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I have heard from several sources (some of them including people from SA chat) to not wash a baker's couche. They do not need to be washed because generally they are dry and have nothing the bacteria can feed on/grow on.

Is the advice to not wash the couche due solely to the fact that it isn't necessary or is it also because it will degrade the couche somehow?

I had accidentally spilled apple juice on my bakers couche. My baker's couche is made out of untreated, unbleached flax linen. How would I clean my baker's couche without deteriorating it in anyway?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Flax is a very problematic fabric to wash, and even more problematic to dry. You risk ending up with stiff, wrinkled, and/or shrunk fabric.

I would never machine wash the flax couche. Actually, I wouldn't wash it after regular use, when it doesn't come into contact with anything but flour and lean dough. But if it accidentally got dirtied with something else, you are obviously better off washing it than throwing it away.

In this case, I would hand-wash it in room-temperature water, neven in a washing machine (not even the wool cycle). Use wool detergent (no fabric softener), and don't crumple the fabric while washing. Instead, try to let it soak a bit (maybe 15-20 min) and then gently "shake off" the dirt under water. You can add a bit of food grade citric acid for the last rinse, because acid acts somewhat similar to fabric softener.

When it is washed, don't wring it. Shake off as much water as you can, then lay it between two frotee towels. It should be spread out, not wrinkled or folded. Keep it at room temperature, not near sun, wind or a heater. Change the towels after 6 to 8 hours (the first time you may have to change them sooner). Repeat until it is only moist, not wet. Then spread it somewhere to dry without towels, again away from sun, wind, or excessive heat. Turn it every few hours. It will probably be stiffer than when you started with it, but I think it will be still usable.

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Are you kidding? Linen is, like, the most washable fabric in the universe! It literally gets stronger when wet, unlike pretty much any other fiber. Yeah, it gets wrinkled; if this bothers you, iron it dry rather than letting it air dry. That said, the problem with many linen articles of clothing is that they're sewn without preshrinking the fabric, which means you risk making children's clothes if you wash something labeled "dry clean only". – Marti Jun 18 '12 at 18:18
@marti it won't get ugly the way silk would, but it gets stiff after washing. Its wrinkles are very, very hard to get out with the iron, and after ironing its fibres are very... I think pressed is the best word I can say about it, it is just very different from unironed fabrics. – rumtscho Jun 18 '12 at 19:16

I think it depends on the fabric. Mine came from TMB Baking; I had purchased four yards of their linen couche fabric so I washed it, then cut it in half so I'd have two.

It's perfectly fine and the linen is amazing as it doesn't even need flouring.

BTW, it might unravel a bit while being washed, but that's not an issue. You could always zig-zag the ends if it bothers you.

You need to stitch over the raw edges. I hate to say this but it really would be easier if you could find someone with a sewing machine. You might be able to hand overcast the seam if you know how to do this.

IMHO, without a machine, I would take it to any seamstress or tailor shop and they could whiz it in a second. Ordinarily, you do not wash a couche, but in this case, I would too. I think the most gentle hand wash cycle in your washer, warmish water should not hurt it, but rinse it two or three times. Linen does not shrink.

You could even partially dry it in the dryer, then stretch to finish drying to get it to smooth out as much as possible. That said, I had heavy linen on hand at home and do not own a couche like yours, but linen is incredibly tough. If you have to iron it to get it smooth enough to use, spray it with plenty of water and use a hot iron.

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I've never used a baker's couche (and in fact had never even heard of this tool before reading this question), but I do know a little about fabrics, and it seems that a baker's couche is nothing more complicated or mysterious than a piece of heavy linen fabric. Based on that, I'd say you'd be perfectly fine to wash it.

Linen is unlike most other fabrics in one important respect: it actually gets stronger when wet. This means it is perfectly 100% washable, despite what clothing labels try to tell you. The reason linen clothing is traditionally labeled "dry clean only" is that linen shrinks when washed, and clothing manufacturers don't always pre-shrink their fabrics.

Besides shrinkage, two other things happen when linen is washed: it gets wrinkled (well, OK, so it gets wrinkled if you look at it cross-eyed, but anyway), and it gets stiff. To remedy both of these, you need to iron it dry. As in, start with wet (not just sprayed-with-a-spritzer-bottle barely-damp-on-the-surface, but actually wet) fabric fresh out of the wringer, and the highest setting of your dry (as in, steam turned off) iron. (There's a reason said highest setting is often labeled "linen".)

Now you'll have linen that is not wrinkled, but is probably a little shiny and crisp. With clothing, five minutes of wearing (especially when it's hot and humid, i.e. perfect linen weather) will solve that. For a couche, what you may need to do is loosely roll it up, put it on a sturdy wooden surface, and whack at it with a rolling pin or clean stick. Or you can just start using it - it should soften right back up with use.

As far as whether to use detergent and what kind, since this will be used next to food, you want something that will rinse out thoroughly; but since you will be ironing the fabric, you also don't want any food residue in it to get all scorched and icky. Personally, I'd use a delicate-fabrics detergent and lots of rinsing in warm water.

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