A Washable Headboard? Try this Crib Sheet Hack


Sleep like a baby knowing you can remove and wash your headboard fabric

Let’s get warmed up with a confession: I haven’t washed our pillows or comforter since we moved back home a year ago.* And recently, our bedroom has increasingly smelled like … people (those people are probably, hopefully, us).

So last Monday, I yanked all the bedding off for a trip to the laundromat across the alley.

And then I saw it: The shadowy gray smear, like the bedroom wall had grown a 5-o’clock shadow. Like someone had frosted the wall with oily scalp icing and decorated it with dust sprinkles. I touched it — and it touched me back! The smear was sticky, like the bottom of an old frying pan, or a band-aid stuck to your nose.

I can’t believe I’m showing you this.

Publicly, I’ll blame the grease spot on my husband. At 47, Scott still boasts a tidal wave of salt-and-pepper hair, which he maintains like a vintage sports car (i.e., daily polishing and waxing, and occasional drives on the highway).** I’m not sure how he got his head grease all the way on MY side, but it’s further proof that him and his voluptuous mane are totally hogging the bed.

I needed to create a physical barrier between our his head and the wall. Like a board that we could rest our heads on.

Loyal readers will remember the fabric headboard we made for our last apartment. But given this epidemic of head goo, how could we clean the fabric while it was attached to the wall? We could use a wipeable fabric, like oilcloth or plastic. But that would cause instant flashbacks to the station wagons of my youth, tender flesh fusing to hot vinyl seats.

I needed to invent a headboard with a removable and washable cover. And it had to be the width of a double bed and the height of an adult torso, with an elastic fitted edge, and a range of adorable non-threatening patterns.

A crib sheet!


Full disclosure: The crib sheet hack only works with a full/double sized bed. If you are an emperor or a captain of industry with a king-sized bed, you should make two headboards and hang them side-by-side.***

– Plywood (mine was 15/32″ thick)
– High-density foam (I used 3-inch)
– Batting (or an old sheet)
– Hanging hardware
– Staple gun
– Crib sheets

1. Cut a piece of plywood that’s about the size of crib sheet (52″x 28″). Traditionally these can be found at the hardware store and cut to size, but the alley and your friend’s basement are also good sources.

2. Use a serrated bread knife to cut the high-density foam to fit over your plywood, with about a quarter inch overhang.

Most foam comes in a 24-inch width, so you’ll probably have to Frankenstein**** it together to get full coverage. Use duct tape to cover up the seams between the cut pieces.

3. Even though it’s totally unnecessary, let your husband and youngest son squirt crafting glue over the plywood.

4. Place the foam back on the glued (LOL) plywood. Center the batting (or an old sheet) over the foam, so the fabric hangs about 4-6 inches over each side. Then carefully flip the whole mess over on its backside. Pull the batting or fabric tight and staple it to the back of the plywood, inserting the staples about 2 inches apart.

5. Attach the mounting hardware to both the wall and the back of the headboard. I strongly recommend a French cleat (a simple bracket made with interlocking 45 degree angles); it will allow you to pop the headboard on and off the wall. Remember that you will be frequently changing the cover to fit your mood and hair grease output.

Unlike other French inventions, the French cleat is not particularly sexy nor covered in syrup.

6. Now for the fun part! Go to Target or wherever they sell baby crap and buy a bunch of crib sheets. If you’re a mid-career parent like me, loudly complain about how much easier things are for new parents today. Back when I was making babies 10+ years ago, my breast pump was as big as a dorm fridge, and my baby carrier was an old potato sack strapped on with a couple of bungee cords.

PRO-TIP: Leave the package of crib sheets out where your kids can see them. Tell them the sheets are for their new baby sibling, and relish their limited understanding of the human reproductive system. “But that’s not possible,” they’ll say, “Daddy doesn’t have a penis anymore!” *****

7. Iron out the wrinkles, pull the crib sheet onto the batting-covered foam, and hang on the wall using your French clips.

Get bored of that pattern and try a new one:

Yes, I realize now that the whales are swimming vertically. Maybe that’s how I wanted it to be.

When your husband’s head grease stain reappears on the headboard, simply pull the crib sheet off and toss in the wash.


* We had to move out of our house for almost a year after an attic fire. Long story, don’t ask.
** To be clear, I would rather Scott spend his time maintaining his hair than a vintage sports car.
*** If you are an emperor or captain of industry you are likely not making your own bedroom furniture, but you likely do appreciate my vintage sports car metaphors.
**** Yes, smarty pants, I know Frankenstein is the name of the scientist and not the monster. In this scenario, you are the mad scientist and the foam is the monster.
***** Scott had a vasectomy ten years ago which most observers agree was successful.