How to get yellowed sheets white again

How to whiten yellow sheets.

Many people will find over time that their sheets start to become yellow. In the below video and article we explain some things you might consider doing to brighten them up again (read more below or watch video).

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White bed sheets and linens can start to yellow over the course of time and this can be attributed to a variety of factors. One cause is a buildup of body oil on the fabric. Using too much or an inexpensive brand of detergent can also be problematic. Excessive detergent may not fully rinse and can leave a residue on bed sheets. Here are some helpful hints on how to keep your sheets from turning yellow:  
  • Wash one set of sheets at a time. Otherwise, they may not get properly cleaned.
  • Consider washing your sheets once a week or every 4 to 5 days during warmer months because people sweat and produce more body oil during the summer.
  • Add a ¼ cup of baking soda and your detergent to the wash cycle.
  • If your sheets may have a detergent buildup, start a new wash cycle – add ½ cup of white vinegar (no detergent) and run them through the wash cycle.  
  • Le Blanc linen wash is an excellent detergent and can be purchased on our site here. Using it as directed on yellowed sheets should whiten them. Using Le Blanc on a regular basis will minimize the yellowing of your white linens.

Nonetheless, if you still can't get them white - 

Boil them 

This is somewhat of a last resort when your sheets have reached a shade of yellow that is no longer acceptable. We had heard of people boiling their sheets, but have always refrained from trying it because high heat is hard on cotton fabric. However, if your sheets the point where you are willing to toss them, what do you have to lose?  

Luxury Linens are expensive, so if boiling them gets you another year or so of use – we think it is worth the risk.  

  • Here is our disclaimer: If you elect to try this, we take no responsibility for your linens. However, we have tried it and it has worked. 
  • We experimented with some old yellowed cotton pillow protectors. 

Our formulations consisted of simple trial and error combined with a little bit of common sense. 

Here is what we started with – YUCK!

Here are three standard pillow protectors.   

If not properly cared for Bed Linens can turn yellow 

We took out a large size pot, filled it with water and then heated it to a boil with a ¼ cup of Le Blanc linen wash.

Boiling sheets to get them white

We boiled the pillow protectors for 10 min. with the lid on. 

Two observations: The water was disgusting and the pillow protectors turned whiter, but not as white as we wanted them.

Steps you can take to whiten your bed sheets  

So we drained the water and repeated the process, although we added a ¼ cup of bleach the next time around. Here are also a couple of important things to know about bleach. 

  • Bleach is hard on cotton, but if you’re at the point of throwing the sheets away – go for it.
  • Bleach is toxic and boiling it can put fumes into the air, so do this in a well-ventilated area. 

After 10 minutes, the water was equally as disgusting as the first batch. But this time, the pillow protectors came out snow white. 

Here are some additional tips to know while you are boiling your bedding:

  • Don’t overload the pot. You want the sheets to be able to float around and slightly agitate in the boiling water.
  • You might only be able to fit one sheet in a large pot.
  • Stir the sheet around with a spoon or pair of tongs every few minutes.
  • Do not let the water boil over because this will release more fumes into the air.
  • Once you have achieved a satisfactory level of whiteness, simply throw the sheets into your washing machine and run them through the wash cycle - without detergent.
  • Add a ½ cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle in order to strip out any remnants of detergent. 

Below are the after pictures. These were line dried – so please pardon the wrinkles.

Yellowed sheets turned white 

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Here is a blog post that identifies how to properly launder sheets.

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