Bedding Confidential: 10 Mistakes You’re Making When You Wash Your Sheets
We hate to break it to you, but you’re probably washing your sheets wrong. Have no fear, Linda Cobb, the Queen of Clean, is here! She gives us the lowdown on all the common mistakes we make and how to avoid them.
1. Overloading the Washer
You should wash your sheets once a week, says Cobb. When you do, don’t jam the washer. Too many items cause friction, tangles, and wear and tear. “And separate colors,” Cobb says. “Dark sheets will give light sheets a gray appearance over time.”
2. Using Fabric Softener
It’s probably not needed, says Cobb. Instead, pour ¼ to ½ cup of plain white vinegar into the softener dispenser of the washing machine with every load. “No, your sheets won’t smell like a salad!” Cobb says.
3. Using Bleach on Non-Cotton Sheets
Bleach is a great sanitizer, but it’s harsh on bedding. Another option is to try a bleach alternative. “Out® White Brite® is my favorite,” says Cobb. It removes any kind of stain and brightens, but it’s also gentle enough for all types of fabrics.
4. Not Using a Stain Remover
Normal washing isn’t great for getting rid of oils on items such as pillowcases and sheets, says Cobb. Treat them with a spot cleaner like OxiClean™—it will remove stains with ease.
5. Detergent Overload
“Over time, detergent can build up, causing bedding to feel crunchy and stiff,” Cobb says. If you use a detergent pod, stick to the recommended load size. If you prefer liquid or powder detergent, fill the cup to just short of the first line. One of Cobb’s favorite laundry cleaners is Arm & Hammer, which relies on the natural cleaning abilities of baking soda.
6. Overdrying Sheets
Sheets that dry at too high a temperature or dry for too long will wear out more quickly, Cobb says, and the fibers may also take on a slightly scorched smell. Use label guidelines (attached to the flat sheet) for the recommended dryer temperature, then pull the sheets out just before the cycle ends.
7. Mixing Bedding with Other Laundry Items
A rule of thumb is to sort and separate bedding from everything else. “Things like underwear and sweaty workout clothes, even after washing, may still carry bacteria,” says Cobb. “So don’t mix them in with sheets.” Towels and other weighty fabrics tend to overdry sheets. Blankets should also be their own load to keep lint from travelling to other items. A hamper with different sections makes it easy to keep your laundry separated, saving you time when you’re ready to do the wash.
8. Using Dryer Sheets
Cobb likes dryer sheets for freshening a gym bag or catching dust on window blinds and baseboards. But for sheets, she prefers dryer balls. They help decrease drying time and have fabric-softening qualities.
9. Not Letting Sheets Breathe
Bedding needs space to dry thoroughly and resist mildew. Choose a basket or container with a loose lid, or use a fabric container rather than a plastic one. Another must? Make sure your linen closet stays dry and has adequate air circulation to prevent mildew buildup.
10. Ignoring Your Pillows
In between washings, use zippered protective pillow covers to keep dirt away. To wash pillows, check the label for specific care instructions; every pillow is different. Here are some general tips to keep your pillow smelling fresh:
- Wash foam pillows in a sink with warm water and a bit of mild detergent. Roll them up tightly in a large towel to remove water, then air dry.
- Synthetic-fill pillows (also known as down-alternative or nonallergenic) can be tossed in the washing machine on a gentle cycle, then rinsed twice. Tumble dry on low temperature with dryer balls or a pair of clean tennis balls to fluff and dry faster.
- Wash down pillows the same as synthetic-fill pillows, but allow for a longer drying time.
A former senior home editor for Better Homes & Gardens®, Sarah Egge has been a freelance writer and editor for 13 years. She covers home design, architecture, food, travel, and DIY projects, and also is available for book proposals and branding. Her work appears most frequently in Better Homes & Gardens®, Country Home®, and many content-specific titles, such as Mediterranean Homes & Lifestyles®, Christmas Ideas®, and Modern Farmhouse Style®. She shares a 100-year-old Prairie-style Craftsman house in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband and two daughters, and she can usually be found writing with a lovable mutt named Tess draped across her feet.