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How to Care for Bedsheets

Protect your investment in bedsheets by washing, drying, and storing them correctly. Here's how to care for your bedsheets.

Learn Your Sheets' Fiber Content

Look at the care label or packaging to identify the fabric content of your sheets. The most likely fabric choices are cotton, Egyptian cotton, or a cotton-polyester blend, although sheets can also be made of bamboo, linen, or silk. Review the manufacturer's care recommendations at this time. Keep in mind that cotton-polyester blends will generally come out of the dryer less wrinkled than all-cotton sheets. Bamboo, linen, and silk sheets need special care.

Care Guidelines

Wash sheets separately from towels or other clothing. This gives the sheets more room to circulate in the water, which means they'll get cleaner. Washing sheets alone also prevents damage caused by zippers and other fasteners, and it reduces the amount of pilling that can happen over time.

Always pretreat stains before laundering sheets. Avoid using bleach on bed linens as it can damage the fabric. If you need to brighten white sheets, add 1/4 cup of lemon juice to the wash water instead of bleach. Use a mild detergent for cotton and cotton-polyester-blend sheets. Special fabrics such as linen and silk may require a specialized detergent.

If your washing machine features a center agitator, loosely form each sheet into a ball before dropping it into the tub. This strategy will reduce the damage that can be caused by sheets coming into contact with the agitator.

Use a gentle wash cycle and cool or lukewarm water. Remove the sheets as soon as the cycle is over to reduce wrinkles. Shaking the sheets out before placing them in the dryer can also reduce wrinkles.

When possible, dry sheets on an outside clothesline but out of direct sun. If drying in the clothes dryer, use a low heat setting to minimize damage from high temperatures.

Remove the sheets from the dryer as soon as the cycle is over, and fold them, smoothing wrinkles with your hands. If wrinkles have set, dry the sheets for an additional five minutes with a damp towel tossed into the mix to add moisture. Avoid ironing the sheets if possible because that kind of heat can damage the fibers.

Wash Sheets Frequently

Wash your sheets weekly (more often for humid climates) to extend the life of your bed linens. During the time spent on the bed, dirt, dust, skin cells, body oils and fluids, and fecal material accumulate on sheets. The longer these particles accumulate on the sheets, the more stress is put on the sheet fibers. In addition, skin cells and body oils and fluids can attract microscopic mites.

To reduce the washing frequency, bathe before bedtime so you'll take less dirt into bed with you. Keeping sweat, oils, and dirt out of the bed will keep the sheets clean longer.

Keep multiple sets of sheets available so a clean set is always ready to go on the bed. By rotating three sets of sheets per bed, the sheets will last longer.

Give Special Fabrics the Right Care

Silk is strong but needs special laundering to keep its fibers intact. Hand-washing is the preferred method of laundering, at least for the first several washings. Don't wring silk sheets. Instead, blot them with a towel. If washing in a machine, choose a delicate or hand-wash cycle in cool water, using Woolite detergent or any special soap recommended by the manufacturer. Hang the sheets on an outside line out of direct sun, or dry on the lowest setting above air fluff on the dryer.

Because linen is a durable natural fiber, it can withstand higher washing temperatures than other sheets -- up to 104 degrees F. The more frequently linen sheets are washed, the softer they will become. Use a mild detergent, but avoid bleaches or detergents containing bleach. Linen will dry more quickly than other fabrics, so the sheets won't need a hot or long dryer setting. Linen can be ironed at the hot linen setting on your iron.

Bamboo is a natural fiber that benefits from using a mild laundry soap or one especially designed for natural products. Bleach or harsh cleaners will damage bamboo sheets. Use a gentle wash cycle, and be prepared for fading as a result of the first few washings (which is why you should wash them separately). While air-drying is preferred, sheets can be put in a dryer on a low or air-dry setting.

Store Matching Sheets Together

Save time when making up the beds by storing matching sheets together. Some options:

  • Stash the folded sheet set inside one of its matching pillowcases, along with the second pillowcase. This method works well for storing sheets in linen closets or bedroom closets.
  • Place the folded fitted sheet and pillowcases inside the folded flat sheet right before its last fold. This method also works well for storing sheets in linen closets or bedroom closets.
  • Store folded sheets in storage boxes labeled by size (e.g. twin) or by room (master bedroom). Because of the extra space needed for boxes, this method may work best if you have a dedicated linen closet.
  • Store folded sheets in underbed storage containers in the rooms in which they will be used.

Editor's Tip: Tuck a dryer sheet in with the folded sheets to keep them smelling nice.

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