Yes, my husband knows about this article. No, he does not care that I'm talking about him online!
Give Your Sheets a Proper, Deep Cleaning!
Have you ever had a problem with getting smells or stains out of your sheets? Are you dealing with stubborn, yellowish, or dark sweat-like stains on your linens that just won't wash out? Well, I've got news for you. It's from body oil.* The natural oils that your skin produces can wreak havoc on fabric—and because it's oil, it can be tricky to wash out.
The good news is, I've done the hard work for you and crafted the perfect method for getting your bedsheets super clean. In this article, I'll walk you through my tricks for getting body oils, stains, and odors out of sheets, all using safe, natural products.
*Despite what the Clorox bleach commercials tell you, "body soil" is not actually a thing. "Body oil" is, though. Tricky marketers!
What You'll Need
Aside from the usual washing machine and dryer (although I suppose you could also do this by hand in a tub, if that's your jam), you'll need a few extra items to clean sheets stained with body oils and odors.
- Laundry detergent: Whichever kind you prefer
- Dish soap: Yes, the kind you use in the kitchen sink, to help break apart the oils in the sheets.
- Borax: This is a natural laundry booster that helps with odors but is also a safe all-fabric color-safe "bleach."
- White distilled vinegar: This acts as a natural fabric softener, but it's also fantastic for neutralizing odors. Don't worry, vinegar dries "clean" in that there is no vinegar scent left once the fabric is fully dry. I use vinegar in every one of my laundry loads (including delicates), and it does no damage.
How to Clean Those Stinky, Oily Sheets!
- Add laundry detergent to machine. To the empty washing machine, add however much detergent you normally use for a load of sheets. I usually go for about 2/3 of the cup that comes with the detergent, then throw in the cup so it gets all the soap off while washing.
- Use hot water. Set your machine to the hottest setting on a normal or normal/heavy load. I use the hot/cold setting (wash in hot water, rinse in cold).
- Add dishwashing soap. Add three good squirts directly into the flow of the water (to ensure that it mixes in real good). My "3 squirts" rule probably works out to about three tablespoons or just under a quarter cup of dish soap.
- Add Borax. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup into the water. Once again, I eyeball this right out of the box.
- Put in the sheets and make sure they're all completely submerged in the water.
- Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup of distilled white vinegar to your washing machine's fabric softener dispenser. I always use a spare laundry detergent cup for this. If your machine doesn't have a fabric softener dispenser, you can either add the vinegar during the rinse cycle or get a Downy ball (see the Amazon link below) and toss that in.
- Let it soak for about 30 minutes once the washing machine has filled. This soak is important because it helps to break apart the oils in the sheets. I always leave the lid of my washing machine open for this step to prevent the wash cycle from starting up again.
- Let the wash cycle continue as usual after your sheets have soaked. If you do not have a fabric softener dispenser or a Downy ball, be sure to add the vinegar during the rinse.
- Dry your sheets as usual. Since you already used vinegar, which is a natural fabric softener, you can skip the dryer sheets. You may also skip the fabric softener because it can make the body oil thing worse. I always prefer to use a dryer sheet because I like my sheets to be as soft as a baby's butt (and they've never caused problems with getting stains/oils out for me).
- Enjoy your super clean and super fresh sheets!
The Downy Ball
My Husband's Stinky Head, Face, and Body Are Staining My Sheets!
About a year ago, I discovered that my husband's natural dust-musk body odor was permanently embedding itself in our sheets. I also noticed that some of the lighter-colored linens were getting a yellowish stain on them, and the dark sheets were getting darker in places. It was the worst on pillows and pillowcases!
As it turns out, the odor I was smelling and the stains I was seeing were a common result of the body's natural oils staining fabrics. You might see similar stains on undershirts and in the armpits of clothes. Some men and women just produce more of this stuff, which explains why I was seeing the stains (and a-sniffin' the smells) only on my husband's side of the bed. I tried to photograph this phenomenon (see the photo above). It's hard to see, but you can kind of tell that the part on the left of the bed—the side my husband sleeps on—is darker.
Anyway, I did some Internet sleuthing and found a few tricks for getting these stinky, oily stains out. I've combined, condensed, and modified what I found to create the method described in this article. It worked wonders for me! It saved our marriage!*
*I'm kidding about that. Nothing could save our marriage.**
**I'm kidding about that, too!
Tips for Front-Load Washers
I've successfully used this method for both top-load and front-load washers. See the tips below if you have a front-loader.
If your front loader is a high-efficiency washer (HE), it means it uses less water than a standard washer. HE washers rely on the tumbling motion of the cycle to clean rather than the agitation of a standard washer. As a result, overly sudsing detergents and soaps can interfere with this tumbling action, and can sometimes back up in the machine. Also, because of the fact that less water is used, the soap may not rinse out entirely.
My solution? Use less dish soap. I did a little Internet research and figured out that a half teaspoon of dish soap should be enough to clean your fabrics, but not so much that it will cause problems.
