Best way to clean and brighten up white sheets with a pattern?
October 1, 2014 9:49 AM   Subscribe

I have some sheets I love (they are white with little dinosaurs on them), but they get dingy really fast and look dirty even when I've just washed them (they're pretty cheap but they make me happy). Seriously, even when they were new they looked kind of dingy after sleeping on them for two nights. What's the best way to get them as clean and white as possible without fading the dinosaurs?

I'm hesitant to use bleach because I don't want the dinosaurs to fade but I hate that even when I've just taken my sheets out of the laundry they look like they need to be washed. Is there a specific detergent or other product that would make the white sheets look crisp and clean and new without anything fading? The sheets are 100% cotton. Thanks!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oxygen bleach aka Oxyclean has worked well for me. Don't overdo it but a little bit of it helps brighten things up.
posted by barnone at 10:00 AM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

Vanish works really well (available under another name in the US but from what I remember the packaging is the same so hopefully you will know what it is when you see it). Our sheets are kind of white with little flowers, and they haven't faded.

The other thing is upping the heat - I always used to use cold water for all my washes, but actually I find 40 or even 60 does get things whiter if your sheets will tolerate it (try 40 first).
posted by tinkletown at 10:00 AM on October 1, 2014

Try hydrogen peroxide
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 10:01 AM on October 1, 2014

Use Oxiclean!

Oxiclean is also good for bedding in general because it counteracts "protein stains" (aka anything coming out of your body...ahem). Chlorine bleach is not good for that.
posted by radioamy at 10:04 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

We use Borax powder. Super cheap, works wonders.
posted by erst at 10:06 AM on October 1, 2014

I would try adding borax to your detergent or just filling up the machine with your sheets and some borax and letting them soak for a few hours before continuing the cycle.

On preview, like erst said. Just make sure it's the 20 Mule and not the kind for killing ants!
posted by danabanana at 10:09 AM on October 1, 2014

I've been using tide w/color safe bleach on a white + colorful patterned duvet cover for like 15 years and the colors have only recently (within the last 3-4 years) begun to fade a bit.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:12 AM on October 1, 2014

If using Oxiclean or similar, you need to let it soak. Otherwise you're just pouring the product down the drain.
posted by headnsouth at 10:24 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

You might be using too much detergent in your laundry - this makes my laundry pick up dirt faster. Try using less or adding a vinegar rinse.
posted by bq at 10:40 AM on October 1, 2014

Best is to soak with Oxyclean in a bucket overnight.

That stuff can work amazingly well. I managed to get ancient deodorant stains to come out of old white shirts by making a mushy Oxy paste and spreading it onto the stains directly, then leaving overnight.
posted by Dragonness at 11:07 AM on October 1, 2014

I want to nth an Oxyclean soak. I have soaked vintage dresses in Oxyclean, and they really brighten up - it's amazing. Seriously, Oxyclean has lifted off decades of grime turned dingy dresses into bright and sparkling. I usually make up a warm-water (or cool water, if it's a delicate) solution of the powder, with the strength as per the instructions on the box, and leave overnight (you might want to test it for a few hours first, but I have never found anything harmed by leaving overnight, and some things improved a lot with an overnight soak versus a few hours' soak). Then, I wash the garment in warm water (or cold, if the garment is delicate). Magic!
posted by ClaireBear at 11:31 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

bq is right - don't use too much detergent, and don't use fabric softener or dryer sheets or anything.
posted by radioamy at 11:38 AM on October 1, 2014

Yes, soak overnight in Oxiclean. Follow the instructions on the container.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:53 AM on October 1, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks guys, I'll pick up some OxiClean on the way home and let my dinosaur friends have a relaxing overnight soak. Also this:

You might be using too much detergent in your laundry - this makes my laundry pick up dirt faster. Try using less or adding a vinegar rinse.

hadn't occurred to me but is totally brilliant and I'm pretty sure I've been doing that and that the detergent itself is basically turning into greasy dirt. Yuck!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:35 PM on October 1, 2014

After the OxiClean, maybe consider bluing? It can really help whites that have started to seem gray/yellow. Not sure what it would do to the dinosaurs though.
posted by owls at 2:28 PM on October 1, 2014

If you use anti-static sheets in the dryer, they can also make things dingier over time, as they are basically adding a very thin layer of wax to the surface. On sheets especially, the wax gets embedded with dead skin etc., and the fabric gets dingy :-/

Wool dryer balls work to combat the static, and they also help speed up the drying time! And bonus, no weird chemicals!

Oxiclean soak, vinegar rinse, dryer balls = fresh white sheets!
posted by barnone at 3:35 PM on October 1, 2014

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