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Bedding 101: How to Wash White Sheets Without Bleach

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making bed with white sheets

White sheets are what cloud 9 dreams are made of! ☁️

Unless of course, you’re faced with yellowish looking sheets, ripped seams, and so on. But today, I’m sharing how to keep those sheets looking fresh as ever so you’ll never waste money again!

Collin’s sister, Marley, shared that sometimes there’s an expensive learning curve to caring for white sheets…

“I spent nearly $1,000 on new sheets and ruined them within a year. 😱

Years ago, after developing an unaffordable obsession with designer bedding, I purchased a truly amazing Ralph Lauren sheet & duvet set (now discontinued), however, I should NOT have even spent half that amount. But…. they were so soft and I was so pregnant and SO uncomfortable so I justified the purchase with my hormonal need for (at the very least) a good night’s sleep!

I followed that purchase with another obsession – the smells of freshly laundered, bleached whites.

I don’t know if it was a weird pregnancy thing or what, but I would’ve happily smelled my way straight into a bleached linen coma back then! (Don’t worry, I contained the urge.)

Fast forward a year later.

After weekly washings in my coveted bleach bath, my whites weren’t so white anymore. Huh? 🤔 All that innocent bleaching had actually turned my prized whites a faint shade of yellow. Yuck! What I didn’t know back then (but I sure know now) is that bleach (aka liquid chlorine) actually promotes stains, sweat, and natural body oils to appear yellow over time. Hmph!

Not only did my nauseatingly expensive sheets develop a gross yellow tinge but they were starting to tear in multiple locations. Another learning curve for me… regular bleaching weakens thread fiber, ultimately deteriorating my sheets. Within another few months, they literally split in half when I was making the bed one morning. 

R.I.P. Designer Bedding. It was fun while it lasted.


Don’t do what Marley did – use these 7 steps to correctly wash your white sheets without bleach:

1. Wash your sheets at least once a week.

As you snooze, you transfer body oil, daily “dirt”, sweat, dead skin cells, and so on. Regular washing helps to keep any serious build-up from permanently penetrating your sheets, helping them to stay white longer.

Hip Tip: Here’s how often you should be washing the rest of your bedding.


2. Use the right amount of detergent.

It’s easy to overdo it without realizing you’re using more soap than necessary, especially with high-efficiency washing machine models. Measure the accurate amount based on your load size, laundry detergent brand, and washing machine. Using too much detergent can actually break down delicate thread fibers, causing extra wear on your linens.


hand holding baking soda box with bed and pillows in the background

3. Use a natural laundry booster.

Washing soda (Sodium Carbonate) and baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) are fantastic laundry boosters. Both are natural substances made from a mineral called trona. Washing soda and baking soda are alkaline and help to enhance the effectiveness of your detergent.

*Note that washing soda can burn the skin and is NOT edible. If safety is a concern, opt for baking soda.

hand holding a dry measuring cup with white powder

To wash: Add about a 1/2 cup (1 cup for extra dirty sheets) of either natural booster to your load along with your detergent. I toss it directly into the drum with my sheets before starting my machine.


4. Do NOT use bleach.

As mentioned earlier in this post, we’re not fans of bleaching. It’s a heavy-duty chemical that will ultimately destroy your sheets with regular use and as stated before, promotes stains, sweat, and natural body oils to appear yellow over time. Bleach should only be used as a last resort for spot treating serious stains, to sanitize when kiddos are sick, or when all other methods have failed.


5. Use distilled white vinegar instead of commercial fabric softeners.

Although commercial fabric softener may smell good, it’s actually really bad for your sheets as well as your washing machine and dryer. It creates a tremendous amount of build-up that never gets rinsed out. This build-up binds to the fine fibers of your linens making it harder for your detergent to clean as intended. Over time, this destroys the quality and life of your sheets.

White vinegar works wonderfully to help rinse out any remaining detergent and additional build-up. It also acts as a natural fabric softener and helps to keep your washing machine fresh and clean! (And not to worry—while you may notice the vinegar smell when the clothes are still wet, once dry I promise the vinegar smell goes away.)

To wash: Add 1/2 to 1 cup distilled white vinegar (depending on load size) and pour it into the fabric softener tray so it releases automatically.

Hip Tip: Here are 10 other ways you can use vinegar around your house!


tufted bed headboard with white pillows and sheets on bed

6. Wash your bedding at the right temperature.

Read the tag attached to your sheets to find out the right temperature for washing. Cotton, sateen, jersey knit, the list goes on… not all fabrics are created equal and need to be treated accordingly. Water temperatures will vary, so take note of what the manufacturer recommends. If you can’t find a tag, play it safe and wash in warm or cold water only.


