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Here’s Why Your Bed Sheets Turn Yellow…And An Easy Way to Make Them White Again

Mattress experts reveal everything you need to know about banishing those gross yellow stains.


Photo: Shutterstock

Crisp-white sheets are a joy to sleep on. However, the unfortunate thing about white is it’s the easiest color to stain, so it probably won’t take long for even the brightest sheets to start fading and turning yellow.

Here, the bed specialists at have revealed everything you need to know about these yellow stains, from why they occur to how to remove them.

“Sheets yellow over time because of the buildup of dead skin cells, sweat, and body oils,” says mattress expert Amy Murphy. “Washing your sheets frequently and showering before bed can help reduce the amount of oil and dirt on your sheets and delay yellowing. The good thing is there are tons of ways to mellow the yellow and get your sheets looking brand new again. Below, we’ll share some solutions you can use to remove stains as well as prevent them from happening in the first place.”

There are many ways to get stains out of your best sheets and make them bright as new. The stain-cleaning method you choose will depend on several factors, including your tolerance of chemicals, the delicacy of your sheets, and the severity of the stains.

Baking Soda

A tried-and-true solution for memory-foam mattress cleaning, baking soda is also great for sheets, because it lifts stains rather than lightening them. That means it’s gentle enough for most machine-washable fabrics, even delicate ones. It’s also easy to use. Just add half a cup of baking soda to your regular detergent and run the sheets through your normal wash cycle.

White Vinegar Solution

White vinegar is a natural solution that can help lighten stains and remove unwanted color from white bedding. Mix a vinegar solution with a ratio of a half-cup of white vinegar to every gallon of water, and soak your sheets for an hour before machine washing.

Liquid Bluing

The cool primary color blue counters the warm primary color yellow, so if your white sheets have a yellow tinge, rather than being stained with food or beverages, liquid bluing might be your best solution. Avoid directly adding the blue liquid to your sheets, as it could stain them. Rather, dilute it based on the instructions that come with the bottle, and pour it into your washer along with your regular detergent. Never put liquid bluing in your washer’s dispenser, because it can stain that as well.

Lemon Juice

If you’re looking for an all-natural whitener, lemon juice might be it. Citric acid is a natural bleaching agent, so squeezing a lemon into your detergent before washing your sheets will help remove yellow stains. It also has the added benefit of eliminating odor and leaving your sheets with a pleasant lemony smell.


Sold as a whitening laundry booster, this white, powdered mineral can be found at most stores. To whiten your sheets using Borax, mix half a cup of powder per gallon of water, and soak your bed linens in this solution for around eight hours. Then wash with a mild detergent.


For stubborn stains, it might be best to bring out the big guns. You will need to be careful using chlorine bleach on white fabrics, because it can react with your body oils and dead skin cells and actually deepen the yellow cast on your sheets. For that reason, you should wash your sheets with regular laundry detergent first. Then, you can run them through another wash cycle with half a cup of bleach.

“Even if you can whiten your sheets, they may not feel as soft and supple as they once did,” says Murphy. “When they’re looking threadbare and feeling like a thin rag wrapped around your body, it’s time to look for a new sheet set. It’s usually best to wash your sheets about once a week, and this is especially true for white bed sheets. Any buildup of skin, oil, and dirt can sap their whiteness and leave them looking dull and yellowish.”

Looking for ways to prevent your sheets from yellowing? Be sure to:

  • Avoid eating in bed to keep spills from staining your sheets.
  • Launder your white sheets separate from colors.
  • Remove makeup before bed.
  • Don’t use fabric softeners (they can deposit color).
  • Use warm water—warm and hot water do a better job of lifting stains from white and light-colored linen or cotton sheets. It also has the added benefit of killing allergens.
About The Author

Julie is the co-founder of Well Defined and a longtime influencer and advocate in the wellness world. Along with her work at Well Defined, she is an executive recruiter and marketing specialist for Hutchinson Consulting. She is also a consultant and content strategist for numerous wellness brands. She is the former editor-in-chief and publisher of American Spa and was named a 2019 Folio Top Woman in Media in the Industry Trailblazers category and a 2018 winner of ISPA’s Innovate Award. She is also a seasoned journalist, specializing in spa, travel, health, fitness, wellness, sustainability, and beauty. She has been published in Departures,, E! Online,, Insider’s Guide to Spas, Luxury Travel Advisor, Marin Magazine, Ocean Home, Smart Meetings, Spa Asia, and Travel Agent.