- Check your front loader to see if it has a "soak" cycle or "pre-soak" option. You could also start the cycle, and then manually stop it for 30 minutes once everything's mixed up. If neither option works for you, you could do a pre-soak in a bucket or bathtub, and then put the wet sheets in the washer for the rest of the wash.
- If there's no way to make the pre-soak work for you because you use a laundromat, your washer won't let you, or because you simply don't want to mess with it, just do the wash sans soak but opt for the longest cycle possible. It may still work for newer sheets, but could prove to be ineffective with older, heavily-stained linens.
Other Tips and Pointers for Clean Sheets
- I'm super sensitive to scents, so it was important to me to get a non-dish-smelling dish soap for this. Your dish soap choice is entirely up to you though! I also opted for a biodegradable soap as it seems that it would be a bit gentler on fabrics. I'm not sure if this is true or not, but it's this kind of thing that gives me a sense of control in this chaotic world.
- I have had some luck with getting that familiar musky thrift store stink (sorry husband) out of my older sheets, but in my experience, only the newer sheets (ones I've only washed using this method) have remained stink and stain-free. My recommendation is to try it out on your older sheets first and maybe do a more extended soak. If it doesn't work, you may decide to invest in new linens.
- I like to tell myself that I will change and wash my sheets every week, but this just doesn't happen. I find that as long as I wash my sheets every two weeks, though, no new stains or stubborn, uncleanable odors show up. Of course, if your stains are proving to be a more serious problem, you might have to wash the linens more often.
- I don't store my sheets in any special way (other than in a linen closet), and they don't regain the smell while they're folded in storage. I hope my method works well for you and yours as well!
- As for fabric, synthetics are prone to holding onto odors more than natural fibers. I recommend using 100% cotton sheets if you're having problems with smells.
- Try not to chastise your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, bedmate, or self too much about their bedsheet stains. They can't help it, and it's a mean thing to do. Plus, I can tell you from experience, complaining does nothing to help your sheets.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can baking soda be substituted for borax?
Answer: Baking soda and borax are both basic (alkaline) and have similar cleansing properties, however, borax is the better choice in this instance because it is MORE alkaline than baking soda and is, therefore, better at treating stains. You can substitute baking soda for borax when cleaning your sheets, but it may not be as effective.
Question: Is it possible to remove body oil stains and odors from sheets without the Borax? Or is it quite necessary?
Answer: You can give it a shot. I think the hot water soak and dish soap is the most important part. You can also try another laundry booster like Oxyclean.
Question: Won’t the dish washing liquid cause an over flow of suds all over the floor?
Answer: I haven't experienced this, and I've used it in both top-load and front-load washers. No more than 3 squirts for a top-loader, and about a half teaspoon for front-loaders should be fine.
Question: If I accidentally put the vinegar in the wash the first time, will it deactivate the borax? Should I redo the soak?
Answer: Vinegar is acidic and borax is basic, so mixing the two would make the water's pH more neutral and cut the cleaning power of both. As long as you're using hot water and the dish soap, you should still see some benefit from the process, but for maximum effect, I would recommend redoing the soak.
Question: Do you think the suggestions on how to remove body oil stains from bed sheets would also work for massage sheets?
Answer: From massage oils? I don't see why not. However, if there is a lot of oil, you may need to repeat the process.
Question: How often should I wash bed sheets?
Answer: Do so every other week, and the sheets wash up perfectly. Weekly may be ideal for others, but this schedule works for me.
Question: Do you recommend using this method every time you wash your sheets to keep the stains at bay? I’m washing every 2 weeks.
Answer: Absolutely. I use this method every time.
Question: Wouldn't a shower before bed also help reduce staining and yellowing of bed sheets?
Answer: Yes! Wearing a t-shirt helps too.
Question: My husband's bedroom smells horrible. I washed all his bedding -- sheets, mattress pad, comforter, and even his pillow. The room still reeks I bought a "bad air sponge" that's supposed to be effective, but it is not. What do I do?
Answer: It could be the carpet or the walls. I once repainted a room and had the carpet changed, and the room still smelled for weeks afterward. It eventually went away, but I was surprised how resilient the smell was.
I recommend cleaning the carpet/rugs with a carpet cleaner. Cleaning the walls with soap and water might help as well. If there are blinds or curtains on the windows, clean those as well.
Question: Do you have any suggestions for getting body oils out of a mattress?
Answer: This would be very difficult to do with any degree of success. I suggest treating the mattress with a fabric deodorizer such as Febreze, then getting a plastic mattress protector and machine-washable mattress pad. Put the mattress inside the plastic mattress protector, then put the mattress pad over the whole thing. That way, you'll protect the mattress from further staining, and you'll be able to wash the mattress pad rather than worry about the mattress itself.
Question: How do you remove oil and odor from kitchen and bath towels? They never smell clean enough, and there are also oily stains on my dish towels.
