January White Sales: Deep Discounts on Linens and More

Find out whether white sales are still good for bargains.

Folded Sheets
••• Jamie Gril / Getty Images

Smart shoppers know that as soon as they ring in the New Year, it's time to head to the "white sales" to save on sheets, comforters, towels and other home linens. January is traditionally the month that retailers take the deepest discounts on home linens and it has been that way since 1878.

John Wanamaker from Philadelphia gets the credit for launching the first white sale in 1878. In January of that year, he went through his inventory of white linens and took markdowns. He did it to improve the dismal business in his department store following the Christmas holidays.

The reason only the white bed linens went on sale is that it was not until the late 1950s that color and print sheets were introduced into the bedding market.

Today's White Sales

For many years, white sales were held exclusively in January. Today, you will find retailers holding multiple white sales throughout the year, some starting as early as November. Despite that, January white sales are considered to offer the deepest discounts and are the very best time to shop for linens.

Today's white sales include not only sheets but also bedding accessories, pillows and bathroom accessories.

The one thing you might not be able to find on sale come January, despite the namesake, are white sheets. That's because today white sheets are considered an essential product and also the most popular color choice among shoppers.

Tips on Buying Sheets

You should always take advantage of the opportunity to buy quality sheets in January because the sheets aren't defective; they're just on sale. The number one feature consumers want in linens are sheets that are soft. The softest sheets have the highest thread count. The second most popular feature people look for in linens are sheets made with breathable fibers, which can be found in a thread count of 180 to 200.

Virginia Peale, director of marketing for fine French linen firm Yves Delorme, explains that the quality of the fiber determines the softness of a sheet. "Best are sheets made with extra-long staple cotton (meaning that the fibers are longer than 37 millimeters) such as the most desirable Egyptian cotton, Supima and Pima," said Peale.

If you prefer crisp sheets, then look for sheets made out of fabric that is a cotton/polyester blend, but stay away from a thread count of 180 or lower. These lower thread count sheets might feel crisp, but they tend to shred and won't last long.

Changing Times

The rules on mixing colors have changed over the years. You can use a different color top sheet and bottom sheet, as long as the colors enhance each other or blend in with the colors in your bedroom. Geometric designs are also popular, although the more subtle natural colors are more popular and will not go out of style.

Caring for Sheets

Beware of using hot water on colored or printed sheets. Hot water can cause the sheets to look worn and faded. If possible, opt for line-drying sheets, but avoid putting them in direct sunshine for long periods of time on very hot days. The sun is a wonderful and natural way to disinfect sheets but it can bake and damage the fabric.

Using a fabric softener or a cup of vinegar will help keep your sheets soft. Vinegar, a household cure-all, also helps fight tough odors.

When using bleach, always use the bleach dispenser on the washing machine, or fill the machine with water and dilute the bleach before adding your sheets. Pouring bleach directly onto fabrics can cause rotting.