How to Care for Your Sheets and Bed Linens

bed linens and sheets
Treasures & Travels / Stocksy United

When you go to buy bed linens, you can find lots of different colors, patterns, fabrics, and prices for the pieces you need. And for as many different choices available, there are as many different ways of caring for them. Colors must be protected, and fibers must be treated just right.

Yet beyond specific instructions are some general, common sense tips for purchasing, cleaning and caring for sheets, pillowcases, and other bed linens. Did you know that you can remove some wrinkles from sheets by throwing a damp cloth into the dryer? Read on for more tips on caring for and cleaning bed linens.

  • 01 of 06

    Read and Save the Care Instructions

    Close Up of Fabric Care Tag
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    No need to puzzle over how to care for your different bedding; you don't need to guess if it's hot water or cold, line dry or tumble. Each piece of bed linen you buy comes with specific recommendations for cleaning and drying–just simply follow the directions on the label!

    It's a great idea to save the care instructions wrapped with every piece of bed linen. Some of the tags sewn into the hems even tell you how to wash and dry. But it's helpful to tape the instructions on a file card, mark the card with the particular product that it applies to, and keep it near your laundry area. When you're not quite sure how to treat a piece, you'll have the information at hand in the laundry room.

  • 02 of 06

    General Washing Guidelines

    Laundry Basket on Bed
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    While it's always best to follow the specific care instructions on the label, here are some general washing guidelines to abide by:

    Wash linens in cool or lukewarm water that's less than 104 F. No need for hot water. Set the wash cycle on "gentle." The sheets aren't really dirty. Use the extra rinse cycle if available, in order to remove any detergent residue. Use less detergent than usual. In fact, you need only about one half the amount recommended by the detergent label. Avoid using bleach since it breaks down fabric fibers.

  • 03 of 06

    General Guidelines for Drying Bed Linens

    Pile of folded towels and bedclothes, on bed
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    Likewise, follow these general instructions for drying sheets and bed linens:

    When drying bed sheets, leave the sheets in the dryer just until dry. Avoid over-drying. You'll just have more wrinkles. Remove sheets from the dryer promptly and fold immediately. Hand press to remove excess wrinkles. If sheets have cooled in the dryer and wrinkles have set, toss in a dampened cloth and dry for 5-10 minutes longer. For a neat-looking bed, iron the top section of your flat sheets. They'll be crisp when you turn them over the top of the blanket.

  • 04 of 06


    Home Moments
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    If you find pillowcases that you particularly love, buy a few extra. Pillowcases wear out more quickly than sheets. Iron pillowcases for a fresh, crisp look.

    Change pillowcases at least twice a week in normal climates, more often in hot and humid regions.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Linen Storage

    Bathroom Organization
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    It's a great idea to have three sets of sheets per bed. Use one on the bed, one in storage and one in the laundry. Rotate the sheet sets you use (vs. the sets you store) frequently so they wear evenly. Change sheets once a week in normal climates, more often in hot and humid regions.

  • 06 of 06

    Other General Tips for Linen Care

    breakfast in bed
    Hung Quach / Stocksy United

    Use a mattress pad between the mattress and bottom sheet. Wash the pad when needed, at least every few months.

    If you love a particularly expensive pattern, buy just the pillowcases and top sheet in the pattern. Buy the bottom sheets in a coordinating, less expensive solid.

    When sheets are used as fabric for pillow covers, shams, bed skirts, tablecloths or curtain panels,­ avoid washing them as they will lose body and become limp. Dry clean if necessary.

    Learn more about caring for pillows and duvets.