Answer: The methods in this article are geared at removing oil and scents, so I don't see why they wouldn't work on towels or other linens, just make sure the fabric can be washed in hot water (otherwise reduce the temperature).
Question: Could I apply the same method of removing body oil stains and odors from bedsheets to a down comforter? I have a white comforter with a nasty yellow stain all along the edge that touches our faces at night.
Answer: You could try, but hot water may be a concern for down. It depends on the washing instructions for your particular comforter. I always get duvet covers for hard-to-clean blankets (like down comforters) and then clean those the same way I clean my sheets.
Question: Could I remove baby oil stains the same way you describe in your article?
Answer: I think you can use this method with any oil, but if there is a lot of oil in one spot, you may want to pretreat it first with dish soap.
Question: Would this also be good for bath towels? My towels tend to have a musky man smell as well.
Answer: I don't see why not. It would be especially fitting for white or very light colored towels because fading is not a factor. If the towels are dark or brightly colored, you may see some color fading due to the hot water soak.
Question: Does this How-to on removing body oil stains from bed sheets work for essential oils too?
Answer: It should work for essential oils. However, if the stain is old/set in, you may need an extended soak, or you may need to do the process twice. If you can still smell the essential oils, you can also add more vinegar.
Question: Front-loading HE washers use less water, so bed sheets may not be completely covered with water. Is this a problem? Where do you add the Borax on a front loader?
Answer: I've used this method on a front loader and on a standard top loader, and it has worked for both. On a front loader, I added the Borax to the dispenser at the top before the cycle starts; if your machine doesn't have this feature, just add the Borax the same way you add detergent. Also, make sure you're selecting the longest, highest-agitation cycle possible. If your machine has a "stain" option, even better.
Question: Can I use these products and process on natural linen fibers to remove body-oil stains? I regularly read that linens should never go through a hot water cycle, or placed in a dryer because of the natural fibers which could break down much quicker. I'm desperate for answers to rid our sheets and pillowcases of body oil stains and smells.
Answer: Linen may shrink in hot water, and hot water does break down fabric fibers more than cool water, but the same things can be said for cotton which is the only fabric type I've ever washed using this method. If you are concerned about damaging your sheets, try a cooler water, lower-agitation cycle first, but keep an ample soak. As for the products, some may consider Borax and vinegar to be harsh on fabrics (because of their pH), and dishwashing liquid is not made for fabrics, but if you cut a lot of products from this method, it's likely to be less effective. For what it's worth, I've been washing the same cotton sheets this way for well over 5 years, and they're still looking great.
© 2013 Shay Marie
Comments: Got any experiences with stinky sheets? Wanna share some of your laundry tips? Have at it!
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on September 09, 2020:
I've used this method in commercial machines as well - I just chose the longest cycle possible.
Allie on August 04, 2020:
Thank you for posting this. I have been searching for what seemed like eternity to find a solution to my husband's side of the bed problem. While this method didn't remove the yellowing completely, it's practicslly gone! I think the key ingredient in your method is the dish soap. Of all the other methoeds i have tried nobody has included dish soap. Thabks again!!
Heather M Brown on April 04, 2020:
I would really love to know how this method can work when you are using a commercial machine that you can't stop and soak the sheets in. I am currently in an apartment and using commercial machines for the first time in my life. I hate them for so many reasons that I won't enumerate here, but not being able to stop the machine to soak my linens is one. Any ideas on how to circumvent this would be fantastic!
Ann on March 31, 2020:
Thank you so much for this article! You have saved my sheets! My daughter (who at 17 is responsible for her bed linens and laundry) didn't change her sheets for at least 2 months (I'm being conservative)! I took one look at the pretty white and light green patterned sheets and realized I needed more help than a standard washing. I did exactly as you recommended and holy cow are they amazingly clean! I thank you for the bottom of my heart for your help!!!
Heidi on January 16, 2020:
I'm going to try this on the bed pillows, but use your system twice. Thanks~
Emmi on January 05, 2020:
What would you recommend for raw linen? I have to wash them in handwash program and are scared that the wrong detergent/ borax will suck out the dye (natural dye)
Doris Jackson on November 16, 2019:
So a similar problem with husband’s bed sheets but I thought and still do that its as he is a heavy smoker, has a beard, and sweats: the pillow slips and the area of his back where it rests on sheets are stained brown very noticeable although he has a daily shower. I will try the above as sheets are coloured and cant use regular bleach.. why there are not stains from where his arms and legs rest I dont know. I like our new washer but just pounding wet sheets and clothing around as they did hundreds of years ago, rock in a stream, is not working... great for lightly soiled items but give me the good old two feet or so of water using the old washers anytime!
Christine on September 24, 2019:
Wow! I can't believe how well this worked. For years our sheets have been gross. I'd say there's an 85% improvement after one treatment. I soaked them in the bathtub cause of our front loader to get a good soak. Thanks!
