Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Serious question: How do you keep white sheets white? I have a plus-sign bedding set from the Room Essentials line at Target that I found on an interior design site as a dupe for a more expensive version. I really like them but it's been about a year now and they're showing signs of battle lol. — Arabelle Sicardi
Any question that comes complete with a hot tip on where to find cute, inexpensive bedding is such a bonus for me! I never thought of sheet sets as dupable (dupable? I'm going with it.) items but it totally makes sense. Sadly for us, Arabelle's cute plus-sign sheets are no longer available, but the Room Essentials line has plenty of other darling patterns, in the event you want to take a page from her book and buy yourself a set of lower priced dupes that look like a super expensive sheet set.
White sheets are a funny item in that they're actually easier to care for than, say, teal sheets because there are more options out there for laundering whites. Weird but true! Think of it this way, you would never use bleach on teal sheets, but on white sheets? Sure! (Actually, that's a bad example, don't use bleach on your sheets. I'll explain why in a sec.) The flip side of that is, of course, that white sheets show every stain and will almost definitely take on a yellow cast over time, even with regular washing. Blessedly, that yellowing is reversible! Before I get into how to revive an older set of white sheets that have gone dingy, let's talk about general care and what your wash day routine should look like if you've opted to join the White Bedding Club. We have rules.
The good news is that if you invest in a set of white sheets, your skin will look better than ever because the first rule of the White Bedding Club is that you must be diligent about removing your makeup before bedtime. It's actually kind of annoying! But it's essential for both the good looks of your sheets and your face.
The second rule of the White Bedding Club is that when you inevitably spill something, you gotta deal with it right away. I live this rule so hard, you guys, and here's why: I usually have my first cup of coffee in bed, and in the evenings I like to sip on sleepytime tea while watching whatever Real Housewives franchise is currently airing. That means that spills happen on my white duvet cover all the time. Oh also, before I gave up sugar, I would often enjoy a little something sweet with my tea, so there were also frequent chocolate stains to deal with. (I tell you that so you know that I make messes of things just like everyone else does.) The easiest way to respond when a small spill happens on your white bedding is to grab a sponge or rag, get it wet, apply a small amount of dish soap and then wring it out well before using it to spot treat the stain. In the case of chocolate, my secret weapon is Shout — spray a small amount right on the stain and use your fingers to work it into the stain, which should come right out. The rubbing is important there though! When bigger spills or stains occur, if you can take the sheets off the bed right away, flushing the offending matter with cold running water will help greatly.
The third rule of the White Bedding Club is one you won't love so much. Sorry, I don't make the rules! Actually I do make the rules … hm, well, I'm still sorry about this one. Regularly laundering your white sheets is crucial. When you sleep, you transfer a whole lot of yourself onto your sheets, which leaves them full up with your sweat, body oils, dead skin, and so on, all of which will lend your bedding a yellow, dingy cast. Regular washing will keep that buildup at bay, which is why you should aim to wash your sheets once every or every other week. It's also a really good idea to use a whitening laundry booster in every load; a few good choices are Borax, OxiClean White Revive and Tide Brights + Whites Rescue. However, avoid the use of bleach on your sheets — chlorine bleach has a chemical reaction to protein stains like sweat (and sexual fluids!) that can make those stains appear more yellow, which makes it not super great for washing sheets that you've been sweating into all week. One last laundry tip for your whites: If your machine allows for it, opt for the extra rinse cycle, which will help to remove any lingering detergent residue (soap buildup can also cause sheets to take on a dingy appearance).
However, even the most diligent White Bedding Club rule follower will eventually find him- or herself with a set of sheets that have gone a bit dingy. This means it's time to engage in more intensive laundering practices. This is your last rule and I promise it will make you feel like a Laundry God. The idea is to use a product or technique once or twice a year that will reverse the effects of sustained use in a way that regular washing doesn't. There are a few different ways to go about this, all of which are good choices and you should go with the one that will be the easiest to manage for your particular laundry set-up. Here are your options:
- Soak the sheets overnight in water and either OxiClean or Borax and then launder them as usual. The prolonged exposure to whitening products will help to reverse any dinginess the sheets have taken one.
- Wash the sheets once in regular detergent and then run them through the machine again with a cup of bleach — washing them first will remove any lingering protein stains, allowing you to leverage the whitening power of chlorine bleach without risking that chemical reaction I told you about.
- Use Rit White Wash to bring your sheets back to their original color.
- I saved the best for last because I'm a save-the-best-for-last kind of gal: There's this stuff, it's called bluing and I pretty much love it so much that I want to marry it. It does exactly what it sounds like, it turns things blue. Now, you're probably wondering why in the world I'm telling you to turn your white sheets blue and here's why — adding trace amounts of blue to whites will counteract any yellowing that's occurred, making the whites appear whiter. You'll use it in the laundry, but be aware that usage instructions can vary quite wildly from brand to brand, so be sure to follow the guidelines for the specific type of bluing you pick up. Two brands to look for are Bluette and Mrs. Stewart's, which can be found in grocery and home improvement stores or online. Oh God, I'm so excited for you that you get to use bluing!!