How To Care For Your Bed Linen: The Experts’ Guide

Hands up, who has bobbly bed sheets with faded colours, pulled threads and musty smells? Now hands up, who wishes they knew how to avoid all of these fabric faux pas?

Good news, you’re about to find out.
Here’s a complete guide on how to take good care of your brand new duvet covers, bed sheets and pillowcases and keep them as crisp and fresh as the day you bought them.

Before you do anything to your new bed linen, make sure you find the care labels and read them very carefully. Not all bed linen is made the same, so it can’t all be treated the same. Cotton sheets, for example, need to be washed at a lower temperature than synthetic fibres, and not all fabrics are suitable for bleaching, tumble drying and ironing. So long as you’ve seen your care labels and taken notice of the instructions, you can’t go far wrong with the basic care of your bed linen.

Did you know that cotton fibres shrink during their first wash? Cotton bed linen is deliberately manufactured and designed to be ever so slightly too big, to allow for this shrinkage. After their first wash, therefore, cotton bed sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases will be just the right size to fit your bedding and mattress, so it’s important you wash everything before you use it for the first time. This first wash will also make your bedding smell lovely and fresh for your first use, which is always a bonus.

But hang fire just a moment and read our tips on washing your cottons safely first…

Let’s do this properly. Take these simple steps before hitting the start button on your washing machine, or your gorgeous new bed linen may not last very long:

  • Unfold your bed linen completely before washing to ensure even cleaning. Sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers are usually folded for packaging, so give them a good shake to loosen them up before putting them in the machine.
  • Separate your linen into whites and colours to prevent your crisp white sheets from being dimmed or accidentally dyed by coloured fabrics. Always check for stray coloured socks and scrunched up coloured pillowcases, as these are very good at hiding and sabotaging your white washes.
  • Avoid washing bed linen with clothing where possible, as zips on jeans and hooks on undergarments have a terrible habit of catching on delicate fabrics and damaging them.
  • Check your detergent to make sure it’s suitable for your linens. Detergents with whitening agents are fine to use on white linens, but can cause spotting and discoloration on coloured fabrics. Choose a gentle, cotton-kind detergent designed for delicates when washing Egyptian cotton sheets, and don’t be tempted to use more than the recommended amount of detergent in each wash, as this can fade colours.
  • Avoid using fabric softener. Cotton naturally softens during washing, so there is no need for fabric softeners, which can actually clog the pores of the fabric and cause it to lose its natural sheen.
  • Keep the temperature to 40ºc or lower when washing any cotton bed linen, as temperatures higher than this can harm the natural fibres.
  • Stick to slower spin cycles, as using the faster spins can actually damage and shorten the lifespan of your cotton sheets.

Most fabric care labels will tell you that tumble drying isn’t an option, and even those that say tumble drying is OK will still stipulate a very low drying temperature.

We would always recommend drying your cotton bed linen naturally wherever possible, out on the washing line or on a clothes maid in an evenly heated room. However, we appreciate this isn’t always possible, and on these occasions you are best sticking to the lowest drying temperatures on your drier. You should also avoid over-drying your bed linen as this could damage the fibres and diminish their natural softness. Remember to always check your care label before tumble drying.

A common bed linen ailment is the dreaded ‘pilling’, or bobbling, but there are steps you can take to prevent it. Firstly, try your best to keep anything abrasive away from your sheets – embellishments on nightwear are classic offenders, as are pets’ claws and even our own toenails. Unfortunately, life does tend to get in the way of perfect cotton care, but being mindful of these causes can help prevent pilling in the long term.

Rotating your sheets regularly can also help keep pilling at bay. Change your bed linen every week wherever possible, and turn your sheets each time so you’re not sleeping on the same area too often. You can use the care label to help you remember which way your sheet needs to be facing.

Finally, keeping your sheets protected from dust while being stored can also help prevent those unsightly bobbles from appearing.


Are you putting away your freshly laundered bed linen only to be greeted with a horrible dank, musty smell when you come to get it out again? This is usually down to two mistakes: not drying the sheets properly and not allowing enough air circulation in storage.

Always check your sheets are completely dry all over before folding and storing, otherwise you might find mould and mildew making themselves at home on your precious fabrics later in the week.

You should also try to ensure your sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers have plenty of ventilation and aren’t too tightly packed together during storage. Air circulation is important to maintain freshness and prevent any unpleasant smells from developing.

Now you’re armed with all the expert linen care knowledge, you can enjoy (and show off) your beautiful bed linen for much longer. Want to replace your old, faded, bobbly bedsheets with something special? Take a look at our collection of Egyptian cotton bed linen here at Sleep & Beyond.


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