Always Wash New Sheets Before First Use - Here’s Why!

should you wash new sheets before you use them

It can be tricky to decide if you should wash your new sheets before laying them on your mattress. Should you keep them as they are to benefit from that crisp new feeling, or should you wash them first? 

We recommend that you always wash any new sheets before their first use. This article will explain why and give you some tips on how to do it effectively.

Should You Wash New Sheets?

You should always wash new sheets before putting them on your bed. During the manufacturing and transportation process, sheets are exposed to a range of chemicals and contaminants that can be irritating to your skin. Washing them in your machine and then letting them air dry outside is the best way to get them ready for use.

Most of the raw materials that go into making your sheets start out as course fibres. To make them pliable and soft, manufacturers need to expose them to a series of chemicals. This includes detergents, bleaches, biocides, brighteners, lubricants, dyes and stabilisers. Brands that offer wrinkle-free sheets often achieve this by treating them with formaldehyde.

These chemicals are even present in most organic sheets. Although the fibres are natural, they may still be treated with artificial chemicals. 

As well as being treated with chemicals, your sheets may collect dirt or pests before they arrive in your home. They will likely collect dust and dirty residues in the factory and can even be contaminated by pests like cockroaches and rats. Most deliveries of sheets spend some time waiting in warehouses or on loading docks. While they’re likely to be packed carefully, the packaging won’t be airtight, and some small creatures could still get in.

What Happens if You Don't Wash New Sheets?

Most of the chemicals and contaminants found in bed sheets are present in such tiny amounts you’ll never notice them. However, you’ll likely experience discomfort and irritation if you’ve got sensitive skin. This could include itchy skin, red patches, rashes, swollen eyes, wheezing and headaches.

You may also find that some new sheets smell unpleasant; this could be an intense smell of chemicals or mildew. Most people won’t suffer any adverse effects from using bed sheets before they’ve been washed. However, it’s always worth reducing your exposure to any toxins where possible.

tips to wash new sheets

How Should You Wash New Sheets for the First Time?

If you do choose to wash your sheets before using them, these are the steps we recommend:

  1. Remove your sheets from the packaging and unfold them. If there is more than one sheet, make sure you separate them from each other completely.
  2. Look at the care label to see if there are any specific instructions or warnings. Some sheets are dry clean only and should be taken to a laundromat to be treated professionally.
  3. Add your sheets to your washing machine. Be careful not to overload your machine, and it’s best to avoid adding other items.
  4. Add half a scoop of laundry detergent, half a cup of bicarbonate of soda and half a cup of white vinegar.
  5. Wash on a medium warm cycle.
  6. When the cycle is complete, remove them from the machine immediately. They may develop an unpleasant mildew smell if they’re left for too long while damp.
  7. You can either hang them up outside to air dry or place them in a tumble dryer. If you choose to use a dryer, select a low or medium heat. Even if you opt for air drying, it’s worth finishing them with a quick spin in the dryer. This ensures they’re completely dry and adds to the softness.

This method will thoroughly clean your sheets and have them smelling fresh and ready for use. For darker sheets, it’s best to use a cold cycle; however, if you’re concerned about germs or contamination, a 40 to 60 degree wash may be best. Further, when in use, it’s recommended to wash bedsheets weekly.

Do You Have to Wash Other Bedding Items Before Use?

We recommend that you wash all new bedding items before their first use. This includes sheets, pillowcases, blankets and doonas. 

Even items that won’t come in direct contact with your skin can transfer chemicals to your other sheets, so they should be thoroughly cleaned. If you suffer from allergies or have sensitive eyes, it’s essential to wash your pillowcases to prevent any uncomfortable reactions after your first few nights.

Large, heavy items like doonas may be too big for your machine. In this case, you will need to take them to a laundromat or give them a vigorous hand wash in a tub. If you have a sturdy enough washing line, it’s worth letting them dry outside for a thorough airing.


Whether you wash your new sheets or not ultimately comes down to personal choice. However, giving them a thorough clean before their first use may prevent an allergic reaction, irritation and long-term health concerns. It will also help you avoid any unpleasant smells and ensure that your bed has that relaxing fresh smell.

Feeling comfortable in your bed can impact how well you sleep. If your sheets smell or irritate your skin and eyes, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to drift off. As a result, we recommend that you always wash your sheets before their first use. To find out which sheets we prefer, check out the 7 Best Bed Sheets in Australia.

Tom Russell

Tom Russell

Tom Russell is a web content writer who specialises in health and wellness. He has a particular interest in sleep quality and how it can affect our day-to-day lives and overall health.

Five years ago, Tom was suffering from regular bouts of insomnia, which led him to explore the concept of sleep hygiene. He learned that a few changes and the introduction of a night-time routine could improve his chances of a good night's sleep. Now he avoids caffeine after 12 pm, puts all screens away at least an hour before bed, and sleeps like a log.

Tom and his wife share their home with two daughters and a lifetime's collection of books. He grew up in Norfolk, UK, and graduated in English and History at Anglia Ruskin University.