You spend a lot of time with your sheets (a third of your life, when you think about it!), so you certainly want to treat them well — and make them last as long as possible. Avoid these common missteps to ensure they stay soft, strong, and stain-free.
1. You stuff too many sets into the washer and dryer.
Large items, like flat and fitted sheets, should be loosely placed into the washer and dryer, without cramming. This way, they cam tumble or agitate freely for better cleaning and less tangling. Extra large machines can likely accommodate two sets, but if you find you're jamming them in, wash one set at a time instead.
If your washer has a center agitator, don't wrap your sheets around it. This stresses the fabric and can cause "roping" — when the sheets get tightly twisted, like a rope. In the dryer, check them mid-cycle and separate them if they ball up. This helps them dry more evenly.
2. You wash them on the heavy-duty cycle.
Some new washers have dedicated cycles just for washing sheets. But if yours doesn't, select the "normal" or "casual" cycle instead of "heavy-duty." Sheets don't need excessive agitation to get clean, and the heavy-duty cycle can cause tangling and wrinkling. To boost cleaning (which is helpful if you suffer from allergies), increase the water temperature to hot instead of warm.
3. You dry them too long and too hot.
To keep wrinkling and shrinkage to a minimum, select a low heat setting and your dryer's automatic cycle (so it stops when it senses the sheets are dry, not just when a certain amount of time has elapsed). Over-drying can damage the fibers, which can cause them to wear out and tear more easily.
4. You don't change them often enough.
It's best swap out your sheets weekly, or least every two weeks. If you use them for too long, the fabric might not be able to recover its shape in the washer and dryer, and stretched fabric is more likely to tear.
5. You wear makeup to bed.
Not only is this cardinal beauty sin , but languishing makeup can also stain your pillowcases. Plus, lotions can leave oily stains, and some skin products (like those with benzoyl peroxide) can bleach colors. Consider what's on your face before you hit the pillow, and change and wash your sheets regularly to combat buildup and permanent discoloration
6. You don't know how to fold a fitted sheet.
It's not just an impressive party trick. If you ball your sheets up in the closet, you could stress the fabric and cause creases. So master this folding technique to avoid damage.
7. You skip pillow liners and mattress covers.
These extra layers not only keep your pillow and mattress cleaner, but add cushioning under sheets and pillowcases to minimize the friction that can cause pilling.
Carolyn Forte is the director the Cleaning Lab at the .