheen. The sheen is really pretty, but to me the sheen makes them look a little old-fashioned. Not to worry - their look changes after the first wash.

Despite the fact that they are “New” old stock and have never been used, some do have a little yellowing, a few orange spots, storage stains, etc. The one I chose for my table had a few orange spots, some yellowing and some overall dirt and dust.

How to Launder Your Linens

I don't think you have to be quite as careful as I am in washing your Double Damask Irish Linen. I like to air dry my linen, but I think it is safe to follow the instructions from Thomas Ferguson Fine Linens. They have produced Double Damask Irish Linen for over 175 years.  


  • Machine Washable: Gentle cycle with cold or lukewarm water.
  • Mild Detergent: Use a mild, liquid detergent. Avoid bleach or OBAs (Optical Brightening Agents). Both Woolite and Tide Pureclean are OBA free.
  • Separate Wash: Wash linen items separately to avoid friction.


  • Tumble Dry on Low: Use a low heat setting.
  • Air Dry: Preferable to dryer.
  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: Prevents color fading. However, if you are trying to get to a bright white, direct sunlight does whiten and brighten naturally.


  • Iron while damp for a smoother look.
  • Use a medium-hot iron is recommended. I set mine to the cotton/linen setting.

I iron mine while they are still fairly damp. If the linen dries completely, just use a spray bottle to heavily spritz and dampen again while ironing.

What I have noticed about truly high-quality linen is that when you iron them (when damp) they become crisp and lovely. No starch spray needed. 

For care and washing of antique linens that might be more delicate, linens with color, or those not in the best of condition, you must hand wash and be much more careful.

If you have linens that are already white, rather than a soft white or ivory, with stains that you would like to remove, I would recommend giving Engleside's Restoration Fabric Restorer a try. I have used it with good results. However, they don't list the ingredients and have not responded to our enquiries, so I would not currently recommend using it on your soft-white/ecru Double Damask Irish Linens.


All of the spots were gone. And what emerged was a lovely, soft white-on-white linen tablecloth.

Based upon the appearance prior to washing, I was initially concerned that it might be a little fussy or too formal. All of my concerns disappeared post wash. The almost silk, pre-wash look, was gone. A slight luster, the hallmark of high quality linen, remained. 

This lovely, crisp, white linen tablecloth is the perfect backdrop for any table setting. For more casual dining, set the table with Italian stoneware plates and white or natural linen napkins. Want to dress it up? Pull out your Limoges, silver, and Baccarat crystal.

Below is a Before & After Image of our latest acquisition, a set of six Irish Linen, Double Damask napkins. The image on the left is the "Before" laundering and the "After" is post laundering. Although it is a little difficult to see, the shininess I mentioned is gone and the tone is a little lighter.

an image of two napkins before and after laundering


We currently have a few in stock and what we have is always changing. Come peruse our For the Home Collection of fine linens, silver, and other home decor at Sugar et Cie.

Products In This Article

Find Out First!

Sign Up To Find Out When We Receive New Items

No thanks