Honeychurch on September 01, 2019:
Thank you so much for this. As much as I wanted to save my sheets, I was not going to rub chalk into my pillowcases, as one grim tutorial suggested. This saved two sets of nearly new cotton sheets, and going forward, we will always wash them like this.
Gloria on April 29, 2019:
I have been using Dawn dish soap for years to get body oil and food stains out of sheets n clothes - I just put the Dawn straight on food stains let sit for could hours n stains gone. Then our son came home after being gone a year with most putrid smelling clothes ever from body oil going rancid - defeated that too- I have LG front loader that has sanitize cycle (extra hot water) w/ pre- wash n extra rinse cycle. So, pre- wash got dawn, borax, and Calgon water softener, I did extra rinse, regular wash got Dawn, Calgon, Deep clean Persil laundry soap, and white vinegar in bleach cup, and used a fabric softener w/ Oder remover. All w/ sanitize cycle. Takes 2 1/2 hrs to go thru everything, but, after dried folded, n put away - smell is gone, even 2 weeks later, no more putrid smell! Hope this help anyone dealing w/ putrid oily clothes or bed sheets ;)
Genny on April 27, 2019:
How do i get brownesh spots off muslin material of antique quilt top with out the red appliques fading its nevere been washed.need to quilt it for a friend.
Tianna on April 25, 2019:
Thank you! I was just about to throw out 2 sets of fairly new sheets but had them piled on the floor because I felt bad about adding them to the land fill. I thought, one last effort to see if I can salvage them and came across your solution. It worked! So happy. I always hated the fact that I washed the sheets and they never felt, smelled or looked clean. Will try this on some stubborn PJs now too. Thank you thank you!
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on March 12, 2019:
Try soaking in hot water with dish detergent/soap. Then wash as usual.
Mrs Marks on March 05, 2019:
My husband is bald and his head has made the pillow cases oily and the bed head oily. How do I get the oil out. I have tried scrubbing washing up detergent on the stains then boiling them on the stove to get the water hotter, I've tried ironing them between kitchen paper to get the oil to soak up in the paper, I have tried all the usuall ways with nappy san etc. what do you surgest.
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on February 06, 2019:
@Wendy - Yes, but in my experience, blends tend to hold onto smells more than 100% cotton.
Wendy on January 31, 2019:
Will this method work with sheets that are a mix of cotton and polyester?
SusieRob on January 23, 2019:
OMG!! I thought my husband had totally ruined the brand new sheets I bought him! I was so mad he didn’t wash his sheets for 2-1/2 weeks (I was out of town). This absolutely worked....I can’t believe it. My washing machine is a newer model that detects laundry size and only puts in the “appropriate” amount of water, I stopped the washer to let the sheets soak and actually did the process twice! This really works!
I wash our sheets once a week just because I love the smell of freshly laundered sheets, and I will use this method on all his bed sheets forever! (We’re old, we’ve been married forever, and don’t sleep in the same bed for a number of reasons, one of which is the smell of the sheets.). I cannot tell you how happy I am!
Barbara on January 12, 2019:
I used Borax regularly and had the cotton bedding and bath towels. Because the washing machine company complained that the powder was clogging the front load machines, I had to reluctantly stop. Not happy.
I also used Oxy but I used the one for whites not the one for everything else. I used it in the hotest water I could muster up and let my dingy washcloths sit in the solution over night. It has been a while since I did this but I may have had to apply it directly to the washcloths first then also in the 5 gallon bucket I used this for. They were whiter than white when I was ready to put them in the washer and wash them. Be sure to read the directions on the back because it tells you exactly how to do it.
My Aunt was born in 1894 and told me she never used bleach for anything. She had white cotton slips and told me she only used borax when washing them and they always came out real white.
A lot of people are too young to remember but mothers always put borax in the bottom of diaper pails to absorb odors. Yes I said diaper pails. We always did not have disposible diapers. lol.
CJA on November 29, 2018:
Your method saved not only our sheets, but I also threw in other light colored clothes that needed some TLC. Guess what they all look amazing. Thank you!
Karo on October 24, 2018:
I tried your method but ended up using Dawn soap and oxyclean since that's what I had and it worked. Very helpful, thank you.
Tom on September 03, 2018:
I tried this and it did not work. Maybe I did something incorrectly. I did try OXI CLEAN and it worked. I have no affiliation with any products. Just stating my experience.
Annette Fromhage on August 29, 2018:
Oh my goodness. This works so well, it's crazy. My sheets and duvets are crispy clean. I told my husband that I might have found the solution to him turning our sheets waxy. He asked if that solution involves divorce. =D I told him he can come home. It's fine.
Thank you so much for sharing this. It's fantastic!
Mary K. on August 13, 2018:
Have used hot water and detergent for sheets washed weekly and now use white vinegar, also. Have been married for over 55 years now, my mother always washed sheets once a week. Didn't know anybody else washed them less.............
TB on August 03, 2018:
Didn't work at all. My white sheets still the same.
