Linen Facts: Eco-Friendly Material Guide

You may have heard about linen, and may even own a linen shirt, but do you want to know some linen facts?

Then you’re in the right place, as we’ve got all the information you need rounded up in this handy material guide.

Join us while we discuss how linen is made, what linen is used for, and the advantages of linen.

Linen is a strong natural textile woven from the long cellulose fibers of the flax plant.

Linen is made from flax fiber from the flax plant Linum usitatissimum, most commonly known as ‘flax.’ Flax is a crop grown for its linen textile and food production, for its seeds make Linseed oil, an oil high in Omega-3 fatty acid.

What do flax plants look like
Flax Plant,  Linum usitatissimum [Source]

Flax is grown in temperate regions and is cultivated mainly in China, Canada, and Europe.

Flax being ‘retted’ [Source]

Once the flax plant has matured, farmers pull the stalks out from the soil and leave them to ferment in a moist atmosphere. This stage is called retting.

After retting is completed, the outer stalk is separated from the flax fibers within the stem in a process known as Scrutching. Scrutching is commonly done via a machine known as a Scutcher or can be done by hand. Once Scrutching is complete, the long flax fibers called line and short coarser fibers called tow remain and will progress to the next process for linen production. By-products such as tough woody stalks are left over and are not used in linen fabric production.

Once the long fibers are obtained, the spinning process occurs. First, machines spin the long fibers into yarn.

Once spinning is complete, the yarn is woven into fabric. Again weavers can do this via machines or by hand. Linen is a coarse fiber and can be harder to weave than cotton.

Yes! Linen is a sustainable natural fiber. Linen is naturally biodegradable, requires less water to cultivate, and is naturally pest-resistant, meaning it can be grown without harmful pesticides.

Plus, because linen is a strong, durable fabric, it is likely to last much longer than cotton, resulting in less textile waste in landfills.

Yes, linen is entirely biodegradable. Unlike synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon, which stick around and pollute the earth for hundreds of years, linen is biodegradable and, therefore, a much better eco-friendly fabric alternative.

There are pros to linen over cotton, including:

  • More durable material.
  • Requires around 98% less water to grow.
  • Pest-resistant, so it doesn’t require harmful pesticides.

Check out our linen vs. cotton comparison post if you want to read the complete guide on the differences between cotton and linen.

Yes, pure linen is natural, and as long as the linen clothing or fabric hasn’t been treated with harmful dyes, it is considered natural and biodegradable.

Yes, linen is an entirely vegan material. But, to ensure a product is completely vegan, check that a linen product hasn’t been treated with animal-containing products like glues or dyes.

Linen has many uses and its uses as a textile date back over 30,000 years.

Thanks to its hardwearing properties, common linen uses include:

Linen facts
  • Strong and durable fabric
  • Moisture-wicking and quick-drying making it the perfect fabric for warm climates
  • Completely natural and biodegradable
  • Eco-friendly alternative to cotton
  • Tendency to wrinkle and crease easily
  • Linen fabric is more expensive than cotton or synthetic materials.

We hope you’ve learned some cool new facts about linen, how linen is made, and what linen is used for.
If you’re interested, we have lots of other great sustainable material resources, including eco-friendly material guides on organic cotton, hemp, and Tencel.


Bethany Worthington BSc (Hons) (she/her) is the Sustainable Fashion Editor and Co-founder of Ecothes. She has a passion for the environment, and a long love of all things clothing, and combines those two interests with Ecothes. In her free time she loves dancing, hiking in the countryside, and laughing with friends.

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