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How To Whiten Sheets in a Washing Machine

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We all love the feeling of jumping into bed with crisp, white sheets. However, over time, our favorite white bed linens can start to look a bit dull, yellow, or stained. But don’t worry! There is no need to replace them. With a little bit of knowledge and a few household items, you can restore their original brightness and freshness. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of how to whiten sheets in a washing machine effectively.


To whiten sheets in a washing machine, start by pre-soaking them in a solution of warm water and either white vinegar, lemon juice, or borax. Then, wash as usual with your regular detergent and add ½ cup of baking soda directly to the drum. You can also add a whitening agent like bleach (non-chlorine), hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar, or lemon juice. After washing, dry your sheets in the sun, if possible, to help brighten them. Regular care and maintenance, such as washing your sheets every one to two weeks, will help maintain their whiteness.

Why Do Sheets Turn Yellow?

Before we delve into the solutions, it’s essential to understand why your sheets are turning yellow. The primary culprits are sweat, body oils, and skin cells that accumulate on sheets over time. These substances react with the fabric, leading to discoloration or yellowing.

Step-by-Step Guide to Whiten Sheets in a Washing Machine

Pre-soak Your Sheets (Optional)

If your sheets are significantly yellowed or have stubborn stains, a pre-soak can help. Mix one of the following ingredients with warm or hot water and soak your sheets for at least an hour:

  • White vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Borax

Regular Washing

After pre-soaking, or if you choose to skip that step, add your regular laundry detergent to the washing machine. Then, add ½ cup of baking soda directly to the washing machine drum.

Adding Bleach or Alternative

At this point, you can choose to add bleach or an alternative whitening agent to the drum:

  • Bleach: If using bleach, add ½ cup to the drum. Avoid using chlorine bleach, as it can yellow white fabric over time and is toxic.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: Pour 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide into the drum before adding sheets.
  • White vinegar: Pour it into the fabric softener dispenser up to the fill line or add directly to the drum.
  • Lemon juice: Pour the juice of one lemon into the washing machine along with the detergent.

Select the Appropriate Water Temperature

Check the care label of your sheets and set the water temperature accordingly. Cotton sheets can usually tolerate hot water, while polyester blends are best washed using warm water.

Dry Your Sheets

Hang your sheets to dry outside in the sun if possible, as sunlight is a natural disinfectant and helps brighten whites. If you can’t hang them outside, tumble dry your sheets with a dryer sheet.

Maintaining the Whiteness of Your Sheets

To keep your sheets white and bright after washing:

  • Separate your whites: Always wash white sheets separately from colored items to prevent color bleeding.
  • Use the right amount of detergent: Too much detergent can stain your sheets, especially if they’re white, and wear down their fibers. Use the recommended amount of detergent and opt for a gentle formula.
  • Sun-dry your sheets: Sunlight not only naturally dries your sheets but also has natural bleaching properties that help maintain their whiteness.


Whitening your sheets doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With these simple steps and common household items, you can restore your sheets’ original brightness and freshness. So, before you consider replacing your yellowed sheets, try these methods first.

Remember, the key to keeping your sheets looking their best is regular care and maintenance. So, make sure to wash your sheets every one to two weeks and dry them in the sun whenever possible. Happy washing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use bleach on colored sheets to whiten them?

No, you should not use bleach on colored sheets as it can cause the colors to fade or become discolored. Bleach is best used on white or very light-colored sheets.

How often should I wash my sheets to prevent them from yellowing?

Ideally, you should wash your sheets every one to two weeks to prevent them from yellowing. This helps to remove the sweat, body oils, and skin cells that can cause discoloration.

Can I use any type of vinegar to whiten my sheets?

While all types of vinegar have some whitening properties, white vinegar is the best option for whitening sheets in a washing machine. It’s colorless and won’t stain your sheets.

Can I use fabric softener when washing my white sheets?

While fabric softener can make your sheets feel softer, it can also cause them to yellow over time. Instead, consider using white vinegar as a natural fabric softener.

Can I sun-dry my sheets in winter or when it’s cloudy?

Yes, you can still sun-dry your sheets in winter or when it’s cloudy. Even on a cloudy day, the ultraviolet rays from the sun can help to whiten and disinfect your sheets. However, they may take longer to dry.

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