Washing Sheets – Caregiving 101: How to Remove Stains



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As a caregiver, you know that washing sheets are a big part of your job.

Complicating that job of doing the laundry are the stains that may be found on a patient’s bedding: blood, urine, feces, yellow stains, sweat stains, and even wine stains.

So how do you remove the stains easily without damaging the fabric of your bedding?

Different Types of Fabric

The common fabrics of sheets and pillowcases have changed over the years. Your grandmother may have used sheets that were all cotton. Chances are, your bed sheets are something else.

You may have polyester and cotton sheets. Nowadays, there are sheets made of bamboo and microfiber. Different fabrics require slightly different methods of washing and stain removal.

So read the label and see what fabric your bed sheets are made of because that makes a difference in effective stain removal.

Laundry Code Charts

First, find out what those symbols on your sheet and pillowcase labels mean. Tide.com has great downloadable laundry code charts that can help you interpret the symbols on your labels. There’s also a chart for dryer use, bleaching, and ironing.

Blood Stains

Fresh drops of blood should be removed from the bedsheet as soon as you notice them. Wash them off with cold water, not hot water, because hot water will cause the blood to set in and make a stain harder to remove.

If the blood mark is particularly stubborn, flush it under running water for several minutes and leave the bedding to soak in a container of fresh cold water for an hour or two.

Apply a stain removal chemical and wash according to the fabric care label. If there is already a blood stain on the bedding, do the same thing, soak it in cold water, apply a stain removal chemical, then wash thoroughly.

Urine and Feces Stains

Urine and feces contain proteins. Washing sheets with urine and feces should be soaked in cold water before beginning the wash cycle.

Add ½ cup baking soda to the cold water to remove the odors. Agitate the sheets in cold water to avoid setting in a stain.

When you are ready to wash them, use your usual laundry detergent and the hottest water recommended for the type of sheet fabric.

You might use disinfectant, such as bleach if allowed by the fabric care label.

Soak the fabric in cold water with a more robust solution of a brand of stain treatment for old dried urine and feces stains.

Yellow Stains

Yellow stains are caused by body oil and sweat. To remove them:

  • Use a stain remover or a mixture of baking soda and water and apply it directly onto the stain.
  • Let it sit for a few minutes before washing the sheets in the hottest water recommended for the type of sheet fabric.
  • Avoid using bleach as it can cause yellowing.

Wine Stains

Wine stains can be tricky to remove, but if you act quickly, you can save your sheets.

Blot the stain with a clean cloth, then mix 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

Apply the paste to the stain and let it sit for 30 minutes before washing the sheets in the hottest water recommended for the type of sheet fabric.

Oil Stains

Oil stains can be removed by using baking soda and white vinegar.

Sprinkle baking soda on the stain and pour a small amount of white vinegar over it.

Mix the two together to form a paste and apply it to the stain.

Let it sit for 30 minutes before washing the sheets in the hottest water recommended for the type of sheet fabric.

Ink Stains

Ink stains can be removed using a mixture of equal parts rubbing alcohol and water.

Apply the solution to the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before washing the sheets in the hottest water recommended for the type of sheet fabric.

Avoid using bleach, as it can cause the ink to spread.

Silk Sheets

Silk sheets require special care when treating stains. Avoid using hot water and use cold water to rinse the stain.

Add a small amount of mild detergent and gently rub the stain before washing the sheets in cold water.

Avoid using bleach and fabric softener.

More Great Ideas

Some of our readers have shared ideas about getting free or low-cost sheets.

One reader said that a local hospital has a sheet sale occasionally where she buys lots of white hospital bed sheets cheaply, so she will have plenty of extras.

Thrift stores may have sheets that are used but are not stained. A Twin-Extra Long size will fit most hospital beds.

If washing sheets becomes a burden, it may be possible to use disposable sheets, such as Medline disposable sheets, which are made of plastic and paper-like fiber and can be bought in quantity.

The Medline disposables come only in flat sheets.

PeelAways are the brand name of disposable bed sheets for Twin XL beds or hospital Beds.

The fitted sheet features five layers that can be used for 7-10 days at a time, and when you are ready, peel the top away for another layer below.

You Got This!

Washing Sheets and other bedding is a regular task for caregivers, so educate yourself about sheet fabrics and arm yourself with laundry and household products that can help you wash out those problems.

Or, replace your sheets with some you won’t have to wash but can replace when soiled.

Either way, you’ve made progress in conquering yet another caregiving task!

In summary

It is crucial to be familiar with different types of fabrics and the appropriate cleaning and stain removal methods for each.

Always read the label and use laundry code charts to ensure proper care.

Household products such as baking soda, white vinegar, bleach, detergent, and hydrogen peroxide can help get stains out of sheets and neutralize odors.

Alternative options, such as buying new sheets or using disposable sheets, can also be beneficial in keeping the bedding clean. Follow these tips and save your sheets looking fresh and new.

Stay Safe and Healthy at Home!