The life expectancy of your linens depends on how much use they get, says Linda Cobb, who offers cleaning advice under the name The Queen of Clean. Here's five tips on the best ways to clean your towels and linens while making them last for the long haul.
We use sheets and towels daily, but given proper care, they can last for years. And while prolonging the life of the items we own isn’t as obviously green as, say, recycling, this practice helps conserve resources and save money.
The life expectancy of your linens depends on how much use they get, says Linda Cobb, who offers cleaning advice under the name The Queen of Clean.
Putting sheets right back on the bed will cause them to wear out a little faster, says Cobb, but the tradeoff is saving time with folding, particularly those tedious fitted sheets. A few other simple steps can help prolong the life of these household staples.
1. Use the right product
Your choice of detergent certainly matters for laundry items, but also the environment.
“Harsh detergents and bleaches break down fabric fibers,” says Cobb, who personally recommends the Vaska line. She recommends using “quality, safe, natural laundry products” to extend the life of linens.
2. Read the label
Check labels and wash sheets and towels at the recommended water temperature; some items call for a gentle wash cycle or should not be bleached. Most Americans also use too much detergent, according to the Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science, especially as washers become more efficient and detergents more concentrated. Excess suds can re-deposit soiling matter on your laundry.
3. Don’t let soiling build up
Unlike blue jeans, which benefit from fewer washes, going too long between launderings for sheets and towels causes dark discoloration to build up that won’t necessarily wash out. Cobb recommends pre-treating any spots so stains don’t set in.
4. Thoroughly dry items before putting them away
Still-damp sheets and towels can harbor bacteria and mold, according to the American Cleaning Institute, formerly the Soap and Detergent Association. This is also true of damp linens stuffed in a hamper, or towels that don’t dry out fully between uses.
5. Line dry when possible
That fuzzy buildup in your dryer’s lint tray is made up of fibers that used to be part of your sheets and towels. This is normal for newly purchased items, says Cobb. But each trip to the dryer eats away, ever so slightly, at your linens. If weather and local ordinances permit, hang out your linens to dry and cut down on both energy use and wear and tear. If you do use the dryer, be sure to clean out the lint trap after every use.
Did you know?
Concentrated versions of laundry detergent and fabric softener use 15 to 50 percent less material than traditional packaging, according to the American Cleaning Institute.
If you happen to be buying new linens, Egyptian cotton is known for having a long lifespan. Organic cotton and cotton-bamboo blends are generally grown using sustainable methods.