Mattress Accessories & Bedding

How Often Should You Wash and Change Your Bed Sheets?

Keeping your bed clean can have a great impact on your health. This guide details how to keep your sheets clean.

By Helga George

Are you someone who washes your sheets every week like clockwork? If so, you are a rare breed. In a recent survey, it was found that most Americans go an average of 24 days without changing theirs. I’ve even heard of people going for a year without washing their sheets!

So, does it really matter if you have dirty sheets? Um, yes! Bedsheets are one of the easiest places for germs to accumulate. There can be 100,000 to 10 million tiny organisms in your bed if you don’t take the proper steps to keep them clean. In addition to the gross factor, there is a good chance you can be allergic to dust mites and organisms that find their way into your bed. Dust allergies can also lead to asthma, eczema, and coughing.

That leads to the pivotal question:  How often should I wash my sheets?

Experts recommend washing your sheets in hot water at least once a week. Professionals, ranging from the American Academy of Dermatology to Dr. Philip Tierno of New York University’s Langone Medical Center, all stand by this suggestion. 

If that sounds like a lot, here’s some perspective for you. You shed 1 billion small bits of a skin a day – equal to between 30,000 and 40,000 skin cells a minute – and many of them end up in your bed. These cells provide a feast for dust mites. Who knew you could have a whole ecosystem in your bed?

Plus, you add to the mix by sweating, drooling, and releasing oils from the skin. And while you aren’t likely to come down with a severe illness, dirty sheets can make eczema and acne worse. 

How To Wash Your Sheets

While many of the care tags on sheets specify cool water for a wash cycle, you should really be washing them in hot water as this will kill the dust mites and bacteria that live in them. Most washing machines have a “heavy-duty” setting that automatically selects the hottest possible water setting. This is a great setting to use for bath towels as well. 

If your sheets really do need to be washed in cold water, I would hang them in the sun to dry. That will help sterilize them – especially since the sun kills dust mites.

You should consider adding something that kills bacteria to the wash, especially if using cold water. There a lot of products available for your laundry specifically to kill bacteria without ruining the color of your sheets if they aren’t white. Once the washing machine is done, put the sheets in the dryer on high heat.  That will help to kill any remaining dust mites.

Ironing is another trick – the heat will help to sanitize them without exposing them to too much heat.

Don’t Forget Your Pillows!

If you ever thought that you don’t need to wash your pillow and pillowcases regularly, I am here to tell you that is definitely not the case! Swabs from a pillowcase that had gone unwashed for a week yielded 17,000 times more colonies of bacteria than a toilet seat! If you are prone to acne, those bacteria on your pillowcase can make it worse.

Wash your pillowcase at least weekly, and don’t forget about washing your pillows! Your pillows should be washed at least twice a year. The last thing you want them to do is to develop mildew, so be sure that you rinse and dry them well. 

Read all about how to wash your pillows to make sure you are washing them safely and correctly!

What About My Comforters?

Yes – you should wash your bedding frequently but it is ok to do so less often than your sheets. Wash your blankets and comforters once every month or two. 

Not all comforters are machine washable, so you may need to hand wash them then hang them outside in the sun to dry. Wash your mattress pad every three months or so and your bed skirt every 3 to 6 months.

It’s a good idea to vacuum your mattress when you remove all the bedding to get rid of dust and dirt.

You May Need to Wash Your Sheets More than Once a Week

If you think washing your sheets once a week sounds like a lot of work, some of your sleeping habits could require a more frequent washing schedule. 

Some claim that sleeping in the nude is better for your overall health. However, if you sleep naked, you run the risk of introducing a lot of additional organisms to your sheets.

If you are allergic to dust or pollen, you should consider washing your sheets more frequently. Some other common practices that should lead you to wash your sheets more often include:

  • Snacking in bed 
  • Sleeping with your kids
  • Sweating a lot
  • Sleeping with a pet 

What About Pets?

Sleeping with pets is a comforting practice for many. However, if your dog or cat sleeps in bed with you, he or she will add to the number of skin cells on your sheets. Unfortunately, pets can introduce diseases to your bed, too. 

Dogs with mange can introduce mites that will get under your skin – literally. Dogs or cats can also spread ringworm – a fungal infection of the scalp. If you must sleep with your pets (and many of us must), wash your sheets at least once a week, preferably more. 

How to Keep Your Sheets Clean Longer

There are several steps you can take to keep your sheets clean for longer.

Taking a shower before bed will get rid of a lot of the dead skin cells and body oil that would otherwise end up on your sheets. Washing your face before bed is a good practice, too. That will prevent any makeup or sunscreen from building up on your pillowcase.

If you don’t have an extra set of sheets handy, investing in an additional set may make it easier to change your sheets more frequently. 


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