ED reached out to Walter Lowry, owner of , a high-end dining and entertaining retailer based in Los Angeles, for his top tips on caring for tabletop accessories, including table linens, dinnerware, and flatware. Read on for his advice in his own words.
- Wash linen in cold or warm, not hot, water. Linen loves to be washed. It gets cleaner and softer with every wash.
- Use a gentle detergent that does not contain bleach. If your detergent contains “optical brighteners,” do not use it. This term is code for bleach.
- If your linens are particular soiled (dinner parties can be messy), soak them prior to washing them in Oxi-Clean or another oxygen bleach. Oxygen bleaches do not damage the fibers in linen. On the other hand, chlorine bleach will, over time, destroy linen.
- If you enjoy red wine, Wine Away (a spray treatment for red wine stains) is an absolute necessity in your household. Follow the instructions prior to soaking or washing and your red wine stains will disappear. This product also works on clothing, rugs and upholstery fabric.
- After washing, linen should be pressed (ironed) when it is still moist. The moisture in the fabric makes pressing really easy. If there is no moisture in the fabric, pressing is impossible—which can be remedied by misting. A few pointers:
- For smaller items, such as placemats and napkins, if you can’t get to them as soon as they come out of the washing machine, shake them out, stack them, roll them and then put them in a plastic bag. Then, seal the bag seal and place it in the refrigerator. This will keep the linens nice and moist until you press them.
- For larger items, such as tablecloths or runners, place them in the dryer on low to medium heat for a very short time to remove some moisture, and then press them. For larger cloths, keep in mind that it may take two people for the job.
- If you send your linens out to be cleaned, ask for your table linens to be washed and then pressed. Make sure that you are emphatic about pressing. Many laundries hear you say “press” and they think “steam.” Steaming is the equivalent to putting your linens in the dryer on high heat, which will result in shrinkage—sometimes extreme shrinkage. Steaming linen is never a good idea.
- Storage: There are many ways to store linens such as in drawers or on shelves that are specially constructed for them (which most of us don’t have), in regular drawers or on regular shelves and on hangers for tablecloths or runners. If you want to tissue linens prior to storing, it isn’t a bad idea. But, if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world (unless you are talking about extremely fine or delicate linens; or something vintage). Keep in mind that, when you want to use your linens the next time, you may want to have your misting bottle handy to do a touch of pressing so there are no folding lines and your linens look pristine on your table.
- If your dinnerware does not have metal on it, it can certainly go in the dishwasher.
- Ask if there is metal on the dinnerware. Many dinnerware manufacturers today are selling items with metal trim—or much more metal—that is dishwasher-safe if you follow a few rules:
- Use the china cycle on your dishwasher.
- Use a detergent that does not contain citric acid (e.g., lemon).
- Turn your heated drying cycle off, which is easy to do. Heated drying will destroy the metal on your dinnerware. (If you don’t have an owner’s manual for your dishwasher, you should be able to pinpoint it online).
- If you have older dinnerware with metal that you are not using because you think it has to be hand washed, think again. It can probably go in the dishwasher.
- Test with a smaller piece, such as a bread or dessert plate, first; and do not mix other metals in the dishwasher at the same time.
- If you get a good result, you have your answer.
- Rather than not using a beautiful dinnerware service, use it and wash it in the dishwasher. The life of the service may be shortened by a generation—your grandchildren or great grandchildren may not inherit it—but when we caution our customers about this, most of them just laugh.
- Storage: For most dinnerware, stacking is just fine. If the dinnerware has a lot of detail on it—and particularly if it has a lot of metal on it—you should invest in felt dividers to go between plates and bowls before stacking.
- Washing in the dishwasher has the dual advantage: your flatware will be cleaner; and the more often you use and wash your flatware, the less it will tarnish.
A few rules:
- Use a gentle detergent that does not contain citric acid (e.g., lemon).
- Do not mix metals in the dishwasher (e.g., do not wash stainless steel at the same time).
- Turn your heated drying cycle off. Heated drying will destroy metal.
- Ideally, wipe your flatware down with a soft cloth after washing. In the alternative, save this step for later, before the next use (or before your next dinner party).
- If your meal has included such things as eggs, mayonnaise (or salad dressing containing these ingredients) or seafood, it is essential to rinse soon after using your flatware. These foods are notorious for causing tarnishing—sometimes extreme—if not rinsed soon after using.
- If you have older sterling, it can still go into the dishwasher, but your knives should probably not go into the dishwasher. If placed in the dishwasher, bleed can occur between the handle and the blade.