Julie Grandmama on July 04, 2018:
Linda Meyers on July 01, 2018:
That's why I like to buy white sheets ! so I can use bleach . smells so good
Randi on June 09, 2018:
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I presoaked mattress cover in 5 gallon bucket for 1/2 hour. Then put into washer leaving excess water in bucket. Beautifully white and stain free.
Julie on May 24, 2018:
My pillowcases and sheets have stains on them that almost look like they are bleach stains (they are not). I noticed even my pajamas have these stains. But not my regular clothes. Is this just body oil staining? Do you think my sheets might be beyond repair?
Carol M on May 24, 2018:
If you can't soak things in your washer, you might want to try filling a large cooler with hot water and Shaye's mix and soak things overnight. In the mornig the water is actually still warm. I do this every time I need something to soak, hope this helps anyone that can't soak in their washer.
Noah'sBird on May 21, 2018:
This is amazing. For the past year I have washed our sheets 3 times each, every two weeks: once with ammonia, once with vinegar, and once with regular laundry soap. It helped only slightly. The odor still lingered, mainly on the pillowcases.
When my son went to college and would bring back both of his sheets, they smelled horrible. My three-wash trick did nothing.
After doing a quick search, your article popped up. I did not have great hope, but when I read all of the comments, I decided to give it a try.
Success. Both of my son's dorm sheets and mattress covers and pillow covers are odorless! I washed my sheets, and NO ODOR. I cannot believe it. I am eager to get busy washing all of our other sheets, as we each have two winter and two summer sets. (Although our 5-year-old has no problem with her sheets!)
Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
Kenna McHugh from Northern California on May 21, 2018:
Nice article. I use white vinegar, too, and pour it into the fabric softener dispenser. It's great and naturally clean. I just need to get my neighbors to do it as well. They use the Downey and it is so toxic and their dryer vent blows towards my front door. Yet, I have gotten them to cut down a bit. I should have them read your article. Ha-ha.
RTalloni on May 21, 2018:
Brilliant...adding the dish washing soap is a great idea.
Djinjar on May 05, 2018:
Happy to share my very good results with my partner bed sheets :) Lovely tips :)
I live in UK and borax is not easy to find- I use soda crystals :) Perfect! Fairy Platinum Washing Up Liquid Original instead :) and
Fairy Non Bio Washing Liquid Capsules For Sensitive Skin .
Thanks for shering
Clo on March 04, 2018:
This method is a miracle!!! Thank you!
Maestro D on January 03, 2018:
Hi, I've had my sheets 2 years. I soaked the pillow cases in a dish pan with hot water, detergent, dawn and baking soda (no borax). It was great!! Did the two sheets I the machine, they look like new! I have also found that Calgon is great for many greasy jobs...never tried it on my sheets..duh. Thank you for your tips...on to the toenail fungus arrgh!!
Tammie Dyer on January 01, 2018:
Another tip. I’m a Massage Therapist and have to wash oil from sheets every load. If your washer model allows, set it to small load and add the full amount of Shay’s formula with hot water. I Set it on light load and I leave the lid up. Usually let it soak overnight. Then reset load to super heavy and wash. Works great!
Brooke on December 12, 2017:
I tried this and it worked great, my dingy sheets are much less...Thank you for posting.
Dee on November 08, 2017:
Can you actually put dish soap into your front load washer or will it ruin it? I've tried soaking the pillowcases for hours in Oxyclean and wash normally using Tide & Borax. Stains are still there.
Melody on November 03, 2017:
Can this method be applied to wash clothes (coloured) in cold water. The clothes has body oil stain and odour too especially around the collar and armpit.
Thank you in advance for you help.
Anne1900 on October 28, 2017:
I'm over 70 and boiling soiled diapers and bedding was the way I got them snowy white. The diapers are gone now but the sheets, pillowcases, washcloths and dishtowels are still here. I'm going to try this method as the boiling is somewhat back breaking these days. Hope it works for me.
May I suggest that for those older sheets you try the boiling method. You will need a large canning kettle. A natural soap product (that means real soap) and borax. Fill the kettle with hot water from the tap. Bring water to boil. Add soap and borax. Add sheets. Simmer 30min. Than wash in regular washing machine twice. Don't add laundry products to machine washes. Dry as normal. Those old dingy sheets will be snowy white.
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on October 22, 2017:
@Michelle Hot water is known to fade fabrics, regardless. If you are particularly concerned about fading, you could try warm or cool water, just know the method probably will not work as well. (I have some darker purple sheets that I've always washed with this method in hot water, and I'm sure they've faded over time, but they don't look worse for it.)
Michelle on October 22, 2017:
Have you done darks this way? I do have several dark colors sheet sets and wondering if it will fade them.
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on October 11, 2017:
@Serena I don't see why not. I've used this method on blankets and stuffed animals before.
Serena on October 10, 2017:
What about the comforter? Can it be washed the same way? It is not down or has any fluffy type filling, just a regular comforter.
