By Lola Omowaye
Your bed is the most important piece of furniture in your room. Dress it with beautiful, freshly laundered linens in pleasing hues and patterns. To make a bedroom more conducive to sleep, adjust the lighting, temperature, and noise level to suit your needs.
How often you wash your sheets is a personal preference. In general, it’s a good idea to launder them weekly to remove dirt and dust. Use warm water rather than hot, which can shrink fibers, and wash printed and colored pillowcases inside out to protect the color. If your sheets feature delicate trim, check the care label before washing.
When dealing with tough stains, use oxygenated bleach on whites and light colors (chlorine bleach is too harsh for most linens). Cosmetics and face lotions are a common cause of discoloration. Many skin products contain oxidizing agents that actually can bleach sheets. If you are concerned about these spots, choose white linens or consider purchasing an extra set of pillowcases when you buy sheets.
Tumble dry sheets according to label instructions, and remove them before they’re fully dry to help minimize wrinkles. To avoid mildew growth, make sure sheets are dry before storing them. If you have the time, ironing your sheets is a surefire way to make them feel new again.
Keep spare sheets, neatly folded, in a cool, dry closet or drawer. Surfaces should be lined with acid-free tissue paper, which helps keep fabric from yellowing. Avoid storing sheets in plastic containers, which can trap moisture and foster the growth of mildew.
Frequent washing will break down even high-quality sheets. Replace them when you see obvious signs of aging, such as stains, fraying hems, or faded patterns.When buying sheets, don’t be tempted by high thread counts. Some manufacturers use a method called double insertion, in which two or four threads are twisted together before weaving. Cotton quality matters more: Look for 100 percent combed cotton, which produces a finer sheet than carded cotton, and go with what feels best.
Wash sheets separately from towels or other clothing. This gives the sheets more room to circulate in the water, which means they’ll get cleaner. Washing sheets alone also prevents damage caused by zippers and other fasteners, and it reduces the amount of pilling that can happen over time.
When possible, dry sheets on an outside clothesline but out of direct sun. If drying in the clothes dryer, use a low heat setting to minimize damage from high temperatures.
Remove the sheets from the dryer as soon as the cycle is over, and fold them, smoothing wrinkles with your hands. If wrinkles have set, dry the sheets for an additional five minutes with a damp towel tossed into the mix to add moisture. Avoid ironing the sheets if possible because that kind of heat can damage the fibers.
To protect pillows, encase them in pillow protectors (zippered covers that go under the cases). These covers keep allergens at bay while shielding pillows from hair and body oils, which can soak into the filling. Even with protectors, pillows should be washed at least twice a year; the covers, once a month (along with your mattress cover). Most down and synthetic pillows are machine washable (check the care label). Use mild liquid detergent rather than powder, which may leave a residue. Launder pillows in pairs to keep your machine balanced. Run them through the rinse cycle twice the second time without detergent, to ensure they’re rinsed fully.
Plump pillows daily when you make your bed, to keep the filling from becoming flattened.
With regular washing and fluffing, the average down or feather pillow can last many years. In the long run, good-quality down is the least-expensive way to go since it holds up better than synthetic stuffings, which generally wear out in three to four years. When a pillow no longer looks evenly filled after its daily fluffing, or if you’re waking up with neck or back pain, it’s time for a replacement. It’s good to note that many high-end manufacturers will refill their pillows for a fee. If you have allergies, replace pillows every couple of years.