There are a few pleasures in life that cannot be matched: Warm towels after getting out of the pool. A greasy slice of pizza and the world’s least healthy fizzy drink. And yes, pristinely whitened sheets. Not all sheets are created equal though, and some are rather prone to staining.
But while whitening sheets is easy, it is rarely simple. There is a reason why most people go weeks or months without cleaning their bedding, and that is because it feels like an easy process to mess up. The last thing you want is to try to whiten your sheets, only to ruin them.
What you need to learn is how to whiten sheets. There are easy ways, hard ways, strange ways, and all kinds of ways in between for you to experiment with. This article will cover them all.
When a white sheet gets stained, it is because the chemical that stained it has bonded with the material of the sheet in some visible way. Wine, for example, stains easily not just because of its color, but because of the alcohol within it.
For this reason, stains can be removed by one of two methods. The first is by essentially “painting over” the stain by making a different chemical bond with your sheets. The second is by “washing out” the stain, or removing it by removing the bonding chemical.
In the first case, you will want to use a chemical whose color matches that of your sheets. The second case seems preferable, but is harder to do as it runs the risk of damaging the sheets.
Borax is usually used as a bug-killer, but it can be used as a “washing out” solution as well. The ratio of borax to water is important when you are using it however. Use half a cup for every gallon of water your washing machine uses in its cycle.
Air dry the sheets afterwards, as the night they spent soaking will make them wrinkly. That is, of course, unless your sheets are wrinkle-free.
Vinegar is a household product that goes by the “washing out” solution. It is extremely common, but not frequently thought of as a cleaning agent. The reasons for this are obvious for anyone who has ever smelled it, but in case you are unfamiliar: It smells terrible.
There is really no description that fits it better than “vinegar smells like vinegar”, as nothing smells quite so vile as raw vinegar. Smell aside, it is widely considered a silver bullet when it comes to cleaning.
You can throw it into your washing machine before it cycles without disrupting or changing any other part of the cleaning process. Just be sure to air-dry your sheets after, or they’ll smell like vinegar.
Baking soda is a “washing out” solution that holds a number of advantages over the rest. Not only is it exceptionally common in most households, but it is odor-cleansing, and easy to use.
All you have to do to use baking soda to clean your sheets is drop a little bit into the washing machine before its cycle starts. You can use it if you are handwashing as well. In both cases it does not take much baking soda to clean things perfectly.
Lemon juice is a “washing out” solution. It is acidic due to the citric acid that comprises it, and since acid breaks the bonds of chemical compounds, you can imagine what it does to stains.
Obviously, being an acid, it will break down your sheets as well if you are not careful. Luckily, you would have to be pretty exceptionally liberal with your use of lemon juice to actually get it to melt anything in the way people usually imagine acid melting things.
It will also make them smell like lemons, which puts it head-and-shoulders above many other methods. This is most noticeable with thicker sheets, as they retain smells better, for good or for ill.
Bleach is a well-known “painting over” solution that is used more frequently than it probably should be. Its reactions to many bodily fluids, such as sweat and vomit, can be unpredictable and volatile.
Bleach also requires one of the bigger adjustments to your normal cleaning methods in that it should never be mixed with anything non-white. This is pretty true for just about anything that employs the “painting over” method, but with bleach the damage can be permanent.
Liquid bluing is a “painting over” solution that is employed in an effective, but unintuitive way. See, when you initially use liquid bluing, you will notice that not only does it disappear your stains, but it turns your sheets blue. Understandably, many people worry about this.
But the thing about liquid bluing that makes it so good is that the blue tint that it gives things comes out over time. It replaces one stain with another, but the stain it gives you will go away rather quickly.
Many whitening agents don’t require it, but you should air-dry your sheets when you can. The advantages of air-drying are that it allows gravity and the wind to accelerate some of the chemical processes that whitening relies upon.
If you don’t want to be spending big bucks on liquid bluing and baking soda, then you need to not just clean your sheets, but keep them from getting dirty in the first place. Here are a few ways to do that.
It sounds obvious to say that “washing sheets keeps them white”, but there is an observable difference between washing sheets and washing them consistently.
Washing your sheets on a schedule every few weeks will not only keep them feeling fresh, but it will make chemicals like your bodily fluids less likely to bond with the sheets.
Softeners make sheets softer (naturally), but they also make them more susceptible to stains.
This is a necessity for many methods of deep cleaning, but even when cleaning sheets normally you should keep them separated out. This is because other articles that are stained can very easily wipe their stains off on sheets, which is exactly the opposite of what you want.
Come on, you know better.
The cleaning of one’s sheets is a therapeutic process. While it is not reliant on a knowledge of chemistry, it is related to chemistry due to a few things. Chief among them is the obvious relationship between stains and the way materials bond with each other.
But alongside that, chemistry is a science of nature. It is our way of determining what something is made of, and what it is not made of. Humans are naturally more satisfied when things that are similar are near each other, and when dissimilar things enter those spaces, they are seen as invaders. Learn how to whiten sheets, and you will find yourself miraculously free of sleeping space invaders.