January White Sales

An Annual Tradition

Folded Sheets
Jamie Gril / Getty Images

Smart shoppers know that as soon as they ring in the New Year, they 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 lines and took markdowns.

He did it to improve the dismal business in his department store during the Christmas holidays.  

According to biographer William Allenollo Zuclker, Wanamaker spearheaded the sale, not to make money for himself, but rather out of his concern for employees who would be out of work had he not figured out a way to increase store sales.

Why were only the white bed linens on sale? 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, but today you will find retailers holding multiple white sales throughout the year, some starting as early as November. Despite that, January white sales have held on to the reputation of being the very best time to shop for discounted linens.

Today's white sales include not only sheets, but comforters, bedspreads, blankets, and towels in an abundance of colors and prints, along with bedding accessories, pillows, bathroom accessories, etc.

The one thing shoppers might not be able to find, despite the namesake, are white sheets on sale. That is because today white sheets are considered an essential product and also the most popular choice among shoppers. Therefore, regardless of the name, white sale, it is the one color you will probably not find on sale.

Tips on Buying Sheets

Use the opportunity to buy quality sheets at discounted prices. The number one feature consumers want are sheets that are soft. The softest sheets will have a high thread count. The second most popular feature people look for 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 will determine 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.

Prefer crisp sheets? 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 will not last long.

Changing Times

The rules on mixing colors have changed over the years. Today you can safely use different colors of top and bottom sheets together, as long as they enhance or blend in with the colors in your bedroom. The newest trends include geometric designs, although the quieter, more soothing 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. It could 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 on very hot days. The sun is a wonderful and natural way to disinfect sheets but, if it bakes the fabric, it could damage it.

Using a fabric softener or a cup of vinegar will help keep sheets soft. Vinegar 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. Bleach poured directly on fabrics can cause rotting.

Plush or Thin?

Towels have become so thick that it is nearly impossible to fit them in a linen closet, they take up all the room in the washer, and they take forever to dry.

The natural fiber, Modal, is gaining in popularity because it is highly absorbent, thinner and more lightweight. While you are out shopping the white sales, look for a Modal towel and see what you think.

For more tips on buying great looking sheets: