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How to Whiten Yellow Sheets – Without Using Bleach

If you’re trying to get your yellowed bed sheets back to a crisp white then you may think that bleach is the answer.

And while this can work for some stains, you may find that if you’re trying to bleach away bodily fluids like sweat, vomit, or oils this can actually make things worse because the bleach can react with the proteins to create a more pronounced yellow stain.

Now, you could always just buy a new set of bed sheets if they are in really bad shape.

But I’m going to show you how to whiten your yellow sheets without using bleach in this post so that you can extend the life of your bed sheets using three cost effective maintenance solutions.

Let’s jump in.

3 Ways to Whiten Yellow Sheets

White bed sheets.

Image source: stock photo used with permission.

Before you attempt to use any of the whitening techniques below, you should check the care label for your sheets and cross reference it with the ingredients list on any of the chemical whiteners listed below to ensure that you’re not using something that could damage the fibers.

For example, the label may advise you to stay away from optical brighteners for some fabrics because they may cause fading.

Some types of silk bed sheets and pillow cases may require hand washing due to the nature of the fibers.

If in doubt, take your sheets to a dry cleaner for specific advice.

Otherwise, you can try any of the three strategies below for removing yellow stains and general discoloration from your white sheets.

1: Use a Homemade Whitener

One of the safest ways to remove yellow stains and discoloration from your sheets is to use a combination of warm water, baking soda, white vinegar, dish soap, and lemon juice using a strategy that I found on WikiHow [1].

Here’s a step-by-step process of what you need to do.

  • Fill up a container or bathtub with warm water – around 70 °F (21 °C) is ideal but take care not to exceed the maximum wash temperature specified on the care label of your sheets.
  • Add 1/4 cup (60 g) of baking soda to the water – this will help with stain removal.
  • Add 1 cup (237 ml) of white distilled vinegar (NOT apple cider vinegar since this can cause your sheets to turn brown) to the water – this will help to get rid of odors.
  • Add 2 tbsp (30 ml) of dish soap to the water – this will clean and disinfect your sheets.
  • Cut and squeeze 1 fresh lemon over the water – the lemon juice is good for removing stubborn stains.
  • Mix the solution for 10-30 seconds.
  • Soak your sheets and pillowcases in the solution for 30-60 minutes.
  • Remove excess water from the sheets either by wringing them or flat pressing them between two towels (you shouldn’t wring delicate materials like satin since this can cause tearing).
  • Wash and dry your sheets and pillow cases in the machine or as you normally would using the instructions on the care label.
  • Your sheets should now look whiter but if not, you can repeat the process.

2: Use a Whitening Laundry Booster

If you don’t want to use the homemade whitening solution then you can buy a specifically designed stain remover like OxiClean™ to remove the yellowing from your sheets.

For example, you can use OxiClean™ White Revive™ on a wide range of fabrics because it doesn’t include chlorine bleach.

Using OxiClean™ White Revive™ is pretty simple.

The instructions say to mix 1 capful of OxiClean™ per 1 gallon of water that’s as warm as the care label allows for and presoak your sheets in that solution for up to 6 hours.

You can also pour OxiClean™ directly on to the stain, leave it for 5-10 minutes and then wash in the machine for more direct spot cleaning.

Alternatively, you can use Borax instead of OxiClean™.

3: Bluing

One of the oldest techniques to whiten your whites is to use ‘laundry bluing’.

This technique involves rinsing your whites in a non-toxic, biodegradable blue powder dilution – Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing Liquid is a popular option for doing this.

You do however, need to be careful with this strategy because if you add too much powder then this can actually stain your sheets with blue spotting.

If this happens you must NOT use bleach to try and fix the issue because this may cause the stains to set.

Instead, a 2:1 mix of water to ammonia can be used to solve the issue but you must do this in a ventilated room and NEVER mix ammonia with bleach since this is toxic.

Here’s how to use the bluing strategy to make your sheets white.

  • Dilute the bluing liquid as directed on the instructions – typically 1/4 teaspoon in 4 cups (1 quart) of water.
  • Add the diluted solution to the final rinse cycle of the wash.
  • That’s it – for very yellow or heavily stained sheets you’ll have to repeat this process; just remember not to use too much powder in the solution as this can cause blue staining.

Whitening Yellow Sheets FAQs

The three strategies listed above should be enough to help you get your yellowed sheets looking white again.

But here’s a few answers to the most common questions regarding whitening yellow sheets.

Why Do White Sheets Turn Yellow?

Your sheets may yellow over time due to your sheets picking up body oils, sweat, and even skin-care products or body lotions [2].

In some cases, your natural cotton sheets were ‘never white to begin with’ and may have been bleached and treated with blue dye in the manufacturing process to make them look more white – the natural erosion of this blue tint can reveal the natural yellow of the cotton apparently [3].

How Do You Keep Bed Sheets Looking White?

They key to keeping your sheets white is washing them every 7-14 days to remove oils and sweat that lead to yellowing.

In the summer months, you may prefer to wash every 4-7 days because you’ll typically be sweating more.

Investing in a good cooling bed sheet set that’s made from silk or bamboo can also help because these materials are good at wicking away moisture so that it can evaporate – rather than just drenching the sheet which can lead to yellowing.

Other tips for keeping your bed sheets looking white are:

  • Wash your face before bed to remove dirt and oils.
  • If you wear makeup be sure to remove it before you touch your sheets and pillows.
  • Make sure you’re not washing your sheets at too high a temperature or on the wrong settings – this can lead to yellowing of natural cotton sheets if bluing dyes were used in the manufacturing process and are stripped away.
  • Wash your sheets separately – this can also help guard against pilling and damage to the fabric by lessening the amount of abrasion with other materials.
  • Avoid eating in bed.
  • Keep pets out of the bed.
  • Wash with OxiClean™ White Revive™ regularly if your care label allows for it to keep your sheets staying white.

Why is Bleaching Bed Sheets Bad?

Aside from damaging some delicate fabrics like silk and removing the colour from coloured sheets, using bleach on your white sheets can be a bad idea when trying to remove sweat and other bodily fluids because it can react with the proteins and actually lead to making the stains more yellow.

Baking soda is a safer alternative to bleaching your sheets if you use the first technique in the list above.

Do You Need to Buy Some New Bed Sheets?

If your sheets are yellowed or damaged beyond repair then click the button below.

And you can choose from some of the best luxury sheet sets that are made from materials like mulberry silk and bamboo.

These natural materials are great at wicking away moisture and can help guard against future yellowing by allowing sweat to evaporate quickly and not sit in the sheet.


Sources and References

[1] WikiHow – How to Keep White Sheets White. Accessed 24/2/20.

[2] Hunker – Why Do Bed Sheets Turn Yellow? Accessed 24/2/20.

[3] Remodelista – DIY: How to Whiten Your Sheets with Laundry Bluing. Accessed 24/2/20.

Important Disclaimer

This guide is for information purposes only. If you have any doubts about damaging your sheets then you should seek advice from a dry cleaner since the information in this guide is general and may not be right for your type of sheets.

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