For all of the time you spend choosing the best bed sheets, towels, and curtains, you may be surprised when you find yourself replacing your fabric items. None of these items are lifetime purchases, and you can expect to replace the linens in your home every two to 10 years.
There are some things you can do to extend the life of your linens, and knowing how long you can expect each of these items to last lets you make smart budgeting choices.
The most common material for bed linens is cotton or cotton blends with rayon or polyester. For long life and durability, it is hard to beat 100-percent cotton, though. The drawback is the expense, with these fine sheets costing significantly more than blends, which are available in a wide range of price points.
Follow the directions on your bed linens when washing. Cool or warm is easier on them than a hot-water wash, although if the instructions for your particular bedding allow for it, hot washes are recommended after someone has been sick.
Dry bedding just to the point where they're no longer wet — overdrying until they burn your fingers or are crispy speeds wear and can shrink the material.
Your first indication that your towels are wearing out may be that they don't absorb as well as they once did. They may also show signs of wear, such as becoming stiff or fraying around the edge. Finally, a sour smell even when freshly laundered indicates your towels are at the end of their lifespan.
Generally, towels last for around 2 years before you'll start to notice them becoming less effective. However, if you decide to really splurge and go for the recently popularized linen towel or good organic cotton, you might find they last closer to a decade with proper care. Some people even get high-quality linen passed down from their parents.
Hang your towels and washcloths after each use. If you live in an area with low humidity, hanging on a hook may work, but generally, it is best to spread them out on a towel rack to ensure they dry completely in just a few hours.
Don't go too long between washings. Washing your towels every three uses is a good rule, although if the linens remain damp for more than a few hours for any reason, it's best to throw them in the washing machine.
Wash them in hot water unless the instructions tell you otherwise, and skip the fabric softener and dryer sheets, which can affect the absorbency of your towels.
The lifespan of your table linens is variable. Linens that are just pulled out for special occasions will last longer than tablecloths that are used daily. Generally, expect to get about 10 years of life from tablecloths, cloth napkins, and table runners.
For seasonal table linens, make sure they are laundered before putting them away after the holiday or season, and store them in a clean, climate-controlled area.
The most effective way to extend the life of your table linens is to catch stains early. Take a good look after each use, and treat any grease or other food marks immediately. Blot the mess up, pretreat if necessary, and put it straight in the wash or send it to the dry cleaners. If you wash your table linens at home, check that the stain is entirely gone when you pull it out of the washer. If you throw it in the dryer while it's still visible, it will usually set in and become extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of.
Your dishcloths and towels can last up to 10 years. Use common sense when determining if your kitchen linens are in good shape. Towels used for drying will last longer than dishcloths used for scrubbing and cleaning up messes. The first sign that your kitchen linens are wearing out will probably be a sour smell when they are wet. If you know they are clean, but they have an odor, it's time to pitch them.
The easiest way to extend the life of your kitchen linens is to hang them to dry after each use. Balling them up and pitching them in the laundry room until you are ready to wash encourages the growth of bacteria that are hard to get rid of and will drastically shorten their lifespan.
If your dishcloths are sudsy or used to wipe up something particularly gross, rinse them thoroughly before putting them in the wash. Kitchen towels should be washed using hot water, pretty much without exception. Again, skip the fabric softener and dryer sheets.
Heavy, lined drapes can last five years or more before they begin to show their age. Sheers will not stand up to as much wear, and you may need to replace them after three years or so.
Keep the relatively short lifespan of curtains in mind when deciding whether you want to invest in pricier options. While more expensive curtains may hold up better than the less expensive choice, don't expect to get 20 years of wear from them. Considering how styles change, maybe this is a good thing!
Many curtains are machine washable, but that doesn't mean you should wash them frequently. The less often they are washed, the longer they will last. Instead, look for alternative, gentler ways to keep them looking clean and fresh.
Use the dusting attachment on your vacuum to go over your curtains when you clean. Every few weeks, use a hand-held steamer to freshen them. When you do wash your window coverings, do so on the gentle cycle. If the instructions allow for drying in the machine, still remove them when they're a bit damp, and hang them to dry the rest of the way.