How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets?
It’s important to wash your sheets to keep your bed clean and your body healthy. Body oils, sweat, makeup, and more can find their way onto your bed sheets—leaving bedding dirty with a build-up. The same goes for pillowcases, duvets, duvet covers, and comforters.
Understanding the risks and benefits of timely sheet cleanings can help motivate you to stay on schedule. Proper washing also ensures that your bedding remains durable and soft over time. In this article, we share how often to wash your sheets, the benefits of frequent washing, and a few recommendations for the best bed sheets in case you’re looking for a new set.
How Often Do Most People Wash Their Bed Sheets?
A 2012 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 91% of people change their sheets every other week. More specifically, the survey found 62% of people changed their sheets weekly or more, 29% every other week, 5% every three weeks, and 3% less often than three weeks.
While this data may vary, we estimate that most people wash their sheets about two times a month. While this isn’t as bad as folks who only clean their bedding quarterly, experts recommend more frequent washing for a myriad of reasons.
Experts Recommend Washing Weekly: Here’s Why
The vast majority of healthcare providers—including experts from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), and the Asthma and Allergy Association of America (AAFA) recommend cleaning your sheets once a week at a minimum. The AAD and AAFA suggest changing your pillowcases two to three times a week, too. (You should also wash your pillows a few times a year.)
A number of elements factor into the frequency that’s right for you—including how much you move in your sleep and the clothing you wear when you go to bed. Still, weekly washing is a good place to start for most people.
Here are other factors that can help determine a frequency that’s right for you:
- Do you wear pajamas to bed? Long sleeves and pants can trap some dead skin cells, keeping them away from your sheets.
- Do you sleep in the nude? Sleeping au naturale can leave traces of fecal matter on your sheets.
- Are you a combination sleeper or do you toss and turn during the night? If you stay still, you may shed fewer skin cells.
- Do you shower or exfoliate before bed? Slipping into bed clean lessens the amount of dead skin cells, dirt, and grime transferred to sheets.
- Do you have acne, eczema, or allergies? Clean sheets can help prevent or minimize acne, eczema, and allergy symptoms.
- Do your pets sleep with you? Fido can leave behind dander, hair, and dirt that also accumulate on your sheets.
- Do you snack or drink in bed? Crumbs and spills can make sheets dirty, stained, and uncomfortable to sleep on.
- Do you sweat often at night? People who sleep hot or have night sweats may leave behind more body oils and fluids that cause sheets to dirty faster.
- Do you have easy access to a washing machine and dryer? It may not be possible to wash your sheets weekly if you don’t have an in-home washing machine.
What are the Benefits of Washing Your Sheets Regularly?
Even if your sheets look clean to the naked eye, bedding accumulates buildup fast that you can’t always see. Washing your sheets regularly helps you avoid sleeping in dirt, body fluids, and other microscopic nasties.
Researchers suggest that humans shed up to 40,000 dead skin cells every minute. Considering the amount of time you spend in bed each night, nearly half of those skin cells could end up on your sheets. Your skin also naturally houses bacteria and fungi that can transfer to your sheets. Plus, if you have a pet that sleeps or naps in bed with you, they’re adding pet dander and fluids to your bed.
Moisture is also an issue, especially if you sleep hot, drool, have oily skin, wear lotions and facial products to bed, or are sexually active. Together, moisture and dead skin cells are the perfect invitations for dust mites and other microscopic bacteria and fungi to take up residence in your bed.
Along with the eradication of dust mites and bodily matter, other benefits of washing your sheets include:
- The scent of freshly cleaned sheets is more pleasant to fall asleep to.
- Clean sheets feel crisp and soft to the touch, which may help you fall asleep faster.
- Washing prevents a yellow tone from building up on white sheets.
- Clean sheets are free from dead skin cells, bodily fluids, crumbs, and more.
- Dust mites are common allergens, so you may avoid allergy symptoms by washing more frequently.
How to Properly Wash Bed Sheets
If you plan on washing your sheets weekly from now on, developing a proper process for cleaning them will make care simple and – with time – practically effortless. Here’s a step-by-step guide to proper cleaning:
- Read the care instructions. Pay attention to any details that differ from what we recommend in the following steps depending on your sheet’s fabric.
- Put the sheets into the washing machine and be sure not to overload it. Give them space, especially if they’re cotton. Cotton needs room to swish around.
- Use warm water instead of hot water. Hot water will shrink the sheets and destroy the fibers.
- Add detergent that doesn’t have excess chemicals, and don’t overdo it. Do not add bleach (see note below).
- Take the sheets out of the washing machine gently. This helps avoid ripping any stitching or details.
- Move the bedding to the dryer. Only dry bedding with bedding—no bath towels, blankets, etc. A dryer sheet is optional.
- Dry the sheets on a warm or warm-plus setting. A hot setting will make the edges of your sheets curl up over time. A warm setting helps keep bed linens fluffy and prevents damage.
