Irish linen is made from the natural flax fibre. One of nature's strongest vegetable fibres, it was used as the fibre of choice for the sails of the great clipper ships. It gets stronger when wet so is ideal to resist the rigours of the laundering process.
We are often asked how long Irish linen will last, but time is not the best measure of the value you are getting from your linens. A better and more accurate measure is the number of times it can be used, and the number of subsequent launderings before it wears out. When compared to the usage you would get from similar fabrics made from other natural fibres.
Linen fabrics can last for thousands of years if they are not used. As can be seen from funerary fabrics, and Mummy wrappings, found in ancient tombs.
In use linens are subject to repeated tension, abrasion, snags, burning and scorching. As well as chemical damage and the abrasive forces of the laundering process. Also, natural fibres may rub against harsh synthetic fibres in the washing machine drum. Bleach should never be used as a cleansing agent as it will severely weaken the fibres, and significantly reduce the life of the product.
A linen damask tablecloth may last several hundred uses, and launderings. If this is used on a few special occasions per year under normal domestic conditions the tablecloth may last generations. However, the same cloth under hotel conditions where it is used every other day may only last one or two years.
It is a similar principle for bedlinen, but it is normally a lighter weight cloth, so will not last as long. On top of this bedlinen undergoes much more rigours in use as it must carry the weight and abrasive forces of a person lying on it. The bottom sheet is subject to much more wear than the top sheet, and the weight of the person, the fibres used in their sleeping attire, the softness/hardness of the mattress, whether or not harsh synthetic fibres are used in the mattress ticking etc. must be taken into consideration. If the ticking is a harsh, clammy, synthetic it is often best to put a natural fibre mattress protector between it and your expensive Irish linen sheet, to protect it from abrasion. Ferguson's normally supply two top sheets in a boxed set of sheets. This allows the bottom sheet to be rotated, and increase its life span.
Bearing these points in mind what we can say, generally speaking, is in the absence of bleach Irish linen damask should last several hundred normal domestic laundering processes, and it will outlast other weaker natural vegetable fibres such as cotton. However, for bedlinen there are even more variables, such as the weight and number of people in the bed, how it is laundered is a major factor, the length of the wash; degree of agitation in the drum, and whether or not tough synthetic fibres are also in the drum;due to abrasion they will wear the linen quicker. The detergent used can also be a factor. So there will always be exceptions.
Ferguson's only use fabric constructions that have been tried and tested for many years. We do not change these weaves because we know from experience these fabrics give a good performance. We only buy the best quality yarns from which to weave our fabrics, and only use the best bleachers and finishers. So that there should be minimal variation in the quality of our products from one year to the next. If your linen is not showing obvious stains or dirt you only need a laundery wash to freshen it up. So if you want your linen to last don't use a severe laundery cycle unless it is required.
Also, if there is a problem with a batch of fabric it would not be long before we knew as there would be multiple feedback.