Brand-new sheets feel so smooth and luxurious, but they're never quite the same after they've been washed for the first time, and it's not like you're looking for more laundry to do. So, when you buy new bed sheets, you're going to be tempted to take them out of the package and put them right on the bed. It's certainly convenient, but bypassing the washing machine isn't the most hygienic choice.
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For hygienic purposes, it is generally advisable to wash new sheets before use.
Should I Wash Sheets Before Use?
You probably wouldn't eat an apple straight out of the grocery store bin. There's no telling who might have touched it before you or what chemicals could have been transferred to that apple on its journey to your grocery store, so you wash it before eating it just to be safe.
Use the same philosophy with a new package of bed sheets. They passed through many hands on their way to you, and you don't know what kind of chemicals were used by the manufacturer to treat them before the sheets were packaged. Also, if sheets are made of dyed fabric, some excess dye could bleed out the first time they're washed. It's better for dye to come out in the washing machine than on your skin and pajamas.
Ultimately, though, it's unlikely you'll suffer any adverse effects if you don't wash sheets before use. Some mild irritation is probably the worst thing that might happen if you have sensitive skin and sleep on new, unwashed sheets.
How Often Should Sheets Be Washed?
Even if they look clean, stick to a set schedule for changing sheets. Sweat, dead skin cells, and bacteria are transferred to your sheets every night. A good rule of thumb is to wash sheets after about a week of use. If you don't sleep in your own bed every night, that might mean you can go 10 or 14 days between washings. On the other hand, you might want to wash sheets more frequently than once a week if pets share your bed.
How Should Sheets Be Washed?
As long as you wash sheets the right way, they should still feel smooth and soft after the first washing. Always defer to the instructions on the care label. Washing sheets in hot water helps kills bacteria, but hot water will also shrink sheets made of flannel or other cotton fabric, so use cool or warm water unless the care label tells you otherwise.
Wash new sheets in a load by themselves. If they bleed any dye, no other textiles will be damaged. Any kind of mild detergent is generally suitable for washing new sheets.
Air dry the sheets or put them in the dryer on the lowest setting. Add several wool dryer balls to the load. They'll bounce around the dryer to keep the sheets from balling up as they dry, which prevents wrinkling and static. If you don't like the smell of wet wool, use plastic dryer balls to achieve the same results.
How Can You Stop New Sheets From Pilling?
One of the reasons you might hesitate to wash sheets before use is that some fabrics will pill starting with the very first wash. Pilling happens when fibers break and tangle into little balls on the surface of the fabric. Cotton flannel sheets are especially prone to pilling, but it can happen with other fabrics too.
It's not entirely possible to undo the damage once a set of sheets has started pilling, and pilling isn't completely preventable. Air drying flannel sheets should help. Friction causes fibers to break and pill, which happens in the dryer when flannel fabric rubs up against itself.