Fight every instinct to turn to bleach to whiten your sheets. While this seems counter-intuitive, bleach can react with sweat, oils, and more to make your sheets more yellow, not less. Use a combination of baking soda (½ cup at the beginning of the wash cycle) and white vinegar (½ cup during the rinse cycle) if your sheets have an unpleasant tint. This combo also naturally softens the fabric. And keep in mind that what’s under your sheets is just as important: check out our guide to cleaning your mattress and learn whether you need a mattress protector.
What are the Risks of Not Washing Your Sheets Regularly?
Sleeping in your own dirt, sweat, and body oils isn’t just gross—it can lead to negative health outcomes. Here’s a list of the risks of sleeping on dirty sheets:
- Microscopic critters: Dead skin cells create a breeding ground for dust mites, fungi, and bacteria. Itch mites that cause scabies, an infestation of the skin, also thrive in dirty bedding.
- More acne breakouts: Dirty pillowcases and sheets can make acne on your face or body worse.
- Skin irritation: Bacteria and skin cell build-up can inflame eczema issues and lead to skin irritation like rash and itching.
- Allergies: The presence of dust mites can provoke a runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, and other allergy symptoms.
- Poop residue: If you sleep in the nude, your eyes and mouth could theoretically come into contact with your fecal matter.
- Discolored and smelly sheets. Dirty sheets tend to yellow over time and may have an unpleasant smell.
What to Do If You Can’t Wash Your Sheets Weekly
If the thought of washing your sheets every week sounds overwhelming or you don’t have at-home access to a washing machine and dryer, there are a few things you can do to healthfully stretch the lifespan of your clean sheets.
- Wash your face before bed: Cleansing helps avoid putting a dirty face (even if it’s just sunscreen or moisturizer) on your pillowcase.
- Try to shower and exfoliate before bed: Washing up helps remove excess dirt and exfoliating sloughs off dead skin cells.
- Make your bed every day: Moving bedding encourages tiny skin cell particles to fall to the floor.
- Consider buying 2-3 more sheet sets: Rotating your sheets can help you avoid frequent washings.
Is it OK to wash your sheets once a month?
It is not ideal to wash your sheets once a month and you shouldn’t wait more than two weeks to wash your sheets. After just one night of sleep, your bed is starting to collect dirt, body fluids, and dead skin cells.
What happens when you don’t wash your sheets?
If you don’t wash your sheets, your bed accumulates dead skin cells, dirt, body fluids, bacteria, and fungi. This buildup can attract dust mites, worsen acne, inflame eczema, cause allergies, and increase your risk of illness and skin issues caused by bacteria and fungi. Not washing your sheets can also yellow and discolor the fabric and harbor odor.
How often should you wash your sheets if you shower every night?
If you shower nightly you should still wash your sheets one to two times a week. Even if you go to bed squeaky clean, your body will still shed dead skin and body fluids like sweat and oils on your bedsheets. This build-up can attract dust mites and cause bacterial and fungal growth.
Bed Sheet Brands That We Love
Whether you’re on the lookout for a new sheet set or want to add another set to your linen closet so that you don’t have to wash as frequently, these are some of our favorite bed sheet brands to explore.
- Parachute: Parachute offers sheet sets in a variety of styles ranging from cooling linen to luxurious percale. All Parachute sheet sets come with a 90-night sleep trial.
- Eddie Bauer: Known for its boots and outdoor gear, Eddie Bauer also offers a robust selection of flannel bed sheets for a rustic yet cozy look.
- Boll & Branch: Boll & Branch offers Fair Trade certified 100% organic cotton sheets in fabrics like percale and chambray.
- Brooklinen: Brooklinen offers an affordable option that checks all the boxes with their Classic Core Sheet Set, which has a silky-soft texture and a deep pocket depth. The set comes in a variety of colors and patterns and is backed by a full-year trial.
- Casper: Casper is known for offering quality products at a value price, and their sheet options are no exception. Choose from sateen, linen, Supima, and cotton options, which range from $38 to $290.
- Saatva: If you’re looking to not only improve the cleanliness of your sheets but become more eco-conscious with your purchases, the Saatva Lofton Organic Sheet Set is a high-quality choice that’s GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified and responsibly made. Saatva also offers linen sheets.
Abney SE, et al. (2021). Laundry Hygiene and Odor Control: State of the Science. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8231443/
Aggarwal P, et al. (2022). Dust Mite Allergy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560718/
American Academy of Dermatology. Scabies: Who Gets and Causes. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/scabies-causes
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. (2019). Are You Controlling Allergens in Your Bedroom? https://community.aafa.org/blog/are-you-controlling-allergens-in-your-bedroom
Byrd AL, et al. (2018). The Human Skin Microbiome. https://www.nature.com/articles/nrmicro.2017.157
KidsHealth. (2023). Your Skin. https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/skin.html
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. (2019). How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets? https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/how-often-should-you-wash-your-sheets
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