Keep Your Sheets White and Crisp With These 9 Tips from Laundry Experts

Nix the dingy dilemma and follow this expert advice for keeping those white sheets white.

<p>Adrienne Bresnahan/Getty Images</p>

Adrienne Bresnahan/Getty Images

Draping brand new, freshly laundered sheets over your bed and then tucking into their cozy softness is an understated treat. They look good, they feel good, and life is good. Over time, though, white sheets can lose their vibrancy and become dingy, gray, and yellow. This is caused by the (not-so-delightful) fact that our bodies transfer dirt, sweat, and oil to our bedding as we catch those Zzz’s each night.

So what’s the secret to white sheets? We asked pros for their best cleaning tips on how to keep sheets white and crisp.

Related: The Icky Reason You Shouldn’t Make Your Bed As Soon As You Wake Up

Meet Our Expert

Treat All Stains ASAP

Whether large or small, subtle or stark, the reality is that stains happen. However, treating stains quickly and effectively can help keep your sheets in tip-top shape.

“Depending on the size of the stain, pre-treat by blotting or using a small scrub brush,” advises Wendy Trunz, cleaning expert and head organizer at Jane’s Addiction Organization. “Make a simple paste of baking soda and water and apply directly to the stain, blotting using a scrub brush to loosen.”

Leave this paste on for 30 minutes and then toss into your washing machine on a normal cycle. For large or stubborn stains, purchase a premade stain remover that targets the specific type of stain (blood, urine, food, etc.) and use as directed. Rinsing the stained area immediately can also help.

Related: How to Remove Every Type of Stain, in One Simple Chart

Don’t Place Stained Sheets in the Dryer

One mistake people make with their sheets is that they’ll run an entire wash and dry cycle before checking on stained areas. “If you place stains into the dryer, the heat will set the stain in further,” Trunz explains.

So, if you’re working with a stained sheet, you’ll repeat the stain removal process while it’s still wet and continue treating the stain until it’s completely gone. Then you can place it in the dryer. When you do dry your sheets, use a low heat setting versus a high one. Excessive heat can cause white sheets to turn yellow or develop a dingy appearance.

When you do dry your sheets, use a low heat setting versus a high one. Excessive heat can cause white sheets to turn yellow or develop a dingy appearance.

Be Careful With Bleach

When you think of ways to keep sheets white, bleach may naturally come to mind. While bleach is an excellent tool, it can also backfire on you.

“When bleach comes in contact with organic compounds like sweat and oils, a chemical reaction can occur resulting in yellowing,” explains Trish Duarte, a cleaning professional for MaidPro. “Using too much bleach—or not diluting it properly—can also damage the fibers and result in a loss of whiteness.” Aim for ½ cup of bleach for a full load.

Wash Your Sheets Every One to Two Weeks

Ah, the age-old debate of how often you should wash your bed sheets. If you’re fastidiously clean and really want to keep sheets white, aim for once a week. If the chore feels overwhelming, shoot for every two.

“Bodies naturally sweat two to four cups a night, produce ¼ to ½  ounce of oils per week, and shed 30 to 40,000 skin cells per hour resulting in millions being deposited onto your sheets each night,” Duarte says. “Imagine what your sheets are absorbing over a week or two between washings.” Let’s not imagine it, and just toss ‘em into the wash instead.

Related: Should You Wash Bed Sheets in Hot Water?

Clean Your Washing Machine

A dirty mop makes for dirty floors, a stinky dishwasher won’t do its job well, and a grimy washing machine isn’t going to do your white sheets any favors. “If your washing machine is not cleaned regularly, then dirt, grime, mold, and mildew can accumulate causing your bedding to become discolored,” Duarte says.

This can also make for less-than-pleasant smelling sheets. Follow our simple guide on cleaning a washing machine.

Dry Your Sheets in the Sunshine

Hanging your white sheets on a clothesline outside may seem “old-fashioned,” but this classic approach to drying garments is pretty genius.

“My mom knew what she was doing back when I was a child. Our beds felt and smelled like heaven as she always hung our sheets outside to dry followed by a quick five-minute fluff in the dryer to soften before putting them back on the bed,” Trunz said. “The sun’s UV rays have natural bleaching qualities, so hang your sheets out to dry and let Mother Nature help you whiten!”

As a bonus, you’ll get that authentic “fresh breeze” smell!

Related: Here’s the Right Way to Hang Dry Your Laundry

Shower Before Hopping Into Bed

Even if you’re a morning shower person, taking a few minutes to rinse off before jumping into bed can make a dramatic difference in keeping white sheets.

“By showering before bed, you can remove dirt, sweat, and oils that transfer onto your sheets and help to keep your sheets cleaner and brighter for a longer period of time,” Duarte explains. A quick and warm shower can also improve your sleep quality.

Always Wash Whites Separately

We all know that it only takes one mis-sorted piece to make a whole load of white sheets dingy.

“Dark colored fabrics can still bleed out onto light colored fabrics, even if they are treated to not fade,” Duarte says. “While treatments applied to cloth fibers can help reduce fading, they may not completely prevent color transfer. It is always recommended to wash dark, light, and white fabrics separately.”

Related: Do You Have to Sort Your Laundry? A Textile Expert Settles the Debate On Our Podcast

Replace Your Sheets As Needed

As with most items, sheets have a natural lifespan and should be replaced routinely. Over time, they’ll naturally lose their whiteness and fibers can even start to “pill” or degrade due to countless hours shifting in our sleep. For most mid-end cotton sheets,

Duarte recommends replacing them every one to two years, or when you notice excessive dinginess and pilling. High-end sheets or those made from materials such as silk or linen may have longer lifespans. 

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