Tips on How to Launder Your Fine Bedding

Various fillers, fibers and fabrics such as down, silk, cotton and wool are used to create fine bed linens. The most important rule when laundering fine bedding is,"always follow the manufacturer's tag instructions". While laundering may be less expensive than dry cleaning, dry cleaning is known to prolong the life of your fine bedding. Don't assume that it is okay to launder all your fine bed linens; ALWAYS follow the manufacturer's tag instructions.

Methods of Dry Cleaning: Conventional Dry Cleaning and Organic Dry Cleaning

Chemical dry cleaning uses synthetic or petroleum cleaning solvents to clean, rather than water which can swell textile fibers. Traditionally, dry cleaners have used chemical solvents since they prevent wrinkles and fabric shrinkage. The most common chemical solvent used is perchloroethylene (PERC). However, there has been much concern over the use of PERC, because of potential health risks to both employees and customers. It has also been classified as a probable carcinogen. In addition, it continues to emit gas after cleaning and is considered to be an environmental pollutant.

Organic dry cleaning uses natural solvents (most often liquid carbon dioxide) to clean. Other "green" options are the use of silicone solvents, wet cleaning (a system which uses biodegradable soap and water, along with a computer controlled dryer and stretching system to prevent shrinkage) and alternative petroleum based (usually hydrocarbon) solvents. Organic dry cleaning is comparable or slightly higher in price than chemical dry cleaning, but is a healthier choice for both you and the environment.

Washing or Spot Cleaning Down Bedding: Down Pillows, Down Comforters and Featherbeds

Hypoallergenic down, which is most often used in down pillows, has gone through a washing and rinsing process many times to remove dirt and allergens. Down and feathers are required to meet government cleanliness criteria to be considered hypoallergenic.

Traditionally, dry cleaning has been the cleaning method of choice for down pillows, down comforters and featherbeds. If cleaned too often or improperly, down clusters have a tendency to break. Featherbeds can be spot cleaned and professionally dry cleaned every few years. Most people dry clean their down bedding once every year or two to prevent breakage and their down pillows once a year or only when necessary. Although down pillows and down comforters may be washed at home, home washing machines and dryers are usually not designed to handle such heavy loads.

It is possible to clean down pillows and down comforters at home with water and a down wash, such as Le Blanc Down Wash. This will help preserve the natural oils of down and feathers and keep your down pillows and down comforters looking fresh. It is important to throughly dry your down pillows and down comforters to avoid mildew growth. Adding a tennis ball to your dryer with your down bedding will help fluff and evenly dry your bedding.

Washing and Spot Cleaning Silk Sheets: Sandwashed Silk sheets and Charmeuse Silk Sheets

Sandwashed silk is washed with very fine lava rocks or rubber/silicon balls resulting in a softer fabric with a suede-like feel. Silk Charmeuse has a luxurious shine and is often referred to as the silk of emperors. Silk is naturally hypoallergenic, resilient and resistant to wrinkles. When home laundering your silk sheets, it is natural to assume washing items in high temperatures is best to assure the dissolution of allergens. As silk is naturally hypoallergenic, this is not necessary.

When home laundering your charmeuse silk sheets or your sandwashed silk sheets, either handwash or use a gentle wash cycle in cold water. Cold water will help to preserve the shine of your charmeuse sheets.

A mild soap or silk wash, such as Le Blanc Silk Wash, should be used when lauundering silk charmeuse sheets and sandwashed silk sheets as harsh chemicals will damage silk fiber. Strong cleaning agents are usually high in alkaline, which silk is also sensitive to. Silk washes are also good for spot cleaning as they are designed to remove tough stains from delicate silk fabrics, while protecting the elasticity of the silk fibers.

If using Woolite, be sure to use Woolite HE ,which contains no bleach, phosphates or enzymes and whose cleaning agents are biodegradable. Perwoll and Wool Wash are also considered "silk-friendly". If handwashing, never wring water out of silk as it may stretch the fabric. Instead, pat silk sheets, pillowcases and comforters dry with a towel.

If line drying silk, be sure to avoid the sun, as the sun can cause silk to change texture or become discolored. If machine drying silk use a low temperature or no heat setting as heat is hard on silk. It is important not to overdry as shrinkage may occur. Shrinkage is not as much of a concern when laundering sandwashed silk. If ironing, use low heat and never iron on the face side of silk.

