Cotton sheets can stay soft and comfortable for years. But if you’re washing them wrong, you could be shortening their lifespan. Here are 5 common mistakes people make when washing sheets that people need to hang out to dry, and what you should be doing instead to keep your cotton sheets soft and strong.
1. Cotton sheets only need to be washed when they look dirty — and duvet covers even less often.
In fact, it's the invisible stuff you need to be concerned about. Sweat, oils, and skin cells build up every night, and while they aren’t visible to the naked eye, they can cause irritation and attract allergen-causing dust mites. For that reason, you shouldn’t go more than two weeks before laundering your sheets — from the flat sheet and pillowcases to the top sheet and duvet cover. Washing every week is even better.
2. If sheets are stained, just load up on a stronger detergent.
Using too much or too harsh of detergent is one of the most common mistakes people make. Many assume a heavy-duty formula equals a heavy-duty clean, but in reality, washing bedding with harsh detergents can damage even the highest-quality fabrics. Opt for a gentle detergent instead. And before you wash, take the time to properly pre-treat stains with a spot treatment. This will help ensure your sheets and pillowcases come out clean and, more importantly, stay comfortable.
3. For the best clean, wash sheets in the hottest water on the heavy-duty cycle.
While warm or hot water may be suitable for light-colored cotton linens and during cold and flu season, you should always follow the care instructions that come with your sheets. Washing bedding in water that’s too hot can cause them to shrink and fade over time. Similarly, constant washing on the heavy-duty cycle may cause them to wear out. It’s always best to select the appropriate cycle for the level of cleaning you need — no more, no less.
4. There’s no harm in washing sheets and towels together.
It’s true that many towels and sheets contain the same material (cotton), but that doesn’t mean they should be laundered together, too. In the wash, towels soak up more water than sheets and therefore take longer than sheets to dry. In the dryer, towels produce lint that can cling to sheets, and fluffy towel loops can rub against fine bedding, wearing the fabric down.
5. It’s fine to let your bedding tumble dry an extra spin or two.
When the dryer buzzer goes off, it can be tempting to just let your sheets tumble dry a bit longer “just in case.” But over time, these extra minutes in the dryer may permanently damage the fabric. Over-drying can cause sheets to shrink more and wrinkle faster, too. That’s why it’s best to always dry on the lowest possible heat setting with the shortest duration necessary. Promptly remove your bedding from the dryer when the buzzer goes off.