by Amber Cook
Flannel sheets are some of the warmest, softest sheets available -- perfect for cold winter nights. They are also wonderful in the summer; you won't even need a separate blanket. With proper care, flannel sheets stay soft for a long time, whether you use them all year long or you reserve them for the winter months.
Use vinegar: The first time you wash your flannel sheets, wash them with one-half cup white vinegar. This will help keep pills (balled-up fibers) from forming on your sheets. It will also set the color in the fabric to help resist fading.
Avoid fabric softener: Fabric softener leaves chemicals behind that stiffen fabric fibers and reduce flannel's softness over time. The buildup from the softener also increases the appearance of pills. Instead, put a few clean tennis balls in the dryer with your sheets. The movement of the balls in the dryer reduces the clumping of fabric fibers.
Don't use the same set too often: Keep two or three sets of sheets on hand and rotate them to extend the life of all the sets. With three sets of sheets, you can keep one set on your bed, one in the laundry, and one tucked away in your linen closet. Rotating your sheet sets will help you not wear out any one set too quickly.
Wash your sheets in warm water: Washing sheets in hot water can shrink the fabric fibers and reduce softness. Some manufacturers even recommend cold water. Using warm or cold water will also help minimize fading.
Air-dry your sheets as often as possible: When you let flannel fabric dry at room temperature or on a line, you reduce the chances of pills forming. Drying your sheets at a high heat will wear out your sheets faster.
Spot treat stains: Deal with stains promptly and pretreat stains without scrubbing. Scrubbing sets stains rather than removing them and can wear holes in the fabric that are difficult to repair. Pour water on a stain and then blot it with a clean cloth to remove any discoloring.
Avoid heavy lotions: Consider applying lotions in the morning instead of at night right before bed. Oils in lotions that you put on before bed can increase the occurrence of pills on your sheets.