Keep linens fresh and towels fluffy with simple care tips from Martha.
To prevent pilling, start with towels made from quality fibers. Look for 100 percent Egyptian or pima cotton, which have long fibers and are less likely to produce lint, which results in pills. Combed cotton, which has thread that is combed before being spun to remove the shorter fibers that form pills, is another option. When caring for towels, keep in mind that pills result from long fibers rubbing against short fibers. This sort of contact occurs mostly in the wash, so laundering towels on their own should help. Overdrying can weaken fibers and lead to pilling, so don't dry towels for longer than necessary.
Often you'll find the manufacturer's label on the top or bottom, near the corner of the sheet. If your sheets don't have labels, you can make your own and attach them to the top center of each fitted sheet so it's easy to lay it out correctly when making your bed. Sew a brightly colored loop of machine-washable trim, such as grosgrain ribbon, bias tape, or twill tape to each sheet, securing it at the elastic edge. Alternatively, mark the elastic at the center of one end with a fabric pen.
Minimize wrinkles in sheets by taking care when drying them. First, don't overfill the dryer. Second, remove sheets from the machine while they are still slightly damp, and fold them immediately, smoothing the fabric as you work. If sheets do dry completely or end up sitting in the dryer after the cycle, you can reduce the resulting wrinkles by adding a clean, damp washcloth to the load and running the machine until wrinkles have relaxed, 5 to 10 minutes.
Of course, you can always iron just the portions of the sheets you see when the bed is made: the top of the flat sheet and the pillowcases. Another trick: Once sheets are on the bed, quickly smooth out wrinkles with a garment steamer.
A variety of circumstances can cause yellowing: age, storing in an overly warm place, exposure to prolonged sunlight, or too much detergent or chlorine bleach. Hard water could also be culpable; in this case, try mechanical or packaged water softeners, and use a rust remover that's safe for fabrics to treat stains.
To whiten pillowcases, start by looking at care labels to determine if bleach can be used. Though chlorine bleach is effective, it can also weaken fabric and should only be used when whitening is truly needed. Oxygen or all-fabric bleach is gentler and may be added to the wash every time you clean whites. Whiteners and brighteners are an option for fabrics that cannot be bleached. For a natural whitening remedy, fill a pot with water and sliced lemons. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Soak cases for an hour and launder as usual.
Although the airy scent is a plus, line-dried towels can feel stiff. Try using less detergent, especially if you soften your water. Or add 1/4 cup of white vinegar or baking soda to the wash (the vinegar smell dissipates during the rinse cycle). Before hanging each towel, and again once it's dry, shake it firmly -- you should hear a sharp snap. Drape one short end over the line so it overlaps by several inches, and then clip. Towels hung this way dry faster and have fewer wrinkles. If these steps don't produce fluffier results, toss the towels in the dryer while still a bit damp, for about five minutes.