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How to Make Sheets White Again

Malena Piper

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It’s official—white sheets are the best color! They’re comforting, crisp, clean, and they don’t distract from the fun patterns in your comforter or the paint color on your bedroom walls. On the other hand, white sheets are some of the hardest sheets to keep clean.

It goes without saying that white sheets are more vulnerable to stains and spills than other sheets, but they also turn yellow through exposure to sweat, dead skin cells, dust, dust mites, dirt, and a host of other icky things. The good news is, there are some things you can do to counteract yellowing in your white bed linens. So let’s take a look.

The Best Natural Ingredients to Whiten Sheets

If you don’t want to use whiteners with synthetic or potentially toxic ingredients, there are a few natural solutions you can turn to whiten sheets and other bedding.

White Vinegar

Vinegar is highly acidic, and this acid can bleach the yellow right out of your sheets. Soak sheets in a mix of a half-cup of vinegar to one gallon of water ratio for at least an hour before machine washing.

Lemon Juice

Another acidic whitener, lemon juice has the added benefit of leaving a fresh, citrusy smell on your sheets. Toss about a third of a cup of lemon juice into the washing machine with your regular detergent and wash as normal for whiter sheets.

Borax Powder

Borax is a natural mineral known as sodium tetraborate, and it’s often sold as a laundry additive in the grocery store. To whiten fabric, you should pre-soak sheets in a tub overnight with a mixture of half a cup of borax powder per one gallon of water.

Baking Soda

Baking soda reacts with stains to lift them off a fabric, and it can also neutralize odors in your sheets. Pour half a cup of baking soda into the washing machine before running your sheets through a regular wash cycle.

The Best Chemical Ingredients to Whiten Sheets

If you need a little extra kick in your whitener, there are a couple of stronger chemical options that can lift tough spots and crack through stubborn yellow stains.

Liquid Bluing

Liquid bluing adds trace amounts of blue dye to your white fabric to counteract the color yellow. In fact, manufacturers use liquid bluing to whiten fabric, so it looks its crispest in the package. After multiple washes, the liquid bluing from the manufacturer wears off, leaving your sheets with a yellow tinge.

Adding a little liquid bluing to your bedsheets can put the blue back in your sheets and reduce dinginess. Just make sure to follow the diluting instructions on the bottle, so you don’t wind up with blue sheets instead of white ones.

Bleach

Chlorine bleach is one of the strongest whitening agents you can buy. Not only can it take the color of stains and dirt out of your white sheets, but bleach is strong enough to take the dye out of colored fabrics. So if you’ve got stubborn stains, bleach may be the way to go.

Watch out, though, as bleach can react with the proteins in sweat and body oils to turn your sheets even yellower. That means you’ll need to wash them without bleach before running them through a second cycle with half a cup of bleach.

Time to Replace Your Sheets?

If your sheets don’t regain their white color, it might be time to replace them. Sheets that have yellowed permanently may feel worn out in other ways, so buying a new sheet set can help you sleep better. If you want to thoroughly consider your options before purchasing, we recommend our types of bed sheets guide.

For example, many sleepers benefit from picking sheets with cooling materials. When it comes to sheets for hot sleepers, it’s difficult to beat cotton when it comes to easy care, comfort, and affordability.

Still, Tencel is a material growing in popularity and has come to rival cotton’s prominence when it comes to sheets. Our cotton vs Tencel guide examines both materials to make a decision easier.

To keep your sheets in good shape, we recommend changing and washing your sheets as often as once a week. Frequent cleanings keep allergens from accumulating, helping you maintain a pristine sleep surface.

FAQs

What’s the best method for whitening sheets?

Three simple steps can get your sheets whiter just about every time. First, pre-soak sheets between 1 and 24 hours, depending on the kind of whitener you’re using. Second, run sheets through the washing machine using warm water and laundry detergent.

Third, line dry your sheets if you can. Sunlight has bleaching properties and can help whiten your sheets more than if you’d just tossed them in the dryer.

How can I avoid yellowing my sheets in the first place?

While all-white sheets will eventually fade, there are some things you can do to slow the yellowing process. First, prevent lotion and oil build-up. Shower at night rather than in the morning, or at least cleanse your face before bed to remove makeup. Also, make sure to moisturize at least 30 minutes before bed to give your skincare products time to absorb.

Second, wash your white sheets correctly. Never launder whites with colors, avoid fabric softeners, and launder your sheets frequently. Third, avoid behaviors that can stain your sheets. For example, don’t eat or drink in bed, and don’t sit in bed in your shoes or dirty clothes.

Should I use hot or cold water on my white sheets?

Hot water is typically better at lifting stains than cold water. Hot or warm water is also better at killing allergens and pests that could be hiding out in your sheets. It’s always best to check the care label on your sheets before washing, however, as some fabrics cannot withstand high water temperatures.

What’s the best stain remover for white sheets?

Tons of great stain removers can spot clean spills. Oxiclean White Revive is a tried and true stain blaster. Another excellent option for grease stains is dish soap, as its design absorbs the oil from foods. If you’re looking for a more forgiving bleaching agent than actual bleach, hydrogen peroxide is also great for taking the color out of dark stains.

How often should I wash my white bedsheets?

Regardless of color, you should be washing your sheets no less than once a week. If you don’t, you’re opening yourself up to all kinds of ickiness. Bacteria and mold growth are both real possibilities in dirty sheets. Pests like dust mites and bed bugs also have an easier time setting up shop in unwashed sheets.

Bottom Line

Getting your sheets white again can be as easy as 1.2.3. Whether you use natural whiteners or stronger chemical bleaching agents, you can have your white bedding looking crisp again in as little as a pre-soak, a wash, and a line dry.

Remember, we recommend washing your sheets at least once a week to maintain their condition.

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