House Keeping: Clean and comfortable bed linens

A tidy resting place is good for you and will prolong the life of your mattress, duvets and pillows. Here's how to care for them best.

Woman Making Bed (

On average, we spend 2,920 hours a year in bed. We all know that a good night's sleep is essential for our health and well-being, but caring for a bed correctly is easy to forget. When you consider that the average person loses up to a pint of sweat each night and bedding can harbour thousands of dust mites, the importance of a proper bed care routine becomes clear.


Turn a sprung mattress four times a year, from side to side and top to toe. This prevents damage to the springs and distributes wear evenly. Write four reminders on your calendar so you don't forget. It's a good idea to label the head and footer ends of your mattress on both sides with four sticky paper labels: January, April, July, October. Turn your mattress in those months and make sure that the correct date label is at the header of the bed, facing upwards each time.

Vacuum your mattress every month using a brush attachment to remove dust mites and dead skin cells.

Fold back bedding every morning to let the mattress air and allow moisture evaporate. If you go on holiday, strip the bedding and bed linen off completely so the mattress can breathe and dry out while you're away.

Always place a thick, absorbent, machine-washable protector on top of your mattress underneath the bottom sheet. Not only does this provide a comfy quilted layer to cushion you while you sleep, but it will also absorb sweat and keep your mattress cleaner for longer. Wash the protector every two weeks and make sure it is completely dry before placing it back on to the bed.


Air your duvet every day. Shake it and pull it back from the mattress. Turn it every few days, too. This will help to keep the feathers or synthetic filling evenly distributed and reduce moisture inside the fibres.

Wash your duvet every two months in a commercial washing machine or have it done by a professional (it is probably too big for a domestic machine). If you do it yourself in a launderette, dry the duvet on a low heat setting in a commercial tumble dryer. Take it out and give it a good shake every now and again to break up damp clusters of filling.

Hang the dry duvet outside to air for at least 24 hours after tumble drying to make certain all the filling is totally dry before you put it back on the bed.


Always use pillow protectors or layer two pillow cases on each pillow to protect the inner pad from sweat and dirt. Wash pillow cases and protectors every week, and pillow inners every month.

Fluff, air and turn your pillows every day when you make the bed.

If you have synthetic pillows, wash them according to the manufacturer's instructions label. Usually, it's safe to wash pillows with synthetic fillings in your washing machine and tumble dryer. Dry the pillows on a low heat setting and add a few clean tennis balls or tumble dryer balls to help fluff out the pillows so they retain their shape.

Down or feather pillows are difficult to dry thoroughly at home, so professional cleaning is recommended. If you want to attempt washing them yourself, only wash two pillows at a time and only use a small amount of detergent. Set your machine on a delicate cycle. Allow plenty of time for them to tumble dry, and add tennis balls as you would with synthetic pillows. Take the pillows out of the machine every now and again to fluff them up by hand and move the feathers around. If it's a sunny day, air the pillows outside for a few hours afterwards to make sure they're completely dry inside.

Replace synthetic pillows every year. The fibres of the filling will break down over time and won't support your head effectively. Feather pillows should last longer, for two or three years.

Bed linens

Wash all sheets, duvet covers and pillow cases every week on the highest temperature shown on the washing instruction label.

Avoid washing cotton bed linen with other fabrics such as polyester. It can cause pilling (those little fuzzy balls that can form).

Dry all bed linen thoroughly before putting back on the bed. Remove it from the tumble dryer while it's still warm so it doesn't wrinkle, then fold it immediately and you won't need to iron it. If it's already cool and creased, put it back in the dryer with a moist, clean cloth for a couple more minutes.

Dry white bed linen outside in the sun, if possible, so it will bleach naturally.

Store unused bed linen in a cupboard or basket so that air can circulate, rather than sealing it in a plastic container where it might become musty and damp.

Repel moths and stale odours by placing lavender bags and cedar-scented wooden balls with your bed linen when you store it.

Have at least three sets of bed linen and rotate them. Keep a set in the cupboard, a set on the bed and a set in the wash. This ensures that no one set receives more wear than another.

Special care

Silk duvets and pillows Leave cleaning to a professional. Silk fibres are delicate and easily damaged by heat in domestic washing ­machines.

Silk bed linen Best washed on a silk setting or a cool, 30-degree machine wash. Place it inside a cotton pillowcase before you machine-wash it to protect it.

Pure linen sheets Launder in a domestic washing machine, generally at 60 degrees for plain white linen and 40 degrees for colour but always check labels. Never dry pure linen in a tumble dryer because it can shrink. Hang it outside and let it dry naturally instead.