How to Keep White Sheets White

Made bed with white sheets folded and pillows with white covers

The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 - 3 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10

A bed with crispy, snowy white sheets is always stylish and welcoming. But when those white sheets look dingy, that same bed is not so inviting. The sheets don't look clean even if they are freshly washed.

White sheets begin to turn grey after a few months if they have not been washed properly. The color change can come from dye transfer from other fabrics, soil that has not been removed, or detergent and fabric softener residue left in the fibers. With a little attention, you can keep white sheets white. Plus, learn a few tips for restoring the brightness.

How Often to Wash White Sheets

Bed sheets should be changed and washed at least weekly and more frequently if someone is ill or the sleeper is excessively sweaty. If you wash and care for white sheets properly from the beginning, they will not become dingy for many years. However, as soon as you begin to notice a difference in the brightness, take steps to whiten the fabric. Waiting until the sheets are excessively dingy will not produce satisfying results.

Before You Begin

The methods and products used to keep white sheets white depend on the fiber content. Take the time to find and read the care label attached to one of the sheet's edges. The label will tell you the fiber content of the sheets (cotton, synthetic microfiber, bamboo, silk, rayon) as well as the best water temperature for washing and drying.

Fiber Care Guide
Detergent  Depends on fiber content. Heavy-duty detergent for cotton, linen, bamboo, microfiber; gentle detergent for silk.
Water Temperature Hot, warm, or cold depending on fiber content.
Cycle Type Normal for all fabrics except silk (use gentle cycle)
Drying Cycle Medium-high heat for all fabrics except silk and linen (low heat). Air-drying is also acceptable for all fabrics.
Special Treatments If using bleach, use the appropriate type of bleach for each type of fabric.
 Iron Settings  High to low depending on fiber content.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washer
  • Clothesline
  • Automatic dryer


  • Heavy-duty detergent
  • Gentle detergent


  1. Sort and Separate Laundry

    Sort and separate laundry and wash white sheets separately even if you are using cold water only. This prevents color bleeding and dye transfer from colored fabrics, which leaves white sheets looking dingy.

    Bed sheets separated into colored and white fabrics

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  2. Pretreat Stains

    If you have blood, makeup, or food stains on the sheets, follow stain removal guidelines for each stain type. Most stains on sheets can be removed by dabbing the area with a small amount of a heavy-duty laundry detergent and working it into the fabric with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush. Let the detergent work for 15 minutes to begin lifting the stain from the fibers before tossing the sheet in the washer.

    Stains on white sheets pretreated with heavy-duty laundry detergent

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  3. Don't Overload the Washer

    Filling the washer to the brim with sheets is tempting, but it won't produce the best results. When a washer is overloaded, there isn't enough space for the water to saturate the fabric surfaces and flush away the soil. The soil then redeposits on the fabrics, leaving them looking dull.

    White bed sheets placed inside washing machine

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  4. Use a Detergent With Enzymes

    Heavy-duty detergents (Tide, Persil) that contain a high level of enzymes will keep white sheets looking their best. The enzymes are the ingredients that break apart stains and body soil molecules so they can be flushed away. If you don't plan to wash white sheets in warm or hot water, it is important to use a detergent formulated for use in cold water.


    Make sure not to use too much detergent: Excessive detergent may leave a residue on the sheets, making them look dingy and even attracting more dirt.

    Heavy duty detergent with enzymes held up in front of washing machine

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  5. Skip Commercial Fabric Softeners

    Commercial fabric softeners leave residue in fibers that can cause white sheets to look dull. Add one cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle instead to ensure that any detergent residue is stripped away. Vinegar will not leave a scent in the sheets, and they will feel soft to the touch.

    Distilled white vinegar and water mixture poured into fabric softener slot of washing machine

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  6. Use the Sun for Drying

    Hang the sheets on a clothesline in full sun to take advantage of the whitening boost. The ultraviolet rays of the sun act as a bleaching agent. If you don't have a clothesline, follow the guidelines on the care tag for the proper dryer heat setting. Try not to over-dry the sheets. Excessive temperatures can cause any unremoved stains and residual soil to yellow.

    White bed sheets hung to air dry on clothesline

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

Ironing White Sheets

If you are ironing white sheets or pillowcases, always use the proper iron temperature setting for the type of fabric to avoid difficult-to-remove scorch marks. Limit the amount of sizing or starch you use to help prevent yellowing.

Storage for White Sheets

Before storing white sheets, be sure they are thoroughly clean and dry to prevent mildew growth. Do not store them on unpainted wooden shelves because the acid in the wood can cause yellowing. Avoid storage in plastic bags and tubs that limit airflow. Some plastics emit gasses that cause white fabrics to yellow.

Tips to Keep White Sheets White Longer

  • Follow all the recommended steps each time you wash the sheets.
  • If the sheets are dingy due to color transfer from other fabrics, whiten them by using bleach. Again, it is important to know the fiber content of the sheets so you can select the best type of bleach.
  • Consider adding bluing during the wash or rinse cycle.
  • If the white sheets are stiff and dingy. try laundry stripping to remove detergent or fabric softener residue, body soil, and body oils left after many improper washings and get the sheets back down to the bare fabric.