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10 Sheet Washing Tips Everyone Should Know

Washing Bed Sheets by author Meghan Carter

  • Why dryers are bad for your sheets.
  • The best detergent to use.
  • What settings your washer should always be on.
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    Washing bed sheets is something I thought I had aced long ago, but on my recent trip to luxury linen retailer Anichini, I discovered I break at least four of the sheet washing rules - if not five. And while I'm not proud to admit it, yes, I am an over-crowding, top-loading, warm water, dryer-using sheet washer. That's right I've been washing my sheets wrong all of these years, and in doing so I've shortened the life - if not ruined - each set along the way, according to Anichini's Creative Director, Alan Jesseman.
    Luckily, I've found the cure for sheet washing ignorance. Jesseman gave me a list of 9 things to do - or not to do - when washing bed sheets. The following list can be used for all other linens in the home as well. So get washing. You'll be happy to see how easy the list is to accomplish. Well, all except tip 8. But I'm trying!

1. No Dry Cleaning - What a Relief

    When we think of taking good care of our sheets, or linens for that matter, it's easy to assume that means dry cleaning. But that's not the case.
    "You may think that you're taking care of your sheets by having them dry cleaned, but you're really not because you can control what's done to them at home a lot more easily," Jesseman said.
    Plus, you don't want those dry cleaning chemicals close to your body, as Jesseman added.
    Just check the label of your sheets before washing at home to make sure dry cleaning isn't required.

2. Use a Front Loading Washing Machine

    If you're considering a new washing machine, make it a front loader.
    "Front loading washers are a wonderful thing, and everything will last longer if you use them because they are much more gentle," Jesseman said. "They don't have the agitator in the middle."
    Plus, front-loading washing machines give you a nice flat surface to fold laundry after line drying or air tumbling. See tip 8 and 9.

3. Cool Water is Best

    You might be tempted to crank up the heat on your laundry because you think it will make them extra clean, but cranking up the heat shortens the life of more than bacteria. It shortens the life of your sheets.
    "Stay away from hot, hot water," Jesseman said. "You can use lukewarm. That's fine. But hot water is very harsh on the fibers, hard on the colors and will shorten the lifespan of your sheets."
    So keep your water on cold, and your sheets will be happy.

4. Use a Gentle Cycle

    As with anything you love, a gentle touch is always best. Set your washer on the gentle cycle, and your sheets will thank you.
    "You don't need a lot of agitation," Jesseman said.

5. Stay Away from Bleach

    It may be easy to reach for the bleach when you're confronted with a tough stain, but that's a bad idea according to Jesseman. Bleach breaks down the fibers of the sheets, which will weaken them over time.
    If you really need a powerful agent to fight stains, oxygen bleaches are okay. Before using an oxygen bleach, test it on a corner to make sure it won't remove any color, Jesseman suggests.

6. Use a Mild Soap without the Extras

    Forget about those hyped up detergents. When it comes to choosing the best laundry soap, look for one that's plain and simple.   
    "You want to use a mild detergent or soap - something that doesn't have any whiteners or brighteners and probably that has minimal fragrance or coloring to it," Jesseman said.  

7. Dissolve the Soap Before the Sheets Go In

    After a few times of getting white spots on your sheets, you quickly learn to completely dissolve the soap in water before putting your sheets in. While that isn't such a problem for those with front-loading washers, it is with top loading ones. So be careful. Always check to make sure the detergent completely dissolve before throwing the sheets in. And you might not want to thro them in. Maybe gently toss is a better idea.

8. Too Much - in the Washer - is a Very Bad Thing

    When being washed, sheets need room to, well, be washed. So don't try to stuff everything in at once.
    "If you have a king sized bed and you have sheets and maybe a lot of pillowcases and a duvet, don't try to put all it into the washing machine at once," Jesseman said.
    Break your linens into separate loads so less stress is put on the washing machine and your sheets.

9. Become a Fan of Line Drying

    Line drying may not be an option for everyone, but if you can, you should.
    "A lot of the reason people's sheets will wear out is because of the dryer," Jesseman said. "All of that lint that you see in your dryer, that's your clothing or sheets coming apart. It's actually the sheet fabric breaking down. ... When you hang it outside that doesn't happen."
    If you don't have a place outside to hang your sheets, Jesseman suggests hanging them over your shower curtain or installing bars in your laundry room specifically used for drying laundry.
    While hanging your sheets inside can be convenient, it may be worth putting them outside to dry.
    "If you line dry your sheets, the wind will blow most of the wrinkles out of them so you never have to worry about ironing," Jesseman said.

10. If You Must Use a Dryer, Air Tumble

    Line drying isn't for everyone - especially those in a rush. So if you find yourself short on time, use the air tumble setting on your dryer.
    "You just want to fluff dry [your sheets]," Jesseman said. "You don't want to use really any heat, and always try to take them out of the dryer before they are bone dry, before they feel hot and dry. Because again that's hard on the fibers and they'll break down faster."
    After taking your sheets out when still damp, Jesseman suggests spreading them on your bed to finish drying.
    "Then fold them up and put them in your linen closet," Jesseman said.

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