How to Clean Bed Sheets


Marina asked: How do I clean bed sheets? I am not sure whether I am using the incorrect product or water temperature, as my cotton bed sheets are still stained yellow from body oils and sweat after a hot wash with liquid detergent. There is also a waxy texture to the sheets in the soiled areas. Thanks so much!

The yellowing of bed sheets is, unfortunately, rather common. It happens when sweat or body oils accumulate in the fabric and can be made worse when the wash water isn’t hot enough. Your success in removing these stains will vary somewhat depending on the type of linens you use, any dyes present, and whether your water is hard or not. But in every case, you should see a great deal of improvement by following these steps.

You Will Need: 

  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Clean spray bottle
  • OxiClean
  • Laundry detergent

Steps to Clean the Sheets:

  1. Before you wash the sheets, spray the affected areas down with a solution of vinegar and water. This pretreatment will begin to work on the stains before the wash.
  2. Load the washing machine as you normally would, adding a quality laundry detergent. You don’t necessarily need the most expensive one, but try a proven name with a great detergent concentration or proven stain power if you’ve been using discount brands.
  3. Add OxiClean to the load, using the amount indicated on the label.
  4. Allow them to soak in the hottest water possible for a few minutes.
  5. Before the water begins to cool, begin the wash cycle. In the end, hot water is the key to removing these oily, waxy, yellowish buildups.
  6. Dry as usual. If the stains are not gone, you should see a vast improvement in their appearance – especially as you continue to wash them following these steps.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Never use fabric softener if you have problems with yellowing. Both liquid softener and dryer sheets will add to the build-up and make the problem worse.
  • If possible, hang the wet sheets out in the sun to dry. The sun acts as a natural bleaching agent.
  • Stains tend to be worse on synthetic fabrics. Consider 100% cotton sheets next time you buy, and you’ll find they’re less likely to stain.
  • If your linens are white, Bluing has a time-honored tradition of making whites their whitest. It’s worth a try!
  • If grease and oil stains are a problem, try replacing your laundry detergent with a grease-fighting dish detergent for a wash cycle.



  1. Lorna says:

    I read that jojoba oil does not stain sheets. It is staining my sheets.

  2. Tina says:

    I washed my sheet with a stain remover, but the blood is still on it and now it is an old stain; how do I get it out?

  3. Melanie says:

    This is the article you need: How to Remove Blood Stains

  4. Margie says:

    Printed bed sheets have grayed and repeated washing has not lightened the gray… any suggestions???

  5. Melanie says:

    You may have hard water; this article can help: How to Wash Whites in High-Iron Water.

  6. Tim says:

    What should the water/vinegar mix ratio be?

  7. Melanie says:

    I usually use a 1:2 vinegar:water ratio in general, but sometimes a 1:1 ratio works better on stains. Start with the more diluted version and increase the amount of vinegar until satisfied. You’re really just diluting the vinegar so that the solution is less acidic (and therefore gentler on the fabric fibers).

  8. Sarah says:

    How much dish soap to remove waxes and oils? Washing king size sheets in top loader. Thanks!!

  9. Melanie says:

    For a large load, just a squirt or two should be sufficient (about a teaspoon). Dish liquid is made to create suds easily, so you don’t want to use too much or the suds could overflow the washer. Hot water will work better for oil stains than cold water. Also, make sure that the dish liquid does not contain bleach.
    Source: Home Ec 101 – Can I Use Dish Soap in the Clothes Washer?
    Source: eHow – How Much Dawn Detergent to Use When Washing a Down Comforter
    Source: HowToCleanStuff – How to Clean Oil Stains From Polyester

  10. Laura says:

    Will this process work if I’m washing the sheets in a laundromat?

  11. Melanie says:

    The only step that might be different at a laundromat would be having the washer stop to let the clothes soak in hot water before starting the wash cycle. For that, it will depend on what type of machines are at your specific laundromat. Top loading washers usually can be stopped just by opening the lid. Front loading washers will depend on how the buttons/knobs can be operated.

  12. Melissa says:

    Will these techniques work in my HE washer?

  13. Melanie says:

    As long as there is enough water in your washer to completely submerge the bed sheets, then everything should be the same. Depending on your washer selections, you may be able to do a “large load” even if there’s just the two sheets. If there is not enough water, you could soak the sheets in the bathtub first as though you are going to wash them by hand, then put them into the washer for a regular wash cycle afterwards. For more information about cleaning items by hand, see the article on How to Hand Wash Clothing. Also, OxiClean does have instructions for HE washers on the label.
    Source: OxiClean – FAQ

  14. Mark says:

    Hi, wouldn’t the hot water shrink good quality cotton sheets? Don’t want the sheets to difficult to fit the bed. Mark

  15. Mary S says:

    Cotton does not shrink and is good in a 95 degree wash.

    Blood stains, however old, can be removed with a solution of household bleach and water 1:2. You can use undiluted bleach if the solution fails, but watch and rinse the moment the stain disappears.

    To whiten delicate fabrics, such as old lace, soak in a boric acid solution and then wash by hand using pure soap flakes.

    For shirt collars, use a little washing-up detergent and rub gently with a nailbrush before placing in the machine.

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