How To Clean Sheets, Quilts & Comforters

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Clean bed sheets, blankets and quilts not only smell fresh but are more comfortable and sanitary. By keeping bedding clean, allergens that cause sneezing and itchy eyes are removed regularly. Also, clean sheets are less likely to be itchy and regular cleaning helps remove dust mites. To keep you bed fresh, wash bed sheets once a week, air out blankets and comforters monthly and have quilts cleaned every year. Bedding should also be washed after being used by someone with an illness. Make it easier to care for bedding by keeping manufacturers’ care labels for easy reference and following the cleaning directions on the labels. Here are a few more tips to help you properly clean bedding and get the rest you need.

Cleaning Bed Sheets & Pillowcases

Bed sheets and pillowcases should be washed on a weekly basis. These bedding items receive the most wear, collect dust mites and retain odors from body sweat. To make this chore easier, keep two or three sets of sheets and pillowcases on hand. One set can be on the bed while another set is in the laundry. A third set can be kept in the linen closet in case the laundry cannot be done when a clean set of sheets is needed.

Before washing sheets and pillowcases, check the manufacturer’s care instructions. Follow these steps to keep bed sheets and pillowcases clean, soft and comfortable:

  • Wash in hot water if an ill person slept in the bed.
  • Add ¼ cup of vinegar to the wash to soften the sheets. This eliminates the need for fabric softeners.
  • To keep pillows clean, use a pillow protector.
  • Protect mattresses with a plastic mattress pad and a cotton mattress pad.
  • Vacuum the mattress once a month to remove dust mites, dry skin and built-up lint.


How To Clean Blankets

Blankets are also close to the body while you are sleeping but require just a little less care than bed sheets. Blankets do not need to be washed every week, but should be hung outdoors or vacuumed once a month to remove dust, lint and slight smells. Wash blankets when there is an obvious odor or the blankets become soiled or wet. Before putting blankets in the washing machine, check the manufacturer’s care label. Blankets come in a variety of fabrics and some fabrics may require special care. Follow these tips to keep blankets clean and odor-free:

  • For large and heavy blankets, use a large commercial washing machine. An overloaded washing machine does not clean properly.
  • Dry blankets on a clothesline or in a large commercial dryer.
  • Mend any tears or loose bindings before washing.
  • Treat spots and stains before washing.
  • Do not dry-clean or moth-proof electric blankets.

How To Clean Quilts & Comforters

Comforters and quilts do not need as much care as blankets because these items are usually removed from the bed before crawling between the sheets. To keep quilts and comforters fresh, take these bed coverings outside and for a good shake once a month to remove dust and lint. If it isn’t possible to take bed coverings outdoors, a gentle vacuuming will also do the trick. Down comforters can be kept clean with a duvet cover. The cover protects the comforter and reduces the need to wash the comforter as often. When the duvet cover becomes dirty, simply take it off and throw it in the washing machine.

Comforters and quilts may only need to be cleaned or washed once a year. Again, before throwing any bed covering in the washing machine, check the manufacturer’s care label. Because bed coverings come in a variety of fabrics and many people havehand-madequilts, it is important to treat these items carefully. Here are a few hints:

  • If a quilt is made of several different types of fabric, use a cleaning method that is most appropriate for the most delicate fabric.
  • Bed covering made of silk or velvet should not be washed. These items may need to be sent to the dry cleaners.
  • Wool comforters should be dry-cleaned unless the label indicates it is washable.
  • Always wash bed coverings in a large commercial washer using a gentle cycle. Let bed coverings soak in the machine for 10 minutes before running the wash cycle.
  • Hand-made, fragile and cotton batting quilts should be hand washed. Fill a bathtub or large laundry tub with water, dissolve the laundry soap in the water and then add the quilt.
  • Down comforters should only be put in the washing machine if they are in good condition and the label indicates the comforter is washable. Otherwise, hand wash or take to the dry cleaners.
  • Wash down comforters in cold water with a mild detergent. Down comforters can be dried on a clothesline or in a large commercial clothes dryer. Set the dryer at a low temperature and add a couple of tennis balls to help fluff the comforter.

Before washing any blanket, comforter or quilt, check the fabric for colorfastness. To do this, dip a corner of the fabric in the detergent solution you will be using to wash the fabric. Make sure you choose a corner that can be hidden from view. If the color bleeds or fades, the bedding will require dry-cleaning.

It’s easy to keep bedding clean. With a little care and by reading the care tags, your linens will not only smell fresh but you will get the rest you need.

Last Updated: July 22, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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