Stained bedsheets are no-one’s friend. Even a small smudge of mascara on your pillow slip can make freshly cleaned sheets look dubious, dulling the pleasure of sliding into them at night or causing your guests to sniff at them suspiciously, trying to calculate the likelihood they were washed after the previous visitors. While stains can be difficult to remove in a standard wash-cycle, these tricks of the trade will have your sheets spotless in no time.
Take action as soon as you notice the stain, using cold water and baking soda
We know it can be tempting to leave smaller stains until the next routine wash but your chances of removing them easily and completely are greatly enhanced if you act quickly, before they have the chance to set into the fabric. Start by rinsing the offending patch with cold water (this is important – hot water will set the stain), making sure you thoroughly wet both sides.
While this might be all you need for lighter stains, most will need a little more oomph to send them on their way. Have a look and if there’s any sign of the stain left – even just a mild discolouration – it’s time to enlist the help of baking soda.
Start by mixing one part baking soda with two parts water until you form a thick paste. Apply this to the offending area, which should still be damp from rinsing, and wait for it to dry completely, allowing the paste to lift the stain up and out of the fabric. Once dry, brush off the paste and residue before putting your sheets through the washing machine on a cold water setting. When the cycle’s finished, hang your sheets on the line to dry. It’s important not to use the dryer here as the high temperatures will effectively bake even the smallest reside into your sheets, making it very difficult to remove or reduce in future.
To remove a dried stain, soak your sheets for six to eight hours
While attacking the stain as soon as it appears is the best course of action, there are always days where this isn’t an option, as well as stains you only discover once they’ve well and truly set in. On these occasions, leave your sheets to soak for up to eight hours before following the process above. This makes the stain wet again, rendering it easier to remove.
Use white vinegar for small stains and to neutralise odours
If it’s just a small mark you’re dealing with, try soaking it in white vinegar for half an hour before putting the sheets through a cold wash cycle and line-drying, as mentioned above. If you notice the stain hasn’t disappeared completely, repeat the process either straight away or next time you put the sheets through the wash and you should see a gradual improvement.
White vinegar is also great for eliminating odours. Add ¼ cup of it to the fabric softener dispenser of your washing machine and let it work its magic. Don’t worry if there’s a slight vinegar smell when your sheets are wet: it dries clean, which means there’ll be no scent left once your sheets are ready to come inside.
Vinegar is also gentle, making it an ideal stain and odour remover for more delicate fabrics like our gorgeous Double Brushed Microfiber Sheet Sets.
Treat oil-based stains differently
Oil-based stains, such as those from make-up, tanning lotions and other body products, require a different approach; namely hot water and a lot of detergent. Prep your washing machine with your normal laundry detergent, three squirts of dishwashing liquid and ¼ cup of Borax. (If you’re not familiar with Borax, it’s a white powder well known for its ability to remove both stains and odours. If you can’t find it at your local supermarket, try your local Bunnings where you should be able to buy a kilo for less than $10.) Put 1/3 cup of white vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser and select a hot wash cycle. If your machine has a soaking option, even better. Soaking your sheets for 30 minutes before the spin cycle kicks in will increase your chances of success.
Avoid bleach where possible, even on white sheets
It’s a harsh chemical and isn’t kind to natural fibres, often resulting in weakened bonds which make sheets more likely to rip and rougher to touch. If you’re really struggling to get a stubborn stain out of white sheets, try an oxygen based bleach, which is gentler than its chlorine based counterparts. Finally, remember that bleach – even oxygen based formulations – should never be used on silk sheets or woollen blankets.
Hopefully these tips have taught you a thing or two about stain removal and you’ll know exactly what to do next time you spill your early morning coffee on your bedsheets. Treating stains correctly and treating your sheets well will extend the life of your bedding; something which is great for your hip pocket and for the environment.