Removing Cotton Sheet Stains

Clean White Bed with Fresh Sheets.

Cotton Sheet Stain Removal

Cotton is a comfortable fabric to sleep on, it’s easy to care for, and most stains can be removed from sheets, blankets, and pillowcases thanks to the fabric’s unique qualities. With that being said, however, blood and other biological stains are a different story.

Removing biological stains and returning sheets to their whitest and brightest is a bit tougher task.

But don’t automatically think you have to throw out your stained cotton sheets. You may be able to save cotton bedding if you follow these effective steps for tough stain removal:

Stain Removal Basics

Learning the basics will help you have the best chance of removing a blood stain. Before you begin, here are some things to know:

  • For optimal stain removal, it’s best to attempt to remove the stain as soon as possible.
  • Heat sets almost every stain, making it impossible to remove.
  • Old stains are harder to treat than fresh stains.

Shampoo is the secret to removing stains. That’s right, plain old shampoo.

Blood and other biological stains can easily be removed from most washable cotton bedding by using shampoo and COLD water. Shampoo works really well to eliminate hours-old stains in minutes. Any type of shampoo will work, just make sure to use cold water. Here’s the procedure:

Removing Fresh Blood Stains

  1. Pour a cupful of shampoo on the stain, making sure that shampoo touches every part of the stain
  2. Rub the stained area until the shampoo is completely absorbed
  3. Rinse out with cold water. Continue scrubbing the bedding
  4. Repeat if needed
  5. When the blood stain is gone, launder as usual in cold water

Removing OLD Blood Stains

If the stain is older than 48 hours you will probably need to soak the cotton sheets first in cold water and/or with an enzyme pre-soak, then launder in cold water. Check the stain and do not put the sheets through the dryer until the stain is gone. Remember that heat will set the stain in.

If the blood stain still remains, try using a few drops of 3% hydrogen peroxide from the medicine cabinet. Pour directly on to the stain and let it sit for a few minutes. Rinse and repeat.

Whitening / Removing Yellow Discolorations

Do you love the look of clean white cotton sheets but notice that yours are yellowed even though you’ve used chlorine bleach? What you may not know is that bleach isn’t the “cure-all” stain remover and whitener some people assume. It does not remove many causes of yellowish colored stains on cotton as the yellowing is actually material (usually biological such as urine, sweat or other bodily fluid) that has bonded to the cotton fabric. Continues use of bleach will actually cause your sheets to yellow further because bleach oxidizes, yellows cotton and then ultimately destroys cotton fibers!

To brighten, whiten and keep you sheets looking new try any of the following:

  • Borax
  • Oxyclean or any “oxygenated” detergent
  • Washing Soda

These products are effective and natural whiteners and brighteners that can be used on both colors and white fabric. They work well on biological stains such as urine, sweat, vomit etc. These products also remove the embedded minerals left in the fabric that cause the yellowing. To use borax, oxygen cleaners or washing soda:

  • For Fresh Stains: Start with cold water.
  • For Set in Stains and to Whiten or Brighten: Use the warmest water that your fabric can handle.

Small Stains

  1. Make a paste using either cold water for a fresh stain or warm water for a set-in stain
  2. Apply it to the area
  3. Let it sit for 20 minutes
  4. Rinse but do not dry until the stain is gone


  1. Add the Borax, Oxyclean or washing soda according to box directions to your regular load of laundry – Do not use bleach!
  2. Use the warmest water that is recommended for your fabric
  3. Stop your washer midway through agitation to soak for 20 minutes
  4. Return your washer to regular cycle
  5. Check sheets to make sure stain is gone and sheets look brighter before placing in the dryer.

Fresh stains, old stains, or just whitening and brightening can be an overwhelming task to some but with these tips you can inexpensively eliminate most stains safely and effectively from cotton fabrics. Recent stains will be gone in seconds, and set-in tough stains might need some pre-soaking but it is worth it to save a set of soft, comfy, white and stain free cotton sheets.