Washing Sheets – Caregiving 101: How to Remove Stains
As a caregiver, you know that washing sheets is a big part of your job. Complicating that job of doing the laundry are the stains that may be found on a patient’s bedding: blood, urine, feces. So how do you remove the stains easily without damaging the fabric of your bedding?
Different Types of Fabric
The common fabrics of sheets and pillowcases have changed over the years. Your grandmother may have used sheets that were all cotton. Chances are, your bed sheets are something else. You may have polyester and cotton sheets. Nowadays, there are sheets made of bamboo and of microfiber. Different fabrics require slightly different methods of washing and stain removal. So read the label and see what kind of fabric your bed sheets are made of because that makes a difference in effective stain removal.
Laundry Code Charts
First, find out what those symbols on your sheet and pillowcase labels mean. Tide.com has great downloadable laundry code charts that can help you interpret the symbols on your labels. There’s also a chart for the dryer use, bleaching and ironing.
Fresh drops of blood should be removed from the bedsheet as soon as you notice them. Wash them off with cold water, not hot water, because hot water will cause the blood to set in and will make a stain harder to remove. If the blood mark is particularly stubborn, flush it under running water for several minutes and then leave the bedding to soak in a container of fresh cold water for an hour or two. Apply a stain removal chemical and wash according to the fabric care label. If there is already a blood stain on the bedding, do the same thing, soak in cold water, apply a stain removal chemical, then wash thoroughly.
Urine and Feces Stains
Urine and feces contain proteins. Washing sheets with urine and feces on them should be soaked in cold water first before beginning the wash cycle. In the cold water, add ½ cup of baking soda to take away the odors. Agitate the sheets in cold water to avoid setting in a stain. When you are ready to wash them, use your usual laundry detergent and the hottest water recommended for the type of sheet fabric. You might use disinfectant, such as bleach if that is allowed by the fabric care label.
For old dried urine and feces stains, soak the fabric in cold water with a stronger solution of a brand of stain treatment.
More Great Ideas
Some of our readers have shared ideas about getting free or low cost sheets. One reader said that a local hospital has a sheet sale occasionally where she buys lots of white hospital bed sheets cheaply, so she will have plenty of extras. Thrift stores may have sheets that are used, but are not stained. A Twin-Extra Long size will fit most hospital beds.
If washing sheets becomes a burden, it may be possible to use disposable sheets, such as the Medline disposable sheets which are made of plastic and paper-like fiber and which can be bought in quantity. The Medline disposables come only in flat sheets, I believe.
PeelAways are the brand name of disposable bed sheets for Twin XL beds or hospital Beds. The fitted sheet features five layers that can be used for 7-10 days at a time, and when you are ready, just peel the top away for another layer below.
You Got This!
Washing Sheets and other bedding is a regular task for caregivers, so educate yourself about sheet fabrics and arm yourself with laundry and household products that can help you wash out those problems. Or, replace your sheets with some you won’t have to wash, but can just replace when soiled.
Either way, you’ve made progress in conquering yet another caregiving task!