Cleaning

How to Keep White Sheets White

How to bleach sheets and make white sheets white again

Have your sheets started to turn a dingy shade of yellow or gray? Or maybe you take your coffee in bed and had a bad spill? No matter the reason, it’s time to whiten your sheets. Learn how to bleach white sheets and how to keep white sheets white!

How to Bleach Sheets

When it comes to bleaching your white sheets, don’t. Let me explain why!

Before grabbing a bottle of Clorox and going to town, we have to first establish the type of stain we are trying to remove. The most common staining that happens over time to white sheets is yellowing or graying. This type of staining is likely concentrated in places like your pillowcase or where your body most often touches your sheets. 

Yellowing in these areas is caused by a transfer of sweat, greasy hair, dead skin, leftover makeup, or hair products from your body to your bedsheets. This type of staining falls into the protein stain category. Fun fact: chlorine bleach is actually known to intensify protein stains, not remove them! This is exactly why we don’t want to use chlorine bleach to remove this type of stain.

Additionally, if you are sleeping on anything other than cotton sheets, chlorine bleach can actually damage your sheet fabric and CAUSE yellowing! That’s right, if you sleep on sheets made from a synthetic material that has a yellow thread core, the use of chlorine bleach can expose that yellow core if used in excess. And if you are fancy enough to sleep on silk sheets (or a silk pillowcase to minimize face wrinkles!), then you should definitely forget bleach as a stain fighting solution. Bleach will destroy delicate fabrics like silk, so be careful.

It’s natural for sheets to eventually develop a yellow or gray tinge over time – even if laundered regularly. Because of this, it is a good idea to treat your white sheets to a more intensive whitening once or twice a year to keep them bright and clean looking. Here are a few methods to try:

Overnight Soak

20 Mule Team All Natural Borax Detergent Booster & Multi-Purpose Household Cleaner, 65 Ounce, 4...
  • Add to laundry to help remove tough stains, deodorize and Freshen
  • Wipe on counters and appliances to remove grease and grime and make dishes sparkling clean
  • Removes soap scum, hard Water deposits, and dirt

This is my recommended option! Soak your sheets overnight in a laundry booster like Borax or OxiClean. Mix the booster with warm water in your tub or basin first, then add your sheet set. The prolonged exposure of your sheets to these products increases their whitening power. The next morning, add your sheets to your washing machine and launder as you regularly would.

Bleach

Concentrated Clorox HE Regular Bleach, 121 Oz. (Pack of 1)
  • For use in HE and standard washing machines.
  • Excellent antibacterial, germicidal and fungicidal properties.
  • A registered disinfectant that kills up to 99.9% of household germs and bacteria.

Wait, didn’t I just preach about the dangers of chlorine bleach on white sheets? If you are a bleach positive person, you can get around the protein stain intensification concern by first washing your sheets in regular detergent. This should remove surface-level protein stains. Then you can wash your sheets again with chlorine bleach to remove dingy staining from other causes like excess laundry detergent buildup. Again, check the care tag on your sheet set to make sure they are a material that can handle exposure to chlorine bleach before trying this method!

Bluing

Mrs. Stewart's Concentrated Liquid Bluing Great for Laundry, 8 Ounce (Pack of 2)
  • New front loaded calorie approach to help with satiation and prevent bingeing or failing the program...
  • Created in partnership with a licensed naturopathic doctor
  • Designed for those wanting to maintain a healthy lifestyle

If the yellow stains on your sheets are too stubborn to remove with the above laundering techniques, it might be worth it to try a bluing product. You have to use this product exactly per package instructions, otherwise you could end up with blue sheets! Just a hint of blue in one of these products (Mrs. Stewarts is a popular option) will help cancel out the yellow color in your white sheets, making them look perfectly white once again. 

How to Keep White Sheets White

So you were able to remove the dinginess that was developing on your white sheets. Now let’s talk about how to prevent that from happening again anytime soon! I laid out everything you need to know about how to keep white sheets white in the sections below.

Treat Stains Immediately

When stains happen, it’s in your best interest to act quickly! Doing so will greatly increase the odds of your ability to get that stain out in the wash when you get around to it. Since most bedrooms are very close or attached to a bathroom, here is my recommendation. 

The minute your stain occurs, go to your bathroom and grab a clean washcloth (I keep a pile of clean cloths under my sink). Wet your wash cloth with water and hand soap, wring it out, then use it to blot/rub/remove your stain. You might have to rinse and repeat a few times, but even getting “most” of the stain out right when it happens will make your likelihood of maintaining white sheets significantly higher.

Remove Makeup Before Bedtime

Not only is this a good idea for keeping white sheets white, it’s a good idea for the health of your skin! If you’re guilty of sleeping in your makeup, try pushing your face washing routine to earlier in the evening. I wash my face every night immediately after putting my son to bed (around 7-7:30pm). Washing my face and doing my skincare routine at that point in my evening before I’m dead tired feels a lot more manageable and helps me do it more consistently. Sometimes I’ll even have the energy to apply a face mask at that hour which feels like a huge self-care win!

Wash White Sheets Regularly

You need to wash your sheets every 1-2 weeks. It’s as simple as that – no shortcuts here! If you wash your white sheets less often that this, there is a high likelihood that they will develop that yellow, dingy residue that you are trying to avoid. Feel free to wash with a laundry booster like Borax or OxiClean to help keep your white sheets super white. 

Use the Appropriate Amount of Detergent

Another reason white sheets become dingy over time? Overuse of laundry detergent! This problem also affects white towels and other white laundry. More detergent doesn’t mean cleaner laundry! In fact, if you have soft water then you should be using half the amount of detergent recommended. Make sure to read recommended usage from your detergent manufacturer.

Wash Whites Separately

Combining white sheets with colored items simply puts your sheets at risk of color transfer. Even if it isn’t a dramatic color transfer, combining fabrics like this can add to that dingy look your white sheets develop over time.

How Often Should You Replace White Sheets?

If your sheets have holes from moths or over-use, it’s time to recycle them and buy a replacement set. You’ll also know it’s time to replace your sheets if after multiple attempts to clean and whiten them, you’re still left with stained or dingy white sheets.

Quality White Sheet Sets:

I believe that two of the most important investment pieces in a home are your mattress and your bedsheets. If you’re in the market for a new set of high quality white sheets, here are a few brands that are worth considering.

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Last update on 2020-02-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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