How to Wash Your Bed Sheets (3 Step Guide)

Washing your bed sheets is important.

Because frequent washing can prevent the build up of dead skin cells, oils, sweat, saliva, other bodily fluids, and bacteria.

Plus it can stop allergens like pollen, dust mites, and pet dander from getting trapped in the materials – which can cause allergic reactions and worsen the symptoms of eczema and asthma.

But how you wash your bed sheets is important too.

Because if you do this wrong, then you could end up damaging your bed sheets, shortening their life span, and making them feel less comfortable.

That’s why I’ve written this comprehensive guide that shows you how to wash your bed sheets properly in 3 steps – with special instructions for washing and drying specific bed sheet materials like silk, microfiber, cotton, and others.

How to Wash Your Bed Sheets in 3 Steps

Washing your bed sheets properly can be broken down into 3 broad steps – preparation, washing, and drying.

However, the exact steps that you take will depend on the type of material, if the sheets have been washed before, and the specific guidelines on the care label.

Here’s the step-by-step process that you should follow to wash your bed sheets properly.

1: Preparation

Before you do any actual washing and drying, the first thing that you need to do is prepare as follows.

Read the Label

This is the most important step.

You need to check the washing and drying guidelines on the label – or in the instructions that came with your bed sheets – because this is specific and should supersede the information in this guide.

Don’t Overload the Washer

It’s probably best that you wash your bed sheets by themselves.

This will give enough space inside the drum to allow your bed sheets to be washed properly and minimise friction that can cause your sheets to pill (‘bobble’).

Also, by washing your bed sheets alone, you avoid the risk of lint becoming attached to them from other materials.

Use the Correct Setting

What’s the correct temperature to wash your bed sheets at?

Well, the general rule is to wash your bed sheets at the hottest temperature that’s allowed on the label to kill the most amount of bacteria.

This will typically be in the 30 – 60 degree C range.

Going higher could actually damage the fibers – that’s why it’s important to check the label, because some fabrics may need to be washed in cold water; possibly by hand too.

Don’t Over-Dry

Again, you should check the label to see what kind of drying is allowed.

Hang-drying is the best way to minimise damage to the fabrics, but if you’re going to use a tumble dryer, then make sure that you use the shortest possible cycle to minimise the chance of shrinkage and degradation of the fibers.

Don’t Tumble Dry Bed Sheets With Towels

I’ve made this mistake in the past.

You should tumble dry your sheets and towels separately because the towels are much thicker and will take longer – thus resulting in over-drying of your sheets if you leave them in for the same length of time.

Pre-Wash New Bed Sheets

If you’ve just bought a new bed sheet set, then you should wash them separately to remove excess dye, soften them up, and wash out excess chemicals used in the manufacturing process.

You should check the instructions to see if there are any specific requirements, but some people use a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar on a rinse cycle instead of detergent on the first wash to avoid locking in harsh chemicals.

Use the Right Amount of Detergent

More isn’t always better.

Because adding more detergent than what’s required may cause your bed sheets to wear out faster – an exception might be if the sheets are very dirty.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals

It’s best to avoid bleach, stain removers, and even some kinds of fabric softeners to preserve the quality of the fibers.

Check the label for any specific notes regarding chemicals that should be avoided.

2: Washing

Once you’ve checked the label and performed the checks above – you’re almost ready to start washing your bed sheets.

Depending on how new your washer is, it may have a specific cycle for sheets but if not, a regular cycle should suffice.

However, also I’ve included some extra pointers for washing specific types of bed sheet materials below.

Washing Cotton Bed Sheets

Cotton makes for some of the best naturally cooling bed sheets, and they can usually be machine washed without too many complications.

Most labels will specify a gentle 30 or 40 degree cycle.

Washing Linen Bed Sheets

Linen bed sheets can usually be machine washed on a gentle setting between 30 and 40 degrees.

Some manufacturers may allow the use of fabric softeners.

Washing Microfiber Bed Sheets

Microfiber sheets can be washed in warm water but fabric softeners should be avoided because this will clog the spaces in the material.

Avoid washing microfiber with other types of material such as cotton to prevent the build up of lint.

Washing Silk Bed Sheets

Silk bed sheets are typically very delicate and require very careful washing – especially given how expensive they usually are too.

You’ll want to wash your silk sheets by hand initially in cold water with a detergent that’s specifically for delicate fabrics.

Check the label to see if you can wash your silk sheets in the washing machine thereafter and the specific guidelines that need to be adhered to.

For more detailed step-by-step instructions have a look at my guide to washing silk bed sheets.

Washing Flannel Bed Sheets

Flannel sheets are prone to pilling and for this reason you should avoid washing them with fabric softeners.

Most manufacturers will advise that you wash your flannel sheets separately, with a small amount of detergent, and on a gentle setting to avoid excessive friction that can cause pilling and degradation of the fibers.

Washing Jersey Sheets

If you have a jersey knit sheet then the label will more than likely stipulate that you wash it in cold water to avoid shrinkage.

3: Drying

Much like washing, the easiest way to find out the specific drying requirements for your bed sheets is to check the label.

And in the vast majority of cases, hang-drying is nearly always better than tumble drying in order to limit shrinkage and damage to the fibers.

