If you've ever been fortunate enough to sleep in a four-star-hotel bed, you know there is nothing like the crisp, clean feel of fine white sheets. I cherished my first set, a wedding present, and was dismayed when, over time, they yellowed and eventually ripped.
Here are tips from the pros on how to wash, dry and stain-treat your bedding so that you can prolong the life of your linens.
George Matouk Jr., whose family's business, Matouk, has been making luxury bedding since 1929, warns against using too much detergent when washing sheets and towels. The rule of thumb is approximately one tablespoon of detergent for each regular load. Use too much, and your sheets and towels will end up with a soapy residue that will attract dirt and leave them feeling slimy.
Matouk also cautions against detergents that have bleach or added whitening agents, particularly when washing bedding that has delicate contrasting color embroidery or embellishments. Not only can bleach ruin colorful threads, it also weakens the fabric fibers.
Annie Selke, owner of the bedding company Pine Cone Hill, also advises against using bleach because it can cause whites to yellow over time. Instead, she recommends treating stains right away with plain club soda. For really pesky stains she uses OxiClean, but she says that lemon juice, baking soda or vinegar are great natural substitutes.
Wash sheets once a week, and be mindful of water temperatures, Selke says: Wash linen sheets in cold water and percale sheets in warm water. While thread count has minimal impact on washing, she points out that the higher the thread count, the more threads there are to break, so washing on a gentle cycle is best.
As for liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets, Matouk says never to use either, especially on towels because they absorb liquid fabric softener, affecting their absorbency. Bedding and towels should stay soft on their own as long as they are properly laundered and not overdried.
To prevent overdrying, remove bed linens from the dryer as soon as they're dry or even a bit damp, which will keep them softer. If you are in the market for a new dryer, Matouk recommends one with a moisture sensor that will automatically shut off the drying cycle as soon as there is no moisture present, which "will add years to the life of your linens and clothing."
Selke prefers line-drying sheets.
Selke and Matouk agree that ironing sheets comes down to personal preference, but the best way to minimize wrinkles is to make sure you remove your sheets from the dryer the moment they're dry. Also, if you iron your sheets, you will get better results if you do so while they are still a touch damp. The heat of the iron will complete the drying process. Matouk suggests shaking out your sheets a bit between washing and drying. This will "open up" some of the creases that formed during the spin cycle.
To save some time, Selke suggests ironing just the portion of the sheets you see when you make your bed — a trick she learned from watching a hotel room "turnover" where the workers ironed only the top of the duvet cover once it was in place.
If you're a hot sleeper, Selke advises buying crisp percale; the cotton will keep you cool and comfortable. But Matouk cautions that if you don't iron percale sheets and they begin to form permanent creases, you'll need to press them out; those permanent creases are more likely to tear over time.