How to Whiten Sheets: Get Yellowed Sheets White Again! 

Sleeping.com Editorial Team

Woman happy that her sheets are white again

How do you whiten sheets that have gotten yellowed, stained, or dingy over time?

While using a bit of bleach or peroxide in the drum of the washing machine is a popular trick, there are other natural ways to achieve whiter, brighter sheets that last, like a combination of vinegar and baking soda or a bit of lemon juice.

As a homemaker and parent, I’ve seen just about every kind of sheet stain, and over time, I’ve learned the most effective tips and tricks to get rid of unsightly yellowing. Now, I’m sharing these strategies with you.

I’m reviewing my tried and true methods for quick and effective whitening and natural alternatives so you can get your sheets back to their original condition and save the money you’d otherwise have to spend on a new set.

Products To Use to Whiten Sheets

Sheets can get yellowed for many reasons. Sometimes it’s from dirty people, sweat, or natural body oils. Other times, it might be from something that spilled on the bed. 

While regular washing quickly after stains happen can prevent the blemish from setting, you can use various products to make sheets white again.

There are a few popular products you can purchase to help with this problem.

Bleach

Using bleach is one of the most common ways to whiten sheets. You can either use color-safe bleach or a regular one, depending on the fabric. Don’t overdo it. Too much bleach can damage sheets.

Vinegar

You can use either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Vinegar can make a difference alone, but it’s even more powerful when paired with baking soda.

Baking Soda

You’ll want to make sure it’s plain baking soda — not baking powder. It’s a popular household cleaning ingredient that becomes potent when you mix it with a bit of vinegar. Plus, baking soda packs a bonus of odor-neutralizing qualities.

Lemon Juice

Fresh is best, but bottled lemon juice will work in a pinch. Lemon juice contains citric acid, which can bleach fabrics naturally without needing chemicals. However, in some cases, the cotton fabric may yellow from citric acid at elevated temperatures, so keep that in mind.

Hydrogen Peroxide

You can find hydrogen peroxide at most drugstores, and it’s a common ingredient used in teeth-whitening products.

There are also a few commercial whiteners you can purchase, like Rit Whitener & Brightener or OxiClean. I find that they work well, but they can be a bit more expensive and sometimes require multiple applications to achieve the desired result.

Some of these products are considered bluing agents, which can make white fabrics appear whiter, but it uses blue dye to achieve the effect, so they aren’t not my top recommendation. I aim to strip the color away, not add more to cover it up.

How to Whiten Sheets in the Washing Machine

The washing machine is going to be your best friend when it comes to getting sheets white again. You can use it alone or in combination with other ingredients for an extra boost.

To start, treat any visibly soiled areas before putting them in the machine. Pretreat it with a bit of laundry detergent, rubbing the fabric together, or using a stain remover pen or spray.

Once you pre-treat any areas, add your sheets to the washing machine along with your regular amount of laundry detergent. Then, choose the hottest water setting that’s still safe for the fabric.

Cotton and polyester can usually handle hot water, but delicate fabrics like silk or rayon may require a lower temperature. Reference the care label on your sheets before washing to double-check.

After the cycle has started, you can add any whitening products you’re using directly to the washing machine.

For Bleach

Bleach can be effective, but bleach toxicity can be serious. Add one-half cup of bleach to the cycle when the water is fully covering your sheets. Any more than that, and you risk damaging the fabric.

For Vinegar and Baking Soda

Add a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle while washing the sheets. If you’re using it with baking soda, wait until the end of the wash cycle to add it so the combination doesn’t fizz too much.

For Lemon Juice

One option is to mix half a cup of lemon juice in a bucket or tub with hot water and soak the sheets in this mixture overnight. Once you take them out, transfer them to the washer and wash and dry as usual.

Another option is to add a cup of lemon juice (about one lemon) to the cycle and wash as normal.

For Hydrogen Peroxide

Add a cup of hydrogen peroxide to the drum of the washer before adding sheets and filling up with water.

These are just general guidelines. You may need to experiment to find what works best for your sheets and washing machine. Once the cycle is finished, dry your sheets as usual.

How to Whiten Sheets by Hand

If you don’t have a washing machine or would prefer to wash your sheets by hand, that’s fine! You can still get them nice and white.

Fill a sink or basin with the hottest water that’s safe for your fabric and add detergent. Submerge the sheets in the water and swish them around a bit to help the detergent distribute.

Use the same instructions as above for how much of your chosen whitening agent to use and when to add it to the water, but use your bucket or basin instead of the washing machine drum.

Let the sheets soak for at least 30 minutes before rinsing and wringing them out. If they’re still not as white as you’d like, repeat the process. Then, add to your dryer or hang outside if you prefer.

How to Prevent Yellowing Sheets

The best way to keep sheets white is to prevent them from yellowing in the first place. Here are a few tips:

  • Wash your sheets regularly.
  • Use the hottest water temperature safe for the fabric to kill bacteria or fungus.
  • Add a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle as a natural disinfectant.
  • Hang sheets outside to dry in the sun when possible. UV light brightens fabric.
  • Avoid using fabric softener. A fabric softener can cause more yellowing.
  • Use only color-safe bleach.
  • Follow the care instructions on your sheets closely.
  • Treat stains quickly. The longer it sits, the harder it is to remove.
  • Invest in quality sheets, which are less likely to yellow over time.

These tips will help keep your sheets looking new for longer. If they do start to yellow, you have the right tools and strategies to tackle it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are common questions related to white sheets.

Why do my sheets turn yellow?

The most common reason is aging. Older sheets are more likely to develop yellow stains from body oils, sweat and general use.

Another reason is improper care. Sheets that people don’t wash often or rinse properly can start to yellow. Not using the right temperature water or not hanging them to dry can also lead to yellowing.

Other causes include improper washing techniques, using the wrong detergent and exposure to sunlight.

What’s the best temperature to wash my sheets?

The best temperature to wash sheets is the hottest water the fabric can tolerate. Hot water kills more germs and allergens.

How often should I wash my sheets?

Try to wash your sheets once a week. Weekly is a good goal. If you don’t sleep in them every night or if you have allergies, you may be fine with washing them every other week.

Can I use bleach on my sheets?

Yes, but only color-safe bleach in small amounts. Too much bleach can damage the fabric and it’s not great for your health to use bleach often.

Can I use vinegar on my sheets?

Yes, vinegar is a great option for whitening sheets. Just add a cup to the rinse cycle.

What is the best way to prevent yellowing sheets?

The best way to keep sheets white is to prevent any yellowing. If they’re already yellowed, try soaking them in a whitening solution using lemon juice, peroxide, baking soda and vinegar, or bleach and washing them again.

How often should I replace my sheets?

You don’t need to replace your sheets as often as you wash them, but you should replace them every few years. Depending on the quality of your sheets and how often you use them, they may last up to 10 years. It’s still a good idea to get new sheets every few years to enjoy the best sleep possible.

Conclusion

There are a few different ways you can whiten sheets, both in the washing machine and by hand.

The method you choose will depend on your personal preference and what you have available, but my advice is to aim for more natural options instead of bleach unless you’re truly in a pinch. Vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide are all great choices that will get the job done without damaging your sheets with harsh chemicals.

With a little bit of elbow grease and some patience, you can have bright white sheets again in no time!

Latest Buying Guides