However, line-drying in direct sunlight can damage the fibers due to UV rays – so you may decide to hang-dry inside if possible.

Here’s some pointers for drying different types of fabrics.

Drying Cotton Bed Sheets

Cotton bed sheets are best hang-dried.

However, if the label allows it, you may be able to tumble dry your cotton bed sheets on a low heat setting to limit shrinkage.

Cotton tends to wrinkle after washing, so ironing is recommended if you want super-smooth bed sheets.

Drying Linen Bed Sheets

Linen bedding can usually be dried on higher temperatures but this can make the sheets feel stiff – so a lower temperature or hang-drying is usually recommended.

Many times, linen sheets don’t need to be ironed – although a medium hot iron can make your sheets look crisper.

Drying Microfiber Bed Sheets

Do not dry microfiber sheets in the dryer with heat because this can damage the material quite badly.

It’s best to hang-dry your microfiber sheets.

Drying Silk Bed Sheets

Silk sheets are best hang-dried and not used in the tumble dryer since the heat can damage the fibers.

Drying Flannel Bed Sheets

Most flannel sheets will need to be dried at a low temperature to avoid shrinking and pilling.

Dryer sheets are also best avoided as they can aggravate the fibers and cause pilling.

Drying Jersey Sheets

It’s best to hang-dry your jersey knit sheets and skip the tumble dryer to avoid shrinkage.

Washing Bed Sheets FAQ

As you’ve probably already realised, the best way to wash and dry your bed sheets is to simply follow the guidelines on the label.

But here’s some of the answers to the most common questions for washing your sheets.

How Often Should You Wash Your Bed Sheets?

You should wash your bed sheets every week.

Because when you think about it, you’re spending up to 8 hours or more each night ingraining dead skin cells, sweat, and other bodily fluids into the material.

Regular washing of your sheets is a must if you have allergies, eczema, sensitive skin, or have a pet that sleeps in your bed because you can experience flare ups due to allergens such as pollen, pet dander, and dust mites.

How Do You Stop Bed Sheets From Pilling?

Pilling is a phenomenon where little balls of material appear on your bed sheets due to wear and can make the material feel rough and unpleasant [1].

Pretty much all material pills to some extent, but there are a few things that you can do to stop your bed sheets from pilling, and they are as follows:

  • Wash at a cooler temperature on a gentle cycle – higher temperatures can increase pilling, shrinkage, fading, and the overall degradation of the fibers.
  • Limit friction – such as when trying to remove a stain.
  • Hang-dry – this minimises the wear and tear associated with tumble drying.

How Do You Wash White Bed Sheets?

In addition to following the guidelines above and the specifics of the label, it’s always a good idea to wash your white sheets separately to avoid the dye running from your coloured items.

You’ll want to avoid bleach for stain removal since this is a very harsh chemical that can damage the fibers – white vinegar, baking soda, and lemon are some natural alternatives.

When it comes to drying your white sheets, the general rule of hang-drying is the way to go over tumble drying in order to guard against pilling, fading, and shrinkage.

How Do You Wash Coloured Bed Sheets?

Wash your coloured sheets separately from lighter items and where possible – such as in the case of a duvet cover – turn the items inside out to limit damage to the outer part.

There’s actually a case against line-drying coloured bed sheets on sunny days because the UV rays may cause the colours to fade – so tumble drying on a low heat may be a better alternative in the summer, or hang-drying inside.

How Do You Wash Blood Out of Your Bed Sheets?

Ideally, you’ll want to get to the blood before it dries.

But in the worst case scenario, the best way to begin removing blood from your bed sheets is to apply cold water – either by dabbing gently (not rubbing, since this can damage the fibers and deepen the stain) or by washing the sheets in the machine or by hand.

Some guides recommend applying hydrogen peroxide to the blood stain to remove it but this may damage the fibers.

Natural alternatives for spot cleaning blood stains can include a baking soda paste, shampoo, meat tenderizer powder, or white vinegar.

After applying your chosen cleaning agent and allowing it to soak if applicable, you should wash your sheets again on cold to prevent the stain from setting.

In all cases, make sure that you don’t apply any chemicals to your sheets that may cause even more damage – check the label for more guidance.

Check out my complete guide to removing blood stains from bed sheets for the exact step-by-step instructions.

When Should You Buy New Bed Sheets?

Most bed sheets should be replaced every 2-3 years, but very high quality sheet sets can last up to 6 or even 8 years.

However, the exact timeframe will depend on how well you’ve cared and looked after your sheets and if they have torn, stained, or been damaged in some other way.

If you’re ready to buy a new bed sheet set – click the button below.

Where I’ve listed some of the best bed sheet sets that you can buy online right now.

I’ve ordered them in terms of their material and their specific uses – such as the best sheets for staying cool, staying warm, sensitive skin, for luxury, and more.

Important Disclaimer

Always check the label and/or care instructions for the exact terms for washing and drying your bed sheets properly – the information in this post is general and may not be correct for your bed sheets.

Sources and References

[1] Wikipedia – Pill (Textile). Accessed 23/1/20.

Image Attribution and Licencing

Main image: ‘Clean Sheets’ by GM Nicholas (Getty Images Signature) – used with permission under the terms of Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement.