11 Smart Uses for Sheets

by Linsey Knerl on 20 April 2011 10 comments
Photo: sswartz

You put them on beds. You store them in closets. What else can you use a fitted or flat sheet for, you might ask? As it turns out, these versatile cuts of cloth are becoming increasingly valuable in today's rising cotton market, and they are fabulous for assorted uses. (See also: It Can Be Done: How to Fold the Perfect Fitted Sheet)

Painter's Cloth

When giving a room a fresh coat, laying down some kind of protective cover for your flooring is just smart. The plastic cloths that you buy at your hardware store aren't always the best choice, however. The paint takes forever to dry on them, leaving a greater opportunity to step in spills and track the paint all over. (The surface of plastic sheeting is also very slippery, making it dangerous to place ladders on top of.)

Furniture Covers

You could buy commercial furniture covers for your sofa and chairs, but in a pinch, sheets work very well (and cost much less). Just tuck the sheet around the cushions to keep it in place and cover with a nice quilt or throw pillows. Since they come off easily, you can remove it in seconds in case of a spill or stain and throw it directly into the wash. This is a great solution for a busy family room or for day-cares and homes with small children.

Berry Catcher

Not every yard will have fruit trees, but if you need a quick way to harvest mulberries, shaking the tree branches and letting the berries fall onto a spread-out sheet is the best way get the berries down safely (for you and the berries).

Tablecloth

Depending on the size and shape of your table, a flat sheet may fit on it with no alterations. If you have small, rounded, or custom-made tables, you will need to tailor the sheet to work. Either way, sheets are generally cheaper on a clearance sale than seasonal tablecloths, and you can pick from many more styles this way.

Curtains

You can, theoretically, use sheets as actual curtains, provided you adjust for length and create some way to hang them (either by sewing on tabs or affixing hooks). A more design-friendly and professional way to use sheets as window dressing is explained in this tutorial for drop-cloth curtains, which combines canvas painter’s cloth and a patterned sheet for one fabulous curtain design. Use more sheets for more flair. They are much more affordable than custom curtains.

Emergency Ladder

You will only want to do this with sheets in good condition (and having a real commercial ladder is preferred), but in a pinch, sheets can provide a way for older children or adults to escape a 2nd story room in a fire.

Plant Cover

In the case of hail or an unexpected hard freeze, you can protect rose bushes or garden vegetables with a sheet. Just drape over them lightly (or place over clothesline that has been strung over the plants). We keep a few in our garden supplies for just this purpose.

Animal Bedding

Living on a farm, you never know when you'll need extra blankets or cloths for a birth event or medical purposes. You can also keep sheets that are stained, holey, or otherwise unusable for actual human bedding as a comfy material for your dog house or pet carriers. (Never throw out sheets. Most animal shelters would love to have them for their foster pets.) If your dog likes to chew, however, be careful to keep sheets with tears out of its space. They make tasty (and dangerous) snacks!

Clothing

I don't sew, but I've seen some adorable creations from pillow cases and sheets that I would wear myself. Sheets in great condition can be sewn into dresses or accessories like head coverings or scarves. Much like Fraulein Maria used the nursery drapes for stylish outfits for the Von Trapp kidlets, you can find patterns for all kinds of clothing made specifically from sheets. (Of course, if you find sheets on clearance that are actually more affordable than custom-cut fabric, you can adapt any pattern to use with the sheets.)

Quilts

Sheets aren't always sturdy enough to be used in some quilting designs, but they make a great backing or patchwork component for many quilts.

Baby Gear

Nursing covers can be very expensive, and considering that they are essentially sheets that have been cleverly sewn to cover a mother's body during breastfeeding, you could make one yourself with the right pattern and a pretty sheet. (Better yet, make two or three!) Other baby necessities that you can make from sheets include stroller covers and burp cloths. Sheets for baby cribs and playpens are also very expensive, given the amount of fabric used. If you are handy with a sewing machine, why not create your own from an adult-sized sheet?

Hay and Cow Movers

This bonus tip will fit a very small portion of our audience, but sheets are one of the most versatile and accessible tools for moving heavy objects on the farm. We've used them to move hay bales and cows when we haven't had machinery for either. Google for specific examples, but when a cow is down from illness, a few strong adults and a sturdy sheet can save the life of your bovine friend.

Regardless of your lifestyle, everyone can benefit from a good sheet. What have you used them for?

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Guest's picture
Guest

if you needed an even stronger solution you could also use a paint drop cloth for most of these

Meg Favreau's picture

When I was a kid, I made swings by tying old sheets to trees. I'm sure it wasn't the safest thing, but it was a lot of fun.

Sheets can also be great ground covers in the park or at the beach.

Andrea Karim's picture

I keep old sheets to cover the back seat of my car when I am toting my dogs to and from our favorite park. It keeps the beige fabric hair-free and slightly less than disgusting. :)

Linsey Knerl's picture

I didn't even recognize your comment when I received it in my email -- Congrats! Your new last name suits you ;)

And this tip works well for toting kids in the car, too. Putting them under the car seats is a must if you don't want every kind of food crumb mashed into the seats. You can cut little holes for the car seat buckles to poke through.

Guest's picture
Guest

I use an old sheet as a 'drop cloth' in the bathroom when I color my hair. I cover the bathroom floor as much as I can with the sheet. It has saved me from trying to get hair color stains/marks out of the floor many times!

Guest's picture
Beth

I wouldn't use sheets for quilt backing. I have in the past, and they wear out more quickly then the quilt front.

Ray Jamali's picture

While at University sheets can in very handy for Toga parties! :)

Linsey Knerl's picture

Didn't do university, and no toga parties at my college. Good thinking for Halloween, though ;)

Guest's picture

My mother used sheets to make window coverings all the time! They fit our extra long custom windows just perfect.

Guest's picture

Great post. There are so many uses for old sheets versus just tossing them out! Any sort of fruit collection can benefit from this -- even apple harvesting.

You can also make your own sun shade from an old sheet, just by attaching it to poles or stringing it from your house or trees to block the direct sun rays.