Davidaaf on September 30, 2017:
My body oils make my pillowcases look really filthy. I've tried everything and nothing worked, until now!! Thank you Shay Marie!! My pillowcases and bed sheets look brand new! I cannot wait to wash other items that have body oil stains.
Gladys123 on September 30, 2017:
Thanks for this, I'm anxious to try it. Apparently, males give off more of the body oils. I've actually put a small safety pin on the inside seam of his pillowcases and the corner of the fitted sheet on his side to keep track & the difference between our 2 sides is amazing.
Richard on September 19, 2017:
This is the BEST cleaning tip that I have ever picked up on the internet. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have never seen such an improvement in cleaning results in my life. This technique removed old, stains, etc and produced impressive whites. I've used it 5 times in the last week and have re-washed all my tired looking bedsheets and white vests (tank tops). I'm a bloke and I left out the vinegar rinse because I wasn't concerned about softness plus I didn't have time to return/wait for the rinse cycle. Still fantastic results. First blog comment I've ever been motivated to write. Good job Shay.
Tanya on September 14, 2017:
This looks great and I want to try it. Have you or anyone else ever used dish soap in a front loading HE washer? I'm nervous that I could harm my washing machine. Thanks, Tanya
Lynn Skilling on August 22, 2017:
This is great~ Just tried it on sheets that had been stained yellow for years and they're almost crystal clean - Just running them through a second time - I was so impressed with the change from the first wash that I wanted to immediately try it again just to see if I could get the faint stain out. So thanks, thanks, thanks. Nothing else had made a dint in the yellow stains. I'm a fan for life now
Elena on August 15, 2017:
Im doing some deep cleaning today. Thank you for this list. For my usual laundry I use a regular amount of detergent, plus about a cup of vinegar and a cup of baking soda. Vinegar to get the sweat stains out, baking soda to get smells out, and together they make scrubbing bubbles. Then do a repeat rinse.
So i added some baking soda to your list too.
I'm an 'oldie. and your ideas are spot on . We used half a lemon inside a old sock [ tied off and whacked it 2 or 3 times before throwing it in .Was good for 2 washes on August 06, 2017:
sheets smell good and the citric oil dissoved as well. Lemon fresh was what the early advertisers used to promote YOU MADE A HOT LEMON DRINK WITH THE OTHER HALF OF YOUR LEMON
ELIZABETH on July 27, 2017:
I have found that if I let the sheets from the linen closet are allowed to air (I put them on my bed and pull the top sheet all the way to the bottom, letting it fall as flat on the floor as possible) for several hours, they don't have that folded up smell to them. I also do this to my guest bed before they arrive. Give it a try.
DF on July 16, 2017:
Tried this many times, did not work for me
Sherrie on June 16, 2017:
I am so thankful for your page! It has helped me with sheets, towels, and even some clothes! My problem wasn't oil stains, but odors. Now they are all gone! Magic!
Renee on May 29, 2017:
The stains faded a bit but did not completely go away. It probably would've been the same results if I just used detergent and hot water. I soaked it for 45 minutes too. Too bad, I was hoping i didn't have to put too much effort by the sounds of your instructions but I ended up having to scrub in some stain remover and then wash again. That worked!
Happy wife! on April 27, 2017:
This is the most amazing post. My bedsheets were 3 years old, and a significant body oil stain had built up over the years. I was going to get new sheets but came upon your post and my sheets came out squeaky clean with just one wash! I am so amazed. My front-load HE washer has a sanitize function and since I couldn't pre-soak the linen in the machine, I put it on the longest wash possible (just over 2 hours) with the usual detergent, 1/2 tsp dish detergent directly onto the sheets, and vinegar in the fabric softener compartment, just like you instructed. I was a little skeptical that this would work without the booster, but my sheets haven't been this clean since I bought them. Thank you so much!
Kortney on April 15, 2017:
Just a heads up, dryer sheets have fiberglass in them. I used them for years but found out about the fiberglass and stopped. FYI
Thank you for the tips to a deep clean for my sheets.
Donna on March 26, 2017:
My fabric headboard has a round stain where my husband rests his head!!! I need to figure away to clean it ....can put it in the washer :(
Allison on March 12, 2017:
I just tried this and it worked REALLY well. I've never been able to keep my ivory sheets clean. But there were a few places scattered around the sheets that had a brownish dotted pattern after I washed/dryed them. The holes in the washer (where the water drains) must have left them. I have NEVER had this problem with my washer before until I tried this mix of detergents/chemicals. I washed them again and most of the spots came out, except for a few places. Have you ever heard of this? I love this and want to do it on more items, but afraid now of what happened!
sudhir on March 04, 2017:
I use simple green heavy duty (degreaser). It is the best.
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on February 08, 2017:
@Jillwhite06 -- I have not used this method on clothes myself, so I can't speak from experience, but I would wager if the fabric is not delicate, it would work in a similar manner. That said, hot water does increase fading of colors & darks (and can shrink fabric too), so if that is a concern, maybe try the method with cold water. I don't think it will be as effective, but it's worth a shot.
