white sheets with cleaning products
Care Tips

How To Make Your Sheets White Again

    Last Updated
    November 30, 2022
    min read

    Fresh, clean sheets feel amazing, but not everyone knows how to clean them properly. Here, we'll go through some easy tips and best practices for keeping your white sheets looking and feeling brand new. 

    How To Make Your Sheets White Again In 4 Easy Steps

    Steps to make sheets white again

    1. Pre-Soak Your Sheets

    Immerse your sheets in a basin full of warm or hot water. Add half a cup of your whitener of choice (borax, lemon juice, vinegar, or otherwise) for each gallon of water and let your sheets soak for an hour.

    2. Start Cycle One

    Toss your sheets in the washer and press the blankets setting. Add your preferred whitener (see above for how much to use) into your drum. With any of the aforementioned whitening agents, you no longer need to use fabric conditioner. Besides, fabric conditioner is known to build up in dispensers and, when combined with lint and other debris, can leave brown, squishy flakes of residue all over your clothes and linens.

    3. Move On To Cycle Two

    Was the first cycle rather unsuccessful? Do another round but this time, add hydrogen peroxide or diluted liquid bluing to your drum. No need for detergent this cycle. 

    4. Air Dry Your Sheets

    Skip the dryer and hang-dry your clothes if possible. The sun is an excellent whitener and deodorizer. Leaving sheets out to dry in the sun is the most cost-effective way to getting bright and crisp white sheets again. 


    Best Whitening Agents For Sheets

    Crisp white sheets may elevate the look of your bedroom, but without proper care, they can easily go from bright and white to drab and dingy. Discoloration can happen for several reasons, such as sweat and oil stains, bed-wetting accidents, beverage spills, and muddy pet paws. 

    But before you reach for the bleach, heed this advice: chlorine bleach can cause white sheets (or any other white fabric, for that matter) to turn yellow. The harsh chemicals found in chlorine bleach can also damage your fabrics. And, on a more serious note, chlorine bleach can burn your skin and irritate your eyes and lungs. 

    Below, we list six alternative solutions for whitening your sheets. 

    Baking Soda

    Baking soda is a natural home remedy that is often used to deodorize mattresses, refrigerators, trash cans, litter boxes, and anything else with a nasty odor. But not too many people know that baking soda has brightening properties, too. Baking soda can get hard stains out, brighten fabrics, and soften sheets – making your beddings and mattress more comfortable and whiter at the same time.

    To use baking soda as a sheet whitening solution, simply add half a cup of baking soda into your washing machine drum along with your choice of laundry detergent, and wash as usual.


    Borax, also known as sodium borate, is a household cleaning solution that can be used in a variety of ways, including as an insect repellant, desiccant, teeth whitener, and herbicide. 

    Borax is also an effective laundry booster. Just add half a cup of borax to one gallon of water, and leave sheets to pre-soak overnight before machine washing the following day.

    Borax is a relatively safe compound that doesn’t irritate the skin or produce any adverse reactions when accidentally ingested. That said, you’re still not supposed to ingest it, as large doses can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. 

    Lemon Juice

    You can’t get as natural as lemon juice. Lemons contain citric acid, the chemical compound that gives citrus fruits that tart taste. That same compound also works as a bleaching agent, lightening stains and minimizing dinginess in white fabrics. 

    To clean white sheets with lemon juice, just add about half a cup to a large bucket of hot water, and pre-soak sheets overnight. Wash as usual in the washing machine the following day. If your machine has a bleach dispenser, pour lemon juice directly into it.

    Be careful when using lemon juice on colored fabrics, though, as it fades colors. This is why some people use lemon juice as a natural alternative for lightening and bleaching hair as well.

    Liquid Bluing

    Liquid bluing is a suspension of fine blue iron powder and water that is used to refresh yellowing and off-white fabrics, turning them sparkly white again. Bluing is essentially just an imperceptible blue dye that balances out the color of yellowed fabrics, so that we perceive them as white again.

    To use liquid bluing, dilute a teaspoon into one gallon of water. Make sure not to add bluing straight into your fabrics as this can stain them. Mix the solution into your washing machine, add your laundry detergent of choice, and wash. Liquid bluing should not be poured directly into the detergent/bleach/fabric softener dispenser.

    Distilled White Vinegar

    Distilled white vinegar contains acetic acid, an active ingredient in many skin and teeth whitening products. As such, the common cooking ingredient can also be used to give dingy fabrics a facelift and make them look fresh and white once more. 

