I Could Never Get My White Sheets Really Clean, Until I Tried This 2-Ingredient Combo

updated Oct 28, 2022
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Credit: Liz Calka

The night at the end of “sheet washing day” is my favorite. It makes me smile every time I get to slip between freshly laundered linens that are fitted, tight and crisp across the mattress.

But (there’s always a but!) stripping the sheets off the bed can be gross. We have white sheets — which I love in theory because they feel extra fresh and are just so classic — but turning down the covers and wiggling the pillows out of their cases makes it very clear how not white our white sheets really are.

Yellowed head marks and vague body forms on the sheets make it impossible to ignore the fact that it’s largely body oils that make sheets grimy. The only thing worse than confronting these stains when I take the sheets off to wash them is seeing that they’re still there when we make the bed later after the sheets are washed.

Honestly, one of the reasons I switched from colored sheets to white ones is so that I could bleach them in my quest to obtain that hotel-room-pristine bedding feeling. I don’t like having bleach around or using it, but I was willing to do it for brilliant white bedding. No such luck, though. My attempts at bleaching did little to brighten our sheets, and I also didn’t like the faint chemical smell it left behind or how rough I know bleach is on cotton fibers.

I really, really wanted white sheets, though. It’s one of the things I especially fixated on in the last year — a time when I didn’t have the energy to do one of the more complicated sheet-whitening rituals you find online, like carrying boiled water to a soaking sink or squeezing lemons or making a concoction of hydrogen peroxide and dish soap. It was more than I could take on.

In my research, though, I found one method that sounded way too easy to be true, but the investment of time and energy was so low that if it didn’t work, I wouldn’t be upset if the effort turned out to be pointless. So I tried it. And it worked!

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

How I Keep White Sheets White with Baking Soda and Vinegar (But Not Together!)

Here’s the formula: Add about a half cup of baking soda to the drum of the washing machine and then add distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser. The specificity in the dosing mechanisms is important to note: Allowing vinegar and baking soda to mix in the process will render each of them no more useful than salt.

Splitting them up, on the other hand, allows them each to work their magic without interference since the vinegar gets released later in the cycle through the fabric softener dosing cup.

After my first load, I could hardly believe how much whiter and, incidentally, softer our sheets were. My husband even noticed — and y’all know that means there was a noticeable difference!

I’m so happy to know how simple, effective, safe, and exertion-free it is to whiten our sheets every time they go in the wash. I’m hooked on this method, and I’ll be doing it excitedly every single time the sheets go in the laundry. Clean sheet night just got even better.