Washing Cotton Bed Sheets: Percale Sheets, Cotton Sateen Sheets and Egyptian Cotton Sheets

Cotton percale refers to a closely woven, high thread count combed cotton fabric. Thread count refers to the number of horizontal and vertical threads used to create one square inch of fabric. Most people think percale refers to the fabric content, however, it really refers to the weave of the fabric. Cotton percale sheets typically have a thread count of 180 or more and can be easily home laundered. Cotton Percale is known to wash well and last for many years.

Cotton sateen is generally made from combed thread, but uses a finer thread than cotton percale. It is woven differently and generally has a higher thread count than percale as finer threads are used. Cotton sateen sheets have a tendency to lose their sheen after the first washing, due to the type of construction of a sateen weave. However, ironing cotton sateen sheets after washing will immediately smooth the fibers and restore the luster and silkiness of the fabric.

Egyptian cotton is considered to be one of the finer types of cotton, as it refers to a long staple fine cotton usually grown in northern Africa. Due to the long staple fiber of Egyptian cotton, bedding made of this fabric is durable as well as silky smooth. Long staple cotton is less likely to become rough, pill and exhibit surface balling, all which detract from the longevity of a fabric. Hand picked long staple Egyptian cotton is even more durable as hand picking, rather than mechanical picking, leaves cotton fibers straight, long and intact.

Egyptian cotton that has undergone a mercerization process is the most durable type of Egyptian cotton. Mercerization is a process whereby a cotton yarn or fabric is passed through a controlled heat atmosphere (termed singeing) and then treated with a solution of Caustic Soda (sodium hydroxide). This process burns any fuzz off of the cotton yarn and ultimately results in cotton that has a higher luster and dye affinity. Subsequently, repeated washing is less likely to lead to fading, in color or luster, of your mercerized Egyptian cotton sheets. A little known, but very important fact, is that Egyptian cotton is the best type of cotton fabric for allergy sufferers. This is due to the fact that good Egyptian cotton is hand-picked from organically-grown harvests.

Always wash your cotton percale sheets, cotton sateen sheets and Egyptian cotton sheets in a separate load than your regular laundry, as zippers, hooks and buttons have a tendency to damage cotton linens. Take care to always use a gentle wash cycle with a cold temperature setting, and a mild detergent. Quality, pH balanced detergents, such as Tide, are recommended when laundering fine cotton linens. Chlorinated bleach is not recommended as it will damage quality cotton bedding fibers over time. If necessary, non-chlorinated bleach can be used with white and ivory cotton linens.

Removing cotton sheets promptly after washing will reduce wrinkling. Shaking linens out prior to placing them in the dryer will reduce wrinkling as well. When machine drying, use a warm temperature setting, remove sheets while they are still slightly damp and hang to finish drying. After remaking your bed, smooth your cotton sheets by hand to minimize wrinkles. Ironing is a matter of choice but not usually necessary for cotton sheets. However, some people prefer to iron their cotton sheets for a crisper appearance.

Washing and Dry Cleaning Wool Bedding: Matress Pads, Wool Toppers and More

Wool is a fiber most often used for blankets, mattress pads and toppers. Wool is very durable, resistant to dust mites and in the case of wool mattress pads and wool toppers, it has the added benefit of providing an additional layer of comfort. Wool blankets, wool mattress pads and wood toppers are naturally flame-retardant. As with silk, it is not necessary to wash wool in very hot water to rid the wool of allergens, as wool is naturally resistant to allergens. Some wool bedding may be home laundered in cold water and mild detergent, such as Perwoll or Wool Wash, providing the manufacturer's tag so indicates.

If the manufacturer's label reads "Dry clean only" - best advice is to comply. Traditional chemical or newer organic dry cleaning methods may be used to clean wool. As organic dry cleaning is healthier and eco-friendly, it is definitely an option to consider. If home drying wool, it is suggested that you use a no heat setting on your dryer to avoid shrinkage. Wool mattress pads and wool toppers can be left to dry in the sun. Wool can also be spot cleaned with mild detergent and water. Never use bleach on wool as bleach dissolves wool fiber.

To protect, and avoid excessive laundering of your fine bedding, pillow protectors and mattress protectors are highly recommended. Pillow protectors and mattress protectors provide a healthier sleep environment, as they are helpful in preventing dust mites and bacteria that may cause serious health problems.