White bedding by Peacock Alley

How To Wash Bed Sheets

Originally contributed by • last updated 4/7/2021

Peacock Alley
The Picket Fence

If you knew what really goes on between your sheets, you’d want to wash them probably more than you already do. There’s a little party going on between all the sweat, body oil, and dead skin cells you leave behind after a night’s sleep.

Considering that you may sleep between six and eight hours of sleep per night, there are 42 to 56 hours of yuckiness that you’ll want to wash away before the dust mites join in.

Here’s how to wash bed sheets the right way — and the easy way — so you can sleep clean.

Let's Make It


  • Washing Machine
  • Dryer
  • Clothesline (optional)
  • Small Bowl
  • Basin (optional)


  • Baking Soda
  • Soft-Bristled Brush (optional)
  • Bar Soap (optional)
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Oxygen Bleach (optional)
  • Rubber Or Wool Dryer Ball
  • Clean Tennis Ball
  • Clean White Sock
  • Bluing Liquid (optional

Strip The Bed

How Often To Wash Bed Sheets

Susan Wilkinson

For a clean night’s sleep and to minimize any allergies you may have to dust or dust mites, it’s best to change and wash sheets once a week.

If you wait longer than two to three weeks, you’ll begin to smell and feel that it’s time to strip your bed and change the sheets.

Marilyn Syarto

Completely strip the bed of sheets, both fitted and flat. Don't forget the pillowcases too.

You don't need to pull off zippered pillow protectors every week. Take them off the pillows and throw them in the washing machine every three to four weeks to eliminate build-up and dust mite activity.



Separate Colored Sheets

Marilyn Syarto

Plan to wash only one set of sheets of the same color at a time. Separate whites and pastels from sheets of darker colors or jewel tones. This is especially important if you want to know how to wash bed sheets that are brand new and have vivid or saturated colors.

It takes about three washings to fully bleed the color out of natural or synthetic fiber sheets that have saturated color. 

If you have white sheets that you want to keep crisp and bright, scroll down to find out the best tips for washing them and keeping them blindingly white without the arduous task of bleaching them or soaking them in vinegar.


Pre-Treat Stains 

Marilyn Syarto

There are many ways to remove stains from bed sheets, but here are two of the fastest and most effective ways that work on most stains. 

Pretreat A Small Stain

  1. Pretreat a small and contained stain with a thick paste of baking soda (usually two tablespoons of baking soda to one tablespoon of water) and rub it into the stain with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush.
  2. Leave the paste on for 30 minutes, then rinse off or just pop the treated sheets in the washer and wash normally. 

Presoak For Larger Stains

  1. Presoak a stained sheet in oxygen bleach for at least an hour.
  2. Wash normally afterward.

If you have a presoak setting on your washer, take advantage of that, but you can always pretreat the affected sheet in a basin of water, as well.

How To Remove Blood Stains From Bed Sheets 

Removing blood stains is handled slightly differently.

If it’s a fresh stain, take the sheet and immediately run it under cold water to flush out as much of the blood from the fibers as possible.

If it’s a dried blood stain, soak the sheet in cold water to loosen it up. Further loosen it by rubbing bar soap on the stain under cold water.

Once most of the blood stain is removed, use one of the above methods to pretreat or presoak the sheet. If the stain is barely visible you can start the normal washing process.

Do not dry sheets if a stain (especially a blood stain) is still visible. The heat from a dryer will further bond the stain to the fibers.


Place Sheets In Washer

How To Wash Bed Sheets In Washing Machine

Marilyn Syarto

Loosely load a set of sheets into the machine. Give sheets plenty of room in the washer and don’t add in any other items or garments.

If you have a top-loading washing machine like the one above, make sure the sheets are not wrapped tightly around the agitator. If they are, the sheets may tear or tangle badly. 


Add Detergent

If you’re using liquid detergent, add it either directly into the drum or into the detergent dispenser if your washer has one.

Do not use more detergent than recommended by the manufacturer’s label or it will create too many suds, which isn’t good for sheets (or any clothing).

The bubbles are formulated to trap dirt in the wash and then release dirt in the rinsing process. Too many bubbles will not rinse properly, leaving soap residue.

