Types of Linens

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Linen is a natural fiber derived from the flax plant, however the term "linens" refers to any cloth item used throughout the home. Utilized in almost every room in the house, household linens can actually be made from a variety of fibers, such as cotton, silk, rayon or blends of these.

Table Linens

Tablecloths come in a range of shapes and sizes to fit almost any table surface. Before considering fabric color and texture, shoppers must first select a style, such as round, square, rectangular and oblong. Size is determined by first selecting a drop length (how far down the tablecloth will hang down the sides of the table). Any length is acceptable, but consumers commonly choose to have the drop reach either the height of the dining chair arms, the dining chair seat or all the way down to the floor.

Aside from tablecloths, the table linen type also includes other items such as cloth napkins, place mats and table runners. While most manufacturers produce matching linen sets, interior designers often steer away from table linens in the same colors or patterns. Instead, designers mix and match colors and textures that accent the place settings.

Bed Linens

Often called "bedding" when displayed in department stores, the bed linen type can refer strictly to sheet sets or be expanded to incorporate all fabric products utilized in the bedroom. Blankets, duvets, comforters and pillows all qualify as bed linens, as they are partially comprised of fabric, even if they also contain batting or feathers. Bed skirts or dust ruffles also fall into the bed linen category, even though their functionality is minimal.

Sheet sets, comprised of a flat sheet, a fitted sheet and pillowcase(s), vary in size between twin, full, queen, king and California king. Beyond size and color, sheets are classified most commonly by thread count, which measures the number of threads per square inch. Sheets typically range between a 200 to a 1200 thread count, with higher quality fabric having a higher count.

Bath Linens

Size matters when selecting bath linens, as towels come in a variety of sizes, which includes washcloths, hand towels, bath towels and bath sheets. Aside from size, bath linens should be selected by considering fiber type, weave and the plushness of the loops. High quality towels have a tight weave, thick loops and are woven from 100% natural, cotton fibers as synthetic fabrics are not as absorbent.

Beyond towels, bath linens include rugs, bath mats and shower curtains. Bathroom rugs come in a variety of sizes and shapes, including the contour (or pedestal) rugs that fit around toilets, and often have a matching toilet seat lid cover to match. While rug sets can be made from synthetic fabrics, bath mats tend to be woven from natural fibers for their increased absorbency.

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Christine Bartsch

A former art instructor, high school counselor and party planner, Christine Bartsch writes fashion, travel, interior design, education and entertainment content. Bartsch earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in communications/psychology/fine arts from Wisconsin Lutheran College and a creative writing Master of Fine Arts from Spalding University. She's written scripts for film/television productions and worked as the senior writer at a video game company.