Ashley on February 06, 2017:
I'm gonna give this a try. my cotton sheets haven't ever given me a problem with a smell before but are now. the other fabric ( I think polyester) stinks even though they just sit abs barely ever get used so I want to see if it will help with the smell of those
Jillwhite06 on February 06, 2017:
What about clothes? Can I use this same method for my husband's clothes? And I always use cold water, I'm afraid hot water will fade my sheets that are dark and my husband's clothes that are dark or colors.
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on January 20, 2017:
@Elaine - It's more of a timing thing than anything else. I recommend adding the detergent, dish soap, and borax in the same way you add detergent regularly, ie at the same time & in the same place in the washer. Add the vinegar in the fabric softener spot or, if your washer doesn't have one, a fabric softener dispenser (there is a link to one in the article). If you can't soak in the washer, just opt for the longest cycle available. I hope this helps!
Elaine on January 19, 2017:
My LG top loader does not allow the addition of borax, etc as the water fills the washer. There is not a soak cycle and if you stop it to soak it times out and cancels the wash. I have just added the detergent, dish soap, borax and vinegar (in the bleach cup) and used hot water . It does help. Any suggestions?
Lisa on January 17, 2017:
Wow! I wish I'd found this sooner. It worked really well! :)
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on January 16, 2017:
@Dodie - Yes I believe it is.
Dodie on January 15, 2017:
Is dish soap the same as washing up liquid in England?
Rosanne on December 20, 2016:
Appreciate all the info. I've been using the Borax and the vinegar. I'll also add the dish soap to see if that helps. My problem is body oil, but from a dog that now owns my new sofa - covered with a sheet to protect it, of course. Hence, the problem.
One tip about the Borax - it's also wonderful as a pure and safe insecticide. If you dilute it you can spray it around the house to prevent bugs and if you hapen to have a pet who gifts you with fleas you can sprinkle it dry onto furniture, carpets,etc. Leve for a day or 2 and vaccuum. Kills 'em dead! And all the while freshening the air!
a.nonymous on December 05, 2016:
sigh... didn't work for me.
Susan on November 13, 2016:
Jennifer on October 17, 2016:
I tried this and it worked!! Thank you so much for sharing!!
Margie on October 16, 2016:
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I had despaired of ever getting the stains out of my sheets. Your post was my last ditch final effort. I tried it first on my worst stains, and while it didn't totally remove them, they looked better than anything else I ever tried. I use your method every time I wash sheets now and I am no longer embarrassed by how they look. I also tried it to remove the musty smell in my towels and it worked for that also. Thank you again.
Pb on October 14, 2016:
So glad I found your tip. My sheets look like new. Thank you
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on October 09, 2016:
@kbmom -- I currently use a front load washer with this method. I have a section in the article called "Tips for Front-Load Washers" (it's towards the bottom).
kbmom on October 09, 2016:
I want to try this, as I am tired of spending a fortune on replacing sheets at least yearly. Same issue, no matter how often I launder, husband's side of sheets and his pillow cases are greasy yellow and gross in short time (yes, he showers immediately before bed). My question is, have you tried this in a front-loader washing machine? There is no covering the bedding with water and I have to be careful of over-sudsing. Has anyone tried this with a frontloader? Did you make any adjustments?
Courtney on September 10, 2016:
This worked great!! Thanks for the tips
TJ on September 09, 2016:
I can't thank you enough! I know all too well about the husband "oily stain". I just purchased brand new sheets and within no time, there it was. I washed them using your method yesterday and WOW. I even had an old pair of white pillow cases he stained yellow years ago and they came out white! I might try this method on some t-shirts that have a smell that just won't wash out and my husband's undershirts. Thanks again!
Jean on September 06, 2016:
To not change your bed every week is just gross!! I have sheets & a mattress pad from a male friend who moved & was going to throw them out due to heavily soiled & stained status. Have soaked it super hot water & Clorox overnight & then a 3rd time w/ detergent & Borax overnight. Better, but not gone. Will add the dish detergent & see.
firstname.lastname@example.org on August 24, 2016:
wish I could post pics to show you what a difference it made! Thank you so much! I will be washing the bulk of my laundry this way now!!!
Elizabeth on August 14, 2016:
I have been searching for a way to solve this problem for months! I tried your method today (soaked in the bathtub, rinse & spin in the washer, then ran a full cycle with all the same ingredients again) and, voila! It worked like a charm!!! Thank you so much for sharing!
a very happy wife with clean, all-the-same-color, oil-free, like-new sheets :)
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on August 13, 2016:
@nQuirer -- Your comment was a bit to long to publish, but in response to your questions:
I've used this method with two different washers with similar effects, so I don't think the water-to-detergent ratio is super important. If you're presoaking outside the washer, I'd probably do about 1/3 a bath-tub of water, or a big plastic tub. So long as the water covers the sheets, I think it'll work fine.