A build-up of suds can attract dirt to a piece of fabric after washing if there’s lingering soap residue.

If you’re using powdered detergent or a pod, you may need to read the manufacturer’s recommendations to allow full dissolving of the product before washing.

Powdered detergent may need to be added to water to dissolve, then you’ll add in the sheets. A pod may need to be placed in the drum before water or sheets are added. 

Here's how to wash bed sheets with oxygen bleach:

Oxygen bleach is not chlorine bleach. It is a product formulated with a form of hydrogen peroxide to create a color-safe stain remover. The hydrogen peroxide works to break down a stain’s bonds.

Oxygen bleach can be used alone or with a detergent. It typically comes in a powder form (though liquid is available, it’s considered not to be as strong as powdered) that needs to be mixed in warm water before detergent or sheets are added.

Do not put powder into a dispenser drawer for that reason.

You can also mix powder in a cup of water and then pour it into the wash. Oxygen bleach may sterilize fabrics a bit, but since it is diluted, manufacturers usually don’t sell the product as a disinfectant.

For best results, always read the manufacturer’s label for recommended use of the brand’s oxygen bleach.


Choose Washer Settings

Marilyn Syarto

Any setting for washing sheets is fine, but a general rule of thumb is to use normal for lightly soiled sheets and heavy-duty cycles to wash out stains and heavily soiled sheets.

Using too harsh of a setting may prematurely wear out your sheets. 

Choose a cooler water temperature if you are washing colored sheets and do not want the colors to fade. If you are washing sheets after sleeping on them while ill, sanitize them with a good hot or warm water wash.

Do not add fabric softener to your wash when cleaning sheets. A fabric softener will coat your sheets and reduce their breathability and absorbency of your body oils and fluids.

As a result of using fabric softeners, your sheets may feel slick and dirty, even when they’re clean.


Dry Sheets

Marilyn Syarto

Air-Drying Sheets Outside

You can air-dry your sheets outdoors for that fresh scent or machine-dry them to save time. It takes a couple of hours on a low humidity day to dry sheets outdoors.

Drying sheets on an outdoor clothesline saves energy, but it can also make them feel rough. To soften them up a bit, toss almost air-dried sheets in the dryer for only a few minutes, but don’t over-dry.

Drying Sheets In The Dryer

When putting sheets in your dryer, avoid high drying temperatures to eliminate over-drying, which can cause wrinkling, shrinking, and wearing on your sheets.

If you have settings on your dryer, choose “less dry” or an alert to let you know the sheets are slightly damp. Sheets take about 30 to 45 minutes in a dryer.

Sheets are large and can dry unevenly. To prevent this, add a rubber or wool dryer ball to gently knock around the sheets so they dry evenly.

Or make DIY dryer balls by putting a couple of clean tennis balls into a clean white sock that you can toss in the dryer. 

Marilyn Syarto

Avoid adding dryer sheets into the dryer with sheets. Just like fabric softener, a dryer sheet will also coat sheets and reduce your sheet’s ability to breathe and absorb. 


Caring For White Sheets 

How To Wash White Bed Sheets


White sheets offer that classic clean and breezy look to bedrooms, especially more minimalist spaces. But there are a few tips to learning how to wash bed sheets to keep them pure white and without that dingy tinge.

The first step in keeping white sheets white is to avoid chlorine bleach which might yellow them.

You may have seen alternative options, such as soaking sheets in a bath of vinegar and lemon juice., but there’s an easier way to keep white sheets looking new. Plus we have a few tips will help keep them pristine. 

There are two things to keep in mind when washing white sheets:

  1. Wash them in oxygen bleach, with hot water.
  2. Wash alone, without any other items in the washing machine.

Additionally, add an extra rinse cycle for white sheets so that you're confident the soap has been rinsed away completely.

In between your washings of white sheets, sleep on them make-up-free, avoid sitting on them in dirty clothes or shoes, and don't eat in bed.

If your white sheets are already yellow, try a bluing product that tricks the eye into seeing brighter whites. Liquid bluing adds a subtle blue pigment to affected whites to counteract the dingy yellow undertone.