Last time in Laundry 101, we talked about the right way to wash towels. I told you I went to college knowing nothing about how to do my laundry. My British roommate saved me. Here’s what the Brit taught me about caring for bed linens, including how to pick out my sheets in the first place. We never shopped for linens together, but she probably could see that nobody else was going to teach me these things, and took it upon herself to do the job. (Thanks, Sarah!)
I like my sheets to be crisp and tightly tucked into the bed. I can’t stand loose, rumply sheets. If you prefer softer sheets, this post is still for you. But you will need to make a different decision at the store (think t-shirt sheets, not 100% cotton).
Choosing your sheets
Read the care label before you buy! I have a difficult time remembering this when I’m actually at the store looking at all the beautiful linens. But taking care of your linens will be easier if you read the care labels before you buy.
If you like soft sheets, check out the flannels, the silks or the t-shirt sheets. (I love flannel sheets but hate sleeping on flannel pillowcases, so I just use a crisp pillowcase for my pillow. Don’t be afraid to mix and match if that suits your taste!)
What’s so tough about washing sheets?
Sheets are hard to keep clean. The scientific stats are a little icky, but the average adult sweats a pint or so a night while sleeping, pillowcases get greasy, and that’s just the beginning. This means you want sheets you can wash with hot water so you can get them really clean.
There may come a time when you want to sanitize those sheets. To do this, you need to either 1. Use really hot water (my washer has a “sanitary high heat” setting) or 2. Use bleach. Read your care label and see what it says about hot water and bleach. It’s far better to know what you’re getting into while you’re still at the store and haven’t spent a lot of money on beautiful, hard-to-care-for sheets!
Wash sheets at least weekly
Sheets should be washed at least once a week. It’s a good idea to change pillowcases more than that. (I change mine twice a week.) Here’s a great tip: if ever you can’t sleep, get up, change your pillowcase, and go back to bed.
Use good detergent and hot water. Pretreat any stains. Because sheets–and especially pillowcases–do get greasy, it’s a good idea to use ammonia every few loads according to package directions. Ammonia smells vile, but don’t worry–your laundry will not come out smelling like the stuff in that bottle. Ammonia cleans somewhat greasy items, and sheets and pillowcases can be just that. REMEMBER: Never mix ammonia with bleach. A toxic gas will result.
Remove wet sheets from the laundry promptly. Don’t let wet linens linger. Remember the towels? Water is the enemy when it comes to keeping mildewy smells out of laundry.
Dry sheets till barely (or nearly) dry. Hang in the sunshine on the line to dry, or dry on high in the dryer. The heat dries and sanitizes the linens. An ever-so-slightly damp bottom sheet will go on the bed a little neater than a bone-dry one.
You may wish to iron your sheets. I prefer (but often don’t) iron my pillowcases and the top hem of my sheets.
Fold neatly until ready to use. It’s a good idea to store any linens in a place where they won’t gather dust, like a linen or bedroom closet.
Click here to read Laundry 101: clean towels.