Pine Cone Hill Resist the urge to bleach white sheets, Pine Cone Hill owner Annie Selke says, because it can cause them to yellow over time. Instead, treat stains right away with club soda.
Monday, October 01, 2018 1:00 am
Learn linen lessons
Know how to clean, care for your items to make them last
Elizabeth Mayhew | Washington Post
If you've ever been fortunate enough to sleep in a four-star-hotel bed, you know there is nothing like the crisp, clean feel of fine white sheets. I cherished my first set, a wedding present, and was dismayed when, over time, they yellowed and eventually ripped.
Here are tips from the pros on how to wash, dry and stain-treat your bedding so that you can prolong the life of your linens.
George Matouk Jr., whose family's business, Matouk, has been making luxury bedding since 1929, warns against using too much detergent when washing your sheets and towels. The rule of thumb is approximately one tablespoon of detergent for each regular load. Use too much, and your sheets and towels will end up with a soapy residue that will attract dirt and leave them feeling slimy.
Matouk also cautions against detergents that have bleach or added whitening agents, particularly when washing bedding that has delicate contrasting color embroidery or embellishments (as many Matouk styles do). Not only can bleach ruin colorful threads, it also weakens the fabric fibers.
Annie Selke, owner of the bedding company Pine Cone Hill, also advises against using bleach because it can cause whites to yellow over time. Instead, she recommends treating stains right away with plain club soda. For really pesky stains she uses OxiClean, but she says that lemon juice, baking soda or vinegar are great natural substitutes.
Wash sheets once a week and be mindful of water temperatures, Selke says: Wash linen sheets in cold water and percale sheets in warm water. While thread count has minimal impact on washing, she points out that the higher the thread count, the more threads there are to break.
As for liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets, Matouk says never to use either, especially on towels because they absorb liquid fabric softener, affecting their absorbency. Bedding and towels should stay soft on their own as long as they are properly laundered and not overdried.
To prevent overdrying, remove bed linens from the dryer as soon as they're dry or even a bit damp, which will keep them softer. If you are in the market for a new dryer, Matouk recommends one with a moisture sensor that will automatically shut off the drying cycle as soon as there is no moisture present, which “will add years to the life of your linens and clothing.”
Selke prefers line-drying sheets.
Selke and Matouk agree that ironing sheets comes down to personal preference, but the best way to minimize wrinkles is to make sure you remove your sheets from the dryer the moment they're dry, even if that is well before the end of the cycle. Also, if you iron your sheets, you will get better results if you do so while they are still a touch damp. The heat of the iron will complete the process. Matouk suggests shaking out your sheets a bit between washing and drying. It will “open up” some of the creases that formed during the spin cycle.
To save some time, Selke suggests ironing just the portion of the sheets you see when you make your bed – a trick she learned from watching a hotel room “turnover” where the workers ironed only the top of the duvet cover once it was in place.
Another hotel trick: Shirley Vermont, a 20-year veteran housekeeper at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, makes the bed, lightly mists the sheets with water, then runs her hands over the sheets to remove any creases.
When buying sheets, Selke recommends opening the package and touching the sheets. Put your cheek against them: If the quality feels poor, the sheets will feel even worse after washing. Good-quality sheets should get better and softer with each washing.
If you're a hot sleeper, Selke advises buying crisp percale; the cotton will keep you cool and comfortable. But Matouk cautions that if you don't iron percale sheets and they begin to form permanent creases, you'll need to press them out; those permanent creases are more likely to tear over time. Selke says that linen is a great year-round choice – it's cool in the summer and warm in the winter. But if you're looking for something smoother and more luxurious, try a silky modal fiber or sateen weave. Cotton sateen is less prone to wrinkling; it has more body so it resists the formation of wrinkles. But that body makes sateen a little heavier and less breathable than percale.