Laundry Tips: How to Wash Cotton Sheets

July 15, 2019

Here at Thomas Lee Sheets we spend a lot of time around high quality bedding and over the years we’ve learned a thing or two about caring for cotton sheets. Proper care is easy and enhances the longevity and that softly crisp feel we love about good quality cotton sheets.

During the weaving process, cotton fibers become tightly wound as they are loomed into long, crisp bolts of fabric that will become sheets and other bedding. When new sheets are washed for the first time, the cotton absorbs the water and begins to soften and expand, making the sheets softer and more voluminous. In the trade we call this softening process “blooming.” We want to encourage blooming by the judicious application of water and by limiting the amount of detergent we use, since it can build up on cotton fibers making your sheets feel a little scratchy.

Unless the care instructions say otherwise, we find machine-washing works fine for cotton sheets.  Before using a new set of sheets, wash them two to three times without drying in between washings. Straight out of the packaging, we generally wash sheets and other cotton bedding in cool or warm (but not hot!) water the first time, with about one-half the normal amount of detergent to avoid build up.  Detergent can form teeny tiny balls on cotton fibers, leading to that scratchy feel that keeps us up at night.  After that first wash, we wash our sheets once or twice again without detergent, which encourages the cotton fibers to soften and develop that cool, breathable feel that is the essence of well-made cotton bedding. For future laundering, one wash is enough unless you think detergent is building up on the sheets, in which case you can run them through the washer a couple of times without detergent.

Remember to leave the bleach and fabric softeners in the cabinet.  Bleach has its uses, but we find that bleach loves to eat cotton fibers, shortening the life span of your cotton sheets.  Fabric softeners are also hard on cotton sheets, they “soften” fabric by coating the fibers with a residue, which can damage them.

After the final wash, we like to tumble dry using the permanent press or low temperature setting.   If wrinkles are an issue, avoid them by either hanging the sheets to finish drying or ironing them on low heat to avoid damaging the cotton fibers.  We don’t mind wrinkled sheets, so we tend to put them straight on the bed while they are still warm from the dryer and they look great.

Following these easy care instructions and your cotton sheets will stay soft, crisp and comfortable for many years to come.