7. Dry your sheets on low heat… or better yet, hang ’em on the clothesline!

High heat drying causes wrinkling, shrinking, and over-drying, which can weaken thread fiber. Dry on low and check your sheets toward the end. You’re better off pulling them out ever-so-slightly damp than over-drying them.

Add a few wool dryer balls to help sheets dry evenly. These little wool balls are also said to act as a softener by continually agitating against the sheet’s fibers. Tennis balls work too for even drying.

As an alternative, you can go green and save money by drying your sheets outdoors. It gives them a pleasant, fresh scent and it saves energy. If your line-dried sheets feel a bit crisp or rough to the touch, toss them in the dryer on low for just a few minutes (ideally with dryer balls) to help soften them up a bit.

Hip Tip: Spruce up your laundry even more by putting a few drops of lavender essential oils on your wool dryer balls. The results will be heavenly!


a bed made up with white sheets and a white duvet

Now you’re fully equipped to rock those whites!

We hope this post was valuable to you and that your sheets stay white, your bedding lifespan is extended, and you save your hard-earned cash without having the same expensive learning experiences that Marley had.

Ultimately… we could be saving you hundreds of dollars (if you’re anything like us…oops). 😬😅


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Join The Discussion

Comments 12

  1. pokz

    Bleach makes white …dirty white or yellowish

  2. rochellemcgee

    I’ve used a small bit of bleach in my white washes for years. My whites (especially socks and undergarments) are definitely not as bright if I don’t. Yellowing whites has more to do with the mineral content of your water and the fiber content of your clothes. I believe bleach use on synthetics is what causes yellowing.

  3. CJ

    well, chalk this up to my list of “things I never knew before!” Thanks, Sara!

    • Sara

      You’re so welcome, CJ! Glad this post was helpful to you! Have a great day. 🙂

  4. Lisa

    I do all this to my white sheets and still on my husbands side of the bed you can see a stain from his deodorant I’m assuming. I don’t have that problem just his side and we both wear dove deodorant. His pits ruin all the sheet sets. 😂

  5. shey59

    I have been a hydrogen peroxide user for years now and when my mother came to dog sit and was doing laundry asked how I got my hubby socks so white I told her and she has since converted. 1 cup per wash and white is white .

    • mamabear7

      Thanks for the tip!!

  6. Kitty

    I use oxy clean powder on my white sheets once a week (add to HE drum). Also dry on delicate till slightly damp and put on bed to avoid wrinkles (bought the threadmill sheets recommended on Hip2Save) 😀

  7. JD827

    This was a very interesting and informative article. I have a few observations. Definitely wash the sheets once a week and take your shower at night to keep makeup, antiperspirants, perfumes and body oils off your sheets. Body oil composition varies from individual to individual with some peoples being very tough to get rid of. Those will definitely yellow your sheets . Today’s washers use as little water as possible so go way easy on the bleach and use an extra rinse cycle to get it all out. No need at all to bleach every wash. Bleach does not lift all stains and can make some stains worse. Buy a good book on cleaning and put it in your laundry room. Sunlight while imparting a wonderful smell and sterilizing fabric is also the enemy of fabric and will shorten fabric life spans. Sometimes very expensive sheets are not quality using short threads instead of long thread cotton and achieving high thread counts by the use of short threads interweaved with long threads. Sometimes that super soft feel is achieved by mechanical and chemical softening of the fabric. Feels great but shortens fabric lifespan. A brand new high quality all cotton sheet feels very nice but acquires that wonderful softness only through time naturally. I have been laundering sheets since the days of wringer washers and never once had a quality sheet tear in one year bleach or no bleach. Properly cared for 20 years is not a stretch at all for good cotton. I suspect that maybe the price was higher than the quality.

    • ella

      You make some very good points. I do remember reading somewhere about short and long threads and I often wonder if there’s a way to tell quality beyond just thread count since you mentioned high thread count can be deceiving.

  8. Melissa MM

    Maybe what would be helpful now are some examples of truly high quality cotton sheets. I just assumed that high price means quality, and that was the reason my cheaper sheets would tear so easily. But clearly one can pay a lot with inferior results as well.

  9. Cassandane

    Read your washer’s manual regarding the use of vinegar in the machine. Many say to avoid or you risk stripping rubber seals and voiding any warranty. Vinegar soak could be done in a bathtub, as well as an occasional RLR soak to remove any mineral buildup (ie if you have hard water).

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