I also haven't had problems using a few different varieties of dish soap, so I don't think using a powerful "degreaser" is important either. All dish soaps are made to degrease, so it's just a matter of finding a scent you don't mind for laundry.
Lastly, I can't say there is a maximum soak time. Minimum soak time, maybe. I've soaked my sheets anywhere from 10-15 minutes up to 2 hours or so (when I forget about them). Obviously, if the basic method doesn't work, you can always play around with the variables: longer soak, more detergent, more dish soap, etc.
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on August 13, 2016:
@Andrew Tan -- I've been using this method for years without issue every time I wash my sheets. However, a hot water cycle is going to be less gentle than a cold water cycle, so I would be careful using this method with anything that is delicate or a keepsake.
Andrew Tan on August 12, 2016:
Hey Shay Marie,
I just tried it out on some yellowish body oil stains on my old football jerseys and it works. It's not perfect but the yellowish stains are no longer visible. I'm so happy. You're a life saver. Can I use it regularly on each wash?
Marlene on August 01, 2016:
Tried this and it worked really well. Glad to have these tips to get my stuff clean. And glad someone like you did all the research so I didn't have to. So thanks for your time and effort. I'll be passing these tips on to all my friends. Thanks again.
Marlene on August 01, 2016:
Hi. I'm trying this right now and hope it works. Will post after the results. Thanks so much for the tips.
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on July 27, 2016:
@Jackie -- I just ordered some wool dryer balls tonight and I remembered your comment here. I got them mostly because they are supposed to help soften fabrics and shorten dry times, but the description says they work well for mitigating static cling as well. They're about $10-$15 on Amazon (I got the "Smart Sheep" brand).
Jackie on July 22, 2016:
I already use vinegar for the rinse but still have static cling any suggestions on this? I will be trying this for my sheets thanks
Steve on July 09, 2016:
I can say that following mostly this method works very well for me. My sheets darken as I use them and regular laundry detergent (unless I wash them every week without fail) doesn't do the trick.
I used a combination of dish soap, borax and oxyclean in a bathtub to soak the sheets before washing. I would then rinse them and wash them as normal. After doing this the sheets looked and smelled new. No more darkened spots from where I sleep.
MR on July 08, 2016:
Thanks for this tip. I am going to try it soon.
Marlene on July 08, 2016:
I'm going to try this. I hope it works as well as it does for you. Will let you know. Thanks for your wonderful site. You explain it all so well a person can't go wrong.
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on July 05, 2016:
@Bree I think colored or patterned sheets would hide stains a little better. I have a set of medium toned grey/purple sheets that have been going strong for 5 years.
Bree on July 04, 2016:
Would you recommend a certain color for the sheets that stain less easily? We are now investing in new sheets again and I will try your method on those. We wash once a week hence the stains take longer to show up. We had the old sheets for four years now which was way too long.
Sara on July 04, 2016:
Wonderful, really has made favourite bedlinen crisp and new. I'm doing the whole cupboardful now! Thank you so much for this.
Paul on June 26, 2016:
I just tried this mixture on some very nice sheets and pillow cases, hoping for the best, since detergent, bleach and even stain remover hadn't worked. This combination made everything look like brand new. This is a great solution.
Misco on June 20, 2016:
I was pretty skeptical this was going to work. But after many years of buying new sheets every year and being really embarrassed anytime I had to take sheets with me anywhere (and FORGET if any of my girlfriends had to share them with me!). I figured, what the heck, I'll try anything. Well I am PLEASED to say this worked!!! I can't believe how well. They're not perfect, but the most noticeable dinginess is gone!! I only did white and beige thus far, but I have new hope that I might be able to venture out with colors again. Thank you sooooo much!!
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on June 12, 2016:
@Lauren - Hi Lauren. I don't know what kind of washing machine it is, so I can't make specific recommendations, but I'd choose whatever is the longest, hottest cycle. The "dish soap with the the flow of water" is just what I do to insure it is mixed in really well. Adding it the same way you add detergent would be fine.
Lauren on June 11, 2016:
Hi! Thanks for the tips! My question to you (and not sure if I skipped this somewhere) is what to do when your washing machines are in a apartment building? I don't have control with pouring the dish soap with the flow of water or the soak time. What is your recommendation? Thanks!
houston on May 24, 2016:
I just washed my expensive white sheets and it's amazing how great they look! I thought my husband had ruined them. This treatment removed the oily smell and waxy feel from his old pillow case (he is not allowed to use the nice ones), and the area from his back is white, not yellow! Thank you!!!!
FYI - I have a new top loader with no middle agitator, used the soak setting, and added more dish soap than three squirts.
Andreas. on March 24, 2016:
I had a kitchen towel oily and they are very hard to clean even in temps 70c it won't get completely clean. I washed it in 40c with one tbsp baking soda and it came out clean amazingly clean. I was amazed.