    To whiten sheets with white vinegar, add half a cup into the final rinse or pour it directly into the fabric softener dispenser of your washing machine. 

    For stains, pour 1 cup into a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Toss the soiled items in, turn the heat off, and let them soak overnight. Wash as usual the following day, and hang dry. Note that this process should only be done on cotton fabrics – high heat can shrink polyester fabrics. 

    A combination of vinegar and baking soda is also a great remedy for cleaning pee out of mattresses and sheets. The vinegar dissolves the stain while the baking soda neutralizes the ammonia-like odor found in urine. 

    Oxygen Bleach

    If you’re keen on using bleach, make sure to grab oxygen bleach – a solution of sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide. In the grocery store, oxygen bleach is often labeled as “color-safe” bleach because, unlike chlorine bleach, it does not cause colored dyes to fade away. 

    The best thing about oxygen bleach is that it’s far safer for the environment than chlorine bleach. When broken down, it simply turns into water and oxygen. 

    To use oxygen bleach as a sheet whitener, add half a cup into your washing machine drum, and wash as usual. To flush out any lingering bleach smells, run an additional cycle with the same amount of laundry detergent you would use for a regular cycle. 

    Do’s And Don’ts When Cleaning And Maintaining White Sheets

    The above-mentioned whitening agents can save you in a pinch, but you should also make sure to follow these best practices to keep your sheets in the best shape when washing:

    Do: Pre-Soak Your Sheets

    Pre-soaking sheets allows stains to lift from the fabric, making it easier to get them out completely in washing. Pre-soaking sheets with certain whiteners, such as vinegar or baking soda, can also soften your fabric. 

    Don’t: Be Careless About Your Water Temperature

    Don’t know whether to choose cold water or hot water for laundry stains? Here’s a quick tip. Blood stains, toothpaste, urine, and highly-pigmented foods like soy sauce and mustard react best to cold water. Hot water might set stains into fabrics, making it even harder to rinse them out completely.

    But if you’re cleaning things like wine, chocolate, coffee, fabric dyes, and dried, untreated stains from ages ago, hot water is your best bet. 

    Do: Separate Your Darks And Lights 

    Yes, separating your lights and darks can be time-consuming, but one stray red sock can mean the difference between classy white sheets and bubblegum pink beddings. 

    If you’ve made the mistake of mixing your lights and darks, you get dye transfer stains out of sheets with oxygen bleach or white vinegar.

    Don’t: Forget To Replace Your Sheets Every Week

    Not only is replacing your sheets once a week more hygienic, but it also maintains their longevity. Always have more than one set of sheets on hand, especially if you air-dry your beddings (as you should).

    Do: Freshen Up Before Hitting The Hay

    Sebum (the oil that builds up on your face), sweat, and makeup can all do a number on white sheets and pillowcases. As obvious as this advice may seem, it bears repeating – always freshen up, or at least wash your face, before heading to bed. This will save you the trouble of spot cleaning oil, sweat, and hard-to-remove makeup stains from your beddings.

    Tip: Cornstarch is another inexpensive home remedy for getting oil stains out of sheets and clothes. To use cornstarch as a stain remover, lay your sheets out on a flat surface such as a table or the floor. Sprinkle cornstarch over the stain, and let it sit for about an hour. Brush or vacuum the cornstarch and blot any residue with a damp cloth rag. For pesky stains, blot the area with dishwashing liquid.

    Don’t: Let Spills Dry Up On Your White Sheets

    This is another tip that should go without saying. If possible, never leave stains to dry on white sheets. Doing so will just make it harder to remove them later on. 

    Cleaning up fresh stains should only take a few minutes to two hours tops. Urine stains may require some overnight treatment, but it beats having to reapply your stain-removing remedy over and over again.

    Keep Your White Sheets Clean And Fresh

    That’s everything you need to clean your white sheets and keep them looking bright and new for as long as possible! By following our simple tips, you can ensure that your bedding will always look its best. 

    Don’t forget – if, at any time, you start to see a dingy or yellowing effect begin to form on your sheets, act fast! The sooner you address the problem, the easier it will be to correct.

    Looking for crisp, cotton sheets that are easy to care for? Purple’s innovative stretchy sheets are machine-washable and able to withstand a low tumble dry. Check out our sheets to learn more!


    About the authors

    Cecilia Gillen

    Cecilia brings over five years of writing experience primarily centered around lifestyle and health topics. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Media and Journalism from the University of South Dakota. She’s both an advocate for sleep and a night owl at heart.