Should You Wash New Sheets Before Using Them?

New bedsheets folded on top of made bed next to basket of laundry cleaning materials

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This article is part of our series, Sleep Week: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Best Sleep Ever. Sleep Week is your destination for whole sleep happiness, curating our very best tips and product recommendations to help you create your coziest, most comfortable sleep environment yet.

When you snag a brand new, plush sheet set from your favorite brand, it’s tempting to make your bed and jump in as soon as you rip open the packaging. While those new sheets may look luxuriously comfy right off the bat, they could be harboring some unwelcome particles, like dust and dirt. Plus, the products used to keep them looking nice on the shelf could make them feel scratchy and uncomfortable. While there’s no hard-and-fast rule that says you have to wash your new sheets before using them, we strongly suggest it.

Why You Should Wash New Sheets

Unless you buy or make your own bedding that’s explicitly chemical-free, your bed sheets likely contain additives that can irritate your skin, eyes, and airways. Bed sheets are also typically produced in factories where a wide variety of factory workers handle them and introduce their own germs. Even natural fibers, like bamboo, can pick up stray chemicals and irritants as it makes its way to your home. 

If you’re prone to allergies or have sensitive skin, the dust, debris, and chemicals on new bed sheets can cause an adverse reaction. Without washing them first, you could experience itching or skin irritation when you hit the hay. 

If you buy or make your own dyed, colorful sheets, definitely run them through the wash before putting them on your bed. If you don’t take this step, the dye could bleed onto your skin and clothes while you sleep. Washing the sheets first will strip them of any excess dye to prevent this problem. 

How to Wash New Sheets

Check the tag on your new bed sheets before tossing them in the wash. The tag will have instructions specific to that material, so always read those first. In general, wash dark sheets in cold water and wash cotton sheets in warm water. 

To get a deep, thorough clean when washing new sheets for the first time, consider adding a cup of baking soda or a half cup of vinegar to the wash. Not only will the baking soda and vinegar mixture strip the sheets of dirt and allergens, but it will also soften them and remove starches that manufacturers often use to keep them crisp in their packaging. While the starch keeps the sheets looking clean and smooth on the shelf, it can make them feel scratchy to the touch. To get the most comfort out of your new sheets, wash them first. 

Washing your new sheets isn’t always as simple as tossing them in with your other laundry. Always check the tag for instructions first. Some other useful tips to keep in mind when washing your sheets are:

  • Use dryer sheets and fabric softener to soften sheets, reduce static, and make them smell good
  • Hang dry or tumble dry on low to avoid shrinkage and fading
  • Try a mild detergent if you have sensitive skin
  • Wash luxury sheets in cold water on a gentle setting
  • Prevent your other clothes from getting tangled or balled up inside your sheets by washing sheets separately
  • Use wool dryer balls to help the sheets dry quicker
  • Wash your sheets about once a week
  • Avoid washing sheets with clothes and towels to keep them soft and cut down on time in the dryer

Even with these tips, new sheets will eventually wear or develop a slight discoloration. Because sheets get so much use, they wear out faster than your other bedding does. Their lifespan will ultimately depend on the material they’re made from and how often you use and wash them. Replace your sheets every two to three years. Linen sheets will last a few years longer than other materials.

Fabric softener poured on to new bed sheets for cleaning

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New bed sheets clipped to hanger to air dry after washing

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Mild laundry detergent bottle held in front of folded bed sheets

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Washing machine set to cold water temperature setting

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Bed sheets being separated for washing

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Wool dryer balls placed on bedding sheets in dryer machine

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Laundry detergent poured into washing machine dispenser tray

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Cleaned bed sheets pulled out of dryer machine

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Should You Wash All New Bedding Items?

We recommend washing any new item that touches your skin. Whether it’s your pillowcase, comforter, or even your PJs, a run through the washing machine will strip it of dirt, debris, and allergens. 

Always check the tag on the item you’re washing for specific washing and drying instructions. Your home washing machine could damage some items, including blankets, quilts, duvet covers, or comforters. Others, like mattress pads, just might not fit. You may need to go to a laundromat to sanitize your item or take it to a dry cleaner.