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How to Wash Sheets the Right Way: Step-by-Step Instructions

woman laying in bed with linen sheets
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Parachute Team
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After a long day, there's nothing like crawling into your bed recently made with clean, fresh-smelling linens. Getting around to laundering your bedding is one thing, but knowing exactly how to wash your sheets is another. Though it's not a particularly hard task, there are best practices for washing sheets.

Beyond maintaining a healthy, hygienic sleeping environment, washing sheets the right way will help preserve the material. Read on to learn not only how to wash sheets made of various fabrics but also how often and why it's important to keep your bed linens clean.

How Often to Wash Sheets

Generally speaking, you should wash your bed sheets about once a week. This frequency is typically enough to ensure a clean and healthy bed without creating a nuisance in your schedule or causing the fabric to break down prematurely.

Weekly washes should include anything that comes into direct contact with your skin, like your top sheet, fitted sheet and pillowcases. For some, this also includes a duvet cover and shams.

For more insight into how often to wash bed sheets, see our blog, How Often Should I Wash Cotton Sheets?

How to Wash Sheets: Step-by-Step Bed Sheet Washing Instructions

It's always best to follow the care instructions on the tag of your bedding to avoid accidentally shrinking or damaging the material. That said, you can follow these general steps when washing cotton sheets.

  1. Check the tag. Since cotton is prone to shrinking, washing it with the right water temperature is important. When saturated with hot water, it can contract in the drying process. So unless the care tag says otherwise, you'll want to wash your cotton sheets in cold water (or potentially warm with a cold rinse cycle).

  2. Add mild detergent. Before placing your bed linens in the washer, add mild liquid (preferably natural) detergent to the drum. This will allow it to dissolve entirely into the cold water. If you're using concentrated detergent and are washing a sheet set on its own, about a quarter-cup should be plenty.

  3. Add your sheets. Next, place your sheets in the washing machine. A small or medium-sized load is ideal (such as one sheet set) because overcrowding can affect how thoroughly everything gets cleaned. Plus, oversized loads can lead to tangling, which may cause excess wrinkling and prevent the water from being effectively wrung out in the spin cycle.

  4. Select the cycle. Set your washing machine to a normal or gentle wash cycle and choose a cold-water setting. (Some washers let you choose the spin speed as well. A medium to fast speed is best for bedding to ensure all the water is properly wrung out.)

  5. Press start.

How to Dry Sheets

Though you'll want to be careful to prevent shrinking, cotton sheets can be tumble-dried in standard dryers. For best results, untangle and untwist the fabrics when transferring them from the washer to the dryer, and choose a low heat setting.

Beyond shrinking, high temperatures can cause fading or pilling. Consider using a quick-dry cycle to avoid tumbling your bedding in warm air longer than necessary. (Some newer dryers have moisture sensors that shut off automatically when they sense that the load is dry). If your sheets are still damp when you pull them out, you can tumble them for a few more minutes or line-dry them the rest of the way.

Alternatively, hang up your sheets as soon as you pull them out of the washing machine and skip the dryer to help prevent heat damage while conserving energy.

How to Wash Other Kinds of Bed Sheets

What about linen, bamboo, silk or satin bedding? Find tips and guidance on how to wash sheets made of other materials below.

How to Wash Linen Sheets

How do you wash sheets made of linen? Linen is prone to shrinking, but not as much as cotton. You can wash your bed linens with cold or warm water and tumble-dry them on low heat. To prevent excess wrinkling, take your linen sheets out of the dryer a few minutes early and make the bed when they're still about 10% damp.

How to Wash White Sheets

Chlorine bleach can be harsh on fabrics, not to mention irritating to the eyes and skin. To keep your white sheets white, consider adding a capful of OxiClean (a type of oxygenated bleach) in addition to soap when you wash them.

Read our article to learn more about How to Keep Your White Bed Sheets White.

How to Wash Silk Sheets

Wondering how to wash sheets made of silk? Natural mulberry silk (sourced from mulberry worms) is a very delicate fabric. Since heat can be harsh on the fine threads, you'll want to wash your silk bedding with cold water and mild detergent. Air-drying is also best for preserving the material.

How to Wash Satin Sheets

Satin sheets (which are different from sateen) are usually made of synthetic fibers, like polyester. They can typically be washed on a normal cycle with warm water, but bear in mind that they likely won't last as long as 100% cotton or linen sheets.

How to Wash Bamboo Sheets

What's the best way to wash bed sheets made of bamboo-derived fibers? Like cotton, bamboo fabric can shrink when exposed to high temperatures. With this in mind, washing your sheets on a cold cycle (or warm with a cold rinse) and tumble-drying them on low heat is best.

When to Wash Sheets

Now you know how to wash sheets, but when should you wash them? Once a week on your normal laundry day (such as Sunday) is ideal. A weekend day will give you plenty of time to wash and dry them. Also, many people like to have fresh bedding leading into a new work week.

How to Store Clean Sheets

What if you're not putting your sheets right back on your bed? After cleaning bed sheets, you can fold them up and store them on a shelf in your linen closet or in a basket, bin or dust bag. When storing long-term, an air-sealed container is recommended to prevent moisture from getting trapped inside.

FAQ: How to Wash Sheets

Find answers to frequently asked questions about how to wash bed sheets below.

How often are you supposed to wash your sheets?

You're supposed to wash your sheets about once a week. You could go slightly longer, but try not to extend it more than 10 days or so.

Should you wash your sheets more often?

Weekly washing will suffice in most cases. But you might want to wash your sheets more often if you've been sick, are prone to night sweats or sleep with a partner.

Why do we wash our sheets and bedding?

We wash our sheets and bedding to maintain a healthy, hygienic sleeping environment. It might not seem like your sheets get very dirty, but dust, dead skin cells, body oils and other substances can build up over time.

Do you wash sheets on hot or cold? Learn what to wash sheets on in terms of temperature and cycle settings in our guide on How to Wash Bedding.

Sustainably Sourced Sheets and Bedding Essentials From Parachute

If you're ready to buy new bed linens, explore the sustainably sourced sheets, pillowcases, duvet covers and other bedding essentials on our website.

Need help choosing the perfect color, style or material? Parachute offers free personalized design consultations. Schedule your complimentary one-on-one virtual meeting today!

Read Next:

How to Wash, Dry and Properly Care for Sateen Sheets

How to Wash, Dry and Properly Care for Percale Cotton Sheets

How to Wash, Dry and Care for Your Linen Sheets

How to Wash Silk: Tips for Laundering Silk Bedding and Garments