AbstractWater retting is a traditional retting method that enables the low-cost production of bast fibers. This study investigated the retting of flax straws by distilled water for three different durations at room temperature in laboratory condition. The retting quality was evaluated in terms of the weight loss and degumming rate together with the fiber properties, which included color, linear density, and tensile properties. The degumming rate was defined as the percentage change in pectin content of phloem regions from the raw flax to water-retted flax. It was found that the dissolution of pectin and other contaminating materials during the beginning retting stage must have played an important role in pectin (content) and weight loss besides pectin degradation, and water retting gradually improved both the apparel properties, such as whiteness and fineness, and the mechanical properties of the fibers. Given the results, a water retting duration of six days should be sufficient to provide sound retting efficiency and reasonable fiber properties.