Just like with the clothes you wear, proper care is essential for maintaining bed linens and ensuring they remain as comfortable as possible. Cotton sheets, in particular, can actually get softer over time if you follow a few simple guidelines when laundering them. So, how often should you wash cotton sheets?
Cleaning cotton sheets once a week is usually often enough to ensure a healthy sleeping environment but not so much that you'll break down the fabric prematurely. Weekly washes should include your pillowcases, fitted sheet and top sheet if you use one, as these pieces are in direct contact with your skin.
And if you've ever wondered what causes cotton sheets to discolor or develop a yellowish tint, the sweat, oils and product residues on your skin are often to blame. Regular cleaning is the best way to avoid discoloration, especially for light-colored linens.
There's a reason cotton has been celebrated for centuries in the clothing and bedding industries. The earth-sourced textile is soft, breathable and naturally moisture-wicking. While it's a relatively low-maintenance material, caring for cotton the right way will help it retain its simple elegance and hold up for many years to come. And if you're springing for luxury sheets, proper maintenance is the best way to protect your investment.
Knowing how often to wash cotton sheets is important, but there's a bit more to bedding maintenance than sticking to a cleaning schedule. In this detailed guide, you'll learn how to wash cotton sheets, how to dry them, how to spot-treat them and how to make them increasingly softer. You’ll also get some handy pointers for storing your bed sheets.
Proper Care for Cotton Sheets
You can typically find information about how to wash cotton sheets on the label -- this is a good place to start, as the manufacturer will know how to best care for the fabric. However, if you're looking for comprehensive guidance on cotton bedding care, you've come to the right place. Below, find a breakdown of the different types of cotton linens and how to properly clean them to prevent discoloration and enhance their longevity.
What to Know About Washing Different Types of Cotton
When it comes to high-end cotton bedding, the three main types include percale, sateen and brushed cotton. While sateen and percale are both made of long-staple Egyptian cotton fibers, the latter is known for its matte finish and cool, crisp, hotel-like aesthetic. Thanks to its signature satin weave, sateen is slightly more lustrous and drapey with a subtle sheen. With brushed cotton, you'll get a buttery soft, lived-in feel that's cozy like flannel but not quite as insulating.
Wondering how to wash Egyptian cotton sheets or what water temperature to use with different types of cotton? We've got good news. The care instructions for all types of Parachute cotton bedding are the same, so once you learn how to clean one type, you'll know how to clean them all. And here's the best part: they can all be machine washed, and the fabrics get better with time.
How to Wash Cotton Sheets
If you've ever shrunk your favorite t-shirt, you might be concerned about shrinking your cotton sheets in the wash. Cotton fabrics are prone to shrinking, so knowing what temperature to wash cotton sheets at is crucial.
Should you wash cotton sheets in cold or hot water? When the textile is saturated with warm or hot water and then dried, it can contract. The heat can also be harsh on the fine threads and lead to fading or pilling. For these reasons, cold water is always your best bet.
1. Read the tag
Before getting started, be sure to carefully read the instructions on the tag (or on the online product description). This will help confirm the material is 100% cotton and doesn't require special care.
2. Prepare the wash
Place your sheets in your washing machine either on their own or with fabrics of a similar color. With mixed loads, just make sure none of the other items have zippers or hooks that might snag the material. A small or medium load is ideal, as overcrowding can affect how thoroughly sheets are cleaned. Additionally, oversized loads can cause tangling, which you want to avoid to prevent damage and excessive wrinkling.
3. Use the right soap
Add a mild liquid laundry soap, like Parachute's all-natural detergent. You don't need very much of it to clean your sheets. When using a concentrated soap with a high-efficiency washing machine, a quarter cup is usually plenty.
4. Select the right cycle
Set your washer to a gentle cycle, select a cold-water setting, then start the cycle.
5. Keep it simple
Beyond what settings to wash cotton sheets, best practices sometimes call for filling your washer with water and adding the soap before loading in the linens. This gives the detergent a chance to dissolve in the cool water. However, the technique only works on top-load washers and won't make too much of a difference in the end.
How to Dry Cotton Sheets
Can you put cotton sheets in the dryer? You'll be glad to hear your sheets can be dried in a standard dryer. But what about the different types of cotton? Can you tumble-dry Egyptian cotton sheets? All varieties of cotton bedding, including percale, sateen and brushed cotton, can be tumble-dried on a low heat setting.
