How to Wash Sheets and Bed Linens

Sheets, Blankets, Pillows, Pads, and Quilts

Clean bed sheets folded and sitting on a white bedspread.

Iliana Mestari / Getty Images

People use our beds every night—well, almost—and taking care of the bedding correctly will help you sleep better and help it last longer and look better.

How to Wash Sheets

How often you should change your sheets depends on several factors:

  • Does the sleeper wear pajamas? Pajamas protect the bed linens from most of the body soil.
  • Does the sleeper perspire heavily? Heavy sweaters need to change sheets more often.
  • Does the sleeper bathe before bedtime? A clean body makes sheets stay clean longer.
  • Is the sleeper ill? Anyone with a virus, cold, flu, or any type of illness should have sheets changed daily or every other day.
  • What does the sleeper do in bed? Not prying, but if the user eats, studies, and allows pets in the bed, there will be more soil.

Bed sheets become soiled from body oils and fluids as well as surface dirt on the body. Bodies produce urine, feces, semen, and other fluids that the bacteria in those fluids time to grow. This can cause problems with any cuts or openings on the body and can cause skin irritation. For sleepers with acne or skin problems, the pillowcase should be cleaned frequently to prevent inflammation and transfer of bacteria.

So, for someone who bathes daily, wears pajamas, and uses the bed just for sleeping, sheets should be changed weekly or bi-weekly—never longer than two weeks.

For anyone who wakes up with a stuffy nose, it could be your sheets. Dust mites and the skin cells you shed accumulate in bedsheets. This can affect even those who don't think they have allergies. Try washing your sheets more often if you can't breathe.

Almost all sheets have fabric care labels that list fiber content and how to wash them including water temperature and the use of bleach. Cotton sheets should be washed in hot water with a heavy-duty detergent to remove body oils and soil. Microfiber sheets and cotton/polyester blends should be washed in warm water. If your sheets have a stale odor when you remove them from the linen closet, they aren't really clean.

While most people like a soft feel for sheets and pillowcases, using fabric softener and dryer sheets can reduce the absorbency of natural fibers and cause fabrics to become uncomfortable to those who perspire heavily. Instead of commercial softeners, add distilled white vinegar to the final rinse cycle to remove any residues that leave sheets feeling stiff.

However, some linens need extra care.

Unless you wash and dry your sheets and put them right back on the bed, you'll need to fold them. Fitted sheets can be a challenge but there are easy ways to get them folded and stacked neatly in the linen closet. Simply fit all of the rounded corners smoothly inside each other to create a rectangle and then fold into a neat square.

There are also times that sheets and linens need extra attention.

How to Wash Bed Pillows

A fresh pillow is a delight. While pillowcases should be washed at least weekly, many people change them almost daily even if they don't change the sheets. You can use two pillowcases on your pillows and put them on in different directions. The inner case acts as a protector for the pillow fabric.

Pillows should be cleaned a couple of times per year or more often if someone is ill or has allergies. Learn how to take clean different types of pillows:

How to Wash Quilts, Blankets, and Duvets

Snuggling under a warm quilt or blanket is great for a winter night's sleep. Learning how to care for them correctly will keep them fresh and looking good for many a long winter's nap.

Duvet covers are there to protect the fluffy feather- or fiber-filled duvet. Taking them off to launder or dry clean is simple. Putting them back on is another matter. Know how to put the duvet cover back on correctly.

How to Wash Foam Mattress Pads

The new memory foam and egg crate foam mattress pads add a layer of comfort to your bed. They do need special care to clean them. Don't end up with hundreds of little foam pieces.

Article Sources
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  2. Wilson, Jeffrey M., and Thomas A.e. Platts-Mills. Home Environmental Interventions for House Dust Mite. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, vol. 6, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1–7., doi:10.1016/j.jaip.2017.10.003