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How Often Should You Change and Wash Your Sheets?

Lara Vargas

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It’s probably safe to say a lot of us don’t wash our sheets as often as we should. Between shuttling kids to activities and dealing with long days at the office, washing our sheets isn’t all that high on most of our to-do lists.

However, not washing your sheets enough can lead to a host of problems, from exacerbating allergy symptoms to shortening your mattress’s life expectancy. Let’s talk about how often you should change/wash your sheets, and what might happen if you don’t stick to a regular washing schedule.

Ideal Washing Frequency

You need to wash your sheets and pillowcases at least once a week to avoid accumulating shed skin cells, dirt particles, and other yucky stuff. But if you don’t wash them that often, you’re not alone. Most people don’t—in fact, polls suggest as many as 90 percent of people wash their sheets only twice a month.

That’s not a good thing. Sheets can collect a lot of nastiness without a weekly washing, and that nastiness could cause tons of issues.

What Happens When You Don’t Wash Your Sheets

Unwashed bed sheets can be pretty gross, accumulating tons of disgusting stuff like:

  • Sweat
  • Dead skin cells
  • Drool
  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Fungi
  • Bed bugs
  • Dust mites

Collecting all these pests and gunk makes your bedding a highly conducive environment for growing bacteria and other microorganisms, which you then sleep on every night.

While sleeping on dirty sheets might not make you seriously ill, it can trigger asthma and allergy attacks in sensitive individuals. It can also cause a runny nose and sneezing in people who don’t have allergies.

In addition, dirty sheets can also lead to skin issues. Bacterial and oil buildup in bedding can cause or worsen:

  • Body and facial acne
  • Eczema
  • Dermatitis
  • Other skin conditions

Recent studies also suggest you can transmit skin infections through dirty sheets. If you’re sleeping in bed with a partner, whatever skin ailment they have could be passed to you, and vice versa.

To top it all off, dirt and moisture buildup in unwashed sheets can bleed over into your mattress, staining it and maybe even triggering mold growth.

FAQs

Should I be washing my sheets more often than every week?

There are a few factors that can make it necessary to wash your sheets more than once a week. They include:

  • Skin infections
  • Dust or allergen sensitivities
  • Showering in the morning instead of at night
  • Being a sweaty sleeper
  • Eating in bed
  • Sleeping without pajamas

If one or more of these factors applies to you, you might want to consider washing/changing your sheets every 4 or 5 days instead of every 7.

Can I wash my sheets with other laundry?

Your sheet’s material and color will dictate what you can wash them with, though you’ll want to make sure to check the label for care instructions before laundering sheets with anything else.

Sturdier fabrics like cotton and polyester blends can be washed with bath towels or other bedding. Since you may need to wash your sheets in hot water, you’ll want to stick with like colors. Especially avoid mixing white sheets and towels with non-whites, as color-bleed can stain lighter fabrics.

Though you can sometimes do your sheets with towels or other bedding, you should always avoid washing your bedding with clothes because large items like fitted sheets can wrap around clothes and keep them from getting washed.

How do I get stains out of my sheets?

How you get stains out of your sheets depends on what color the fabric is and the composition of the stains. For white sheets that have yellowed, try laundry additives like baking soda, borax powder, or liquid bluing. You can also use bleach, but be sure to run your sheets through a bleach-free wash cycle first, as bleach can react with accumulated oil and dirt and actually turn your sheets even yellower.

Colored stains have to be treated differently. Organic stains like spilled food/drinks/body fluids will need to be pre-treated with an enzymatic stain remover before washing. Enzymes help break down both the color and smell of organic stains to lift them off your bedding.

As always, check the care label on your sheets to see what is and isn’t safe for them before treating stains.

Can I lessen the frequency with which I need to wash my sheets?

A few things might help you keep your sheets cleaner longer:

  • Shower and remove cosmetics right before bed
  • Don’t eat or drink in the bed
  • Wear house shoes to prevent dirt from accumulating on your feet/socks
  • Avoid moisturizing right before you go to bed
  • Sleep in clean pajamas every night
  • Sleep on a breathable, high-quality mattress that won’t cause night sweats and overheating

How often should I wash other bedding like comforters or duvet covers?

If you use a top sheet, you don’t need to wash your bedcover as often as you wash your sheets. Those who sleep under a flat sheet can wash their comforter or duvet around once a quarter because the sheet protects the underside of these covers from contact with your skin. Those who don’t use a top sheet will need to wash their bedcover as often as they wash their sheets.

A duvet cover is also a great way to protect your duvet or comforter. Duvet covers are like large pillow cases for your comforter or duvet and can be washed once every two weeks with your sheets.

Other bedding has different wash requirements. Duvet inserts only need to be washed a couple of times a year. Wash your pillows monthly if you don’t use a pillow protector and around once a quarter if you do. Mattress protectors need washing every other month. If you use a mattress protector, you can get away with vacuuming and cleaning your mattress only once or twice a year, but if you don’t, you’ll need to vacuum it every two months.

Bottom Line

Washing your sheets is one of the most important things you can do to rest healthy every night. Not only can clean sheets protect you from allergy flare-ups and skin irritants, but there’s nothing quite like jumping into a set of fresh bed linens. We don’t need a study to tell us laying our heads on a good-smelling pillow can help facilitate a good night’s sleep.

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