Similar to washing, high heats can wear on the fabric and lead to shrinking, fading or pilling. Aside from setting the dryer to low heat, you might want to select a quick-dry cycle. This will help you avoid tumbling your sheets in warm air for longer than necessary. (Some newer clothes dryers have sensors and do this automatically). If they’re still damp, you can dry them for another few minutes or hang them up to air-dry the rest of the way.
Another option is to let your sheets air-dry as soon as you pull them out of the washer. This method is gentle on cotton sheets, plus it helps conserve energy. If you have the space, you can hang them up indoors or use a clothesline to dry them outside on a sunny day.
How to Wash Cotton Sheets: Care Tips and Hacks
Keep reading for pointers on making your sheets as soft and fluffy as possible, how to address wrinkles and stains and how to properly store your bedding.
Why You Should Consider Dryer Balls
Want to enhance the softness of your cotton sheets and make them as fluffy as possible right out of the dryer? Your first instinct might be to reach for dryer sheets or fabric softener, but dryer balls are actually a better option — especially if you're interested in eco-friendly methods for your sheets.
Unlike most fabric-softening products on the market, Parachute's Wool Dryer Balls are a natural, chemical-free solution. Made of 100% New Zealand wool, they're sustainable, hypoallergenic and unlikely to cause skin reactions. When you toss them in your dryer, they'll encourage airflow, which helps fluff up the fabric and minimizes wrinkles. What's more, they can cut drying time in half and last for 1,000 cycles — which comes out to an entire decade with once-a-week washing.
How to Iron Cotton Bedding
Cotton sheets don't necessarily need to be ironed, but if you want to run an iron over them, make sure to use the lowest heat setting. That said, there are other ways to prevent wrinkles when washing cotton sheets.
If you're making your bed immediately after pulling your sheets out of the dryer, take them out right before they're completely dry. Ever-so-slightly damp linens are less likely to wrinkle on a made bed. If you allow your sheets to dry all the way in your dryer, try to take them out as soon as they're dry, as leaving them bunched up will lead to wrinkles.
How to Get Stains Out of Cotton Sheets
A guide on how to wash cotton sheets wouldn't be complete without touching on stain removal. Parachute recommends using OxiClean for spot-treating stains. For larger marks and discoloration, you might try adding a cup of distilled white vinegar or a few tablespoons of baking soda to the load, along with a quarter-cup of detergent.
Cleaning products formulated with alpha-hydroxy acids and benzoyl peroxide should generally be avoided, as they can discolor the material. And bleach isn't recommended for colored sheets, as it can leave white or yellowish marks. However, non-chlorine bleach (sometimes called color-safe bleach) can work for both white bedding and dyed linens.
How to Keep Cotton Sheets Fresh with Proper Storage
If you're in the market for high-quality bedding, you might be wondering, Do cotton sheets last longer than other sheets? With proper care and maintenance, percale, sateen and brushed cotton sheets can last longer than other bedding textiles. Sheets made of 100% cotton tend to hold up better than synthetic fabrics and cotton blends. The only real contender is linen, a flax-sourced fabric known for its strength and durability.
With all that said, you'll want to be mindful of how you store your cotton sheets. If you rotate yours with another set or keep extra sheets on hand for guests, you might want to tuck your spare linens into a protective bag when you're not using them. This will keep dust mites out and prevent fading. Plastic storage bins are generally not recommended, as they can trap moisture and lead to mold or mildew growth.
As with most climate-sensitive products, it's best to store your bedding in a cool, dry place. Keeping it in a bathroom or another moisture-prone area isn't recommended because too much heat and humidity can damage the material and result in mildew growth. A linen closet is ideal, but a large trunk, armoire, dresser or under-the-bed storage compartment can also work. Wherever you store your linens, just make sure they have adequate ventilation and aren't exposed to direct sunlight.
Where to Buy the Best Cotton Sheets
Is there anything better than sliding into bed with opulently soft luxury linens? When you know how to care for your sheets properly, you can experience the fresh feeling of a new set again and again for years to come.
Having said that, knowing when to replace your sheets is another critical component of bedding maintenance. When you browse Parachute's selection, you'll find brushed cotton, sateen and percale sheets made of the finest plant fibers. Whether you opt for a fitted sheet and pillowcases or a full sheet set, you can count on expertly crafted materials that stand the test of time.
Curious about what thread count to look for? Us too. Learn more in our article: What Is a Good Thread Count for Sheets?