When was the last time you washed your sheets? If it wasn’t last week, do you even remember? It’s one of those open secrets that we all know and don’t really talk about: most of us probably do not wash our bedding often enough. It can be a hassle to strip your bed every week and spend hours at the washing machine moving heavy bedding around. We get it!
But if you think about, bedding is something that should be washed often since you literally use it every single day. Think about how much transfers to your sheets: sweat, oil, hair product, body lotion, makeup, pet hair, germs from sneezing, etc. Unwashed bedding can actually cause health problems and even attract bugs.
Whether you use the tried-and-true sniff test or stick to a regular schedule, there’s probably room for improvement in your washing habits. We’ve put together some helpful advice for washing your bedding. Believe us, you’ll be itching to wash your sheets by the end.
How often should I wash my bedding?
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to bedding. Some of us sweat when we sleep, some of us do not. Some of us have hair product on when we go to bed or wet hair fresh from the shower. Some of us like to shower in the morning and some at night so they can get into bed clean. Does your pet sleep with you at night? Do you like to snack in bed (you can be honest)?
Everyone is different, so your ideal wash schedule may be different than your family or friends. Plus, there’s a good chance they’re not being honest anyway. Would you admit it if you didn’t wash your sheets for months?
General consensus among most housekeeping authorities is to change your sheets every two to three weeks. Is that more often than you’re changing them now? Probably!
Ideally, your bedding would be washed more often in the summer. Warmer temperatures mean more perspiration which is going right into your bedding. Some people like to wash their sheets once a week. In a perfect world we all would do this! But if your utility situation or schedule just doesn’t allow for weekly washes, every couple of weeks is fine. You could possibly even get away with once a month, depending on weather and personal environment.
But if you’re not living in a college dorm with limited access to a coin-operated washing machine, there’s no reason to go months without cleaning your sheets.
What if I get sick?
Wash your sheets. Duh.
As soon as you start to feel better, change your bedding so you are not sleeping in the same germ-infested sheets. This also prevents the spread of illness to your partner or anyone who may come into your bedroom. It will also prevent reinfection. Plus, clean sheets just feel nice. Don’t you want to feel comfortable after being sick?
Will overwashing wear out my bedding?
It is possible to wear out your sheets, but it would probably take some serious weekly washing. However, you can preserve color and patterns with a few easy tricks.
- Wash with warm water. Cold water can shrink fabrics and you want your sheets to last!
- Turn printed and colorful pillowcases inside out. Do you use this trick with your denim to preserve the dye? Same principle applies!
- Always completely dry your sheets. It can be tempting to just fold sheets and put them away when they come out a little damp after being in the dryer for an hour. But storing damp sheets is a good way to invite mildew growth. Back in the dryer!
- Always check the care label. If your sheets or cases have special trim or need a certain wash setting, always mind the instructions!
What happens if I go too long without washing?
Besides the smell? It can be easy to miss the obvious sign that it’s time to wash your sheets. When you live in the same space every day, your senses become used to the familiar environment and you may not notice the smell when your bedding starts to get musty. But trust us, other people do. If you genuinely cannot tell if your bedding smells, call someone into your room to do the sniff test for you. If this is too embarrassing for you, it may be time to stick to a cleaning schedule.
The buildup of dirt, oil and bacteria can actually affect your health. Breakouts are a common sign it’s time to change the pillow cases, especially if you wear lotion, skin treatments, makeup or just have oily skin when you go to bed. Worst case scenario: you can develop eczema as dirty sheets rub against your skin and irritate it.
Dirty bedding can aggravate pre-existing breathing problems like asthma. If you or your partner has a dust allergy, this can also be affected by dirty bedding.
In truly dirty environments, there is a risk of fungal infections. Remember we mentioned washing bedding more often in the summer when you sweat more? Sweat soaks into your bedding and the buildup of bacteria can make your sheets and mattress a haven for fungi. Sound gross? You’ll be even more grossed out to learn that fungal infections can discolor and irritate your skin and even affect your nails. It takes quite a buildup to get to that point, but it is possible. It takes antibiotics to treat fungal infections and they can be tough to get rid of.
Ever heard of dust mites? No, they’re not the same as bed bugs. Dust mites are tiny spiders that feed on dead skin cells, i.e. what you shed whenever you’re in bed. Dust mites love warm, damp areas, so dirty bedding is a prime breeding ground. You won’t wake up covered in bites like you would with bed bugs. Instead your body will react to the secretions and waste that dust mites leave behind. The results include eczema, rashes, asthma, runny nose and itchy and watery eyes.
Regular washes will prevent dust mites from breeding in the first place. But if you already have dust mites, there are a few ways to get rid of them. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recommends the following:
- Wash bedding in hot water once a week. This will kill any mites living in the fabric and prevent eggs from hatching. Dust mite eggs are tolerant to cold temperatures up to minus 90 degrees so freezing bedding may not help.
- Covers create a barrier between skin and dust mites. Duvet covers, mattress covers and pillow covers all help prevent the spread of mites.
- Use a humidifier or air conditioner to keep humidity below 50 percent. Dust mites love warm, damp conditions. Keep the air cool and dry!
- Use a damp mop or rag to clean up dust. Dry fabrics just move dust around instead of picking it up.
What about towels and pillows?
While we’re on the topic, let’s touch on towels, pillows and anything else you use every day.
Dish towels should be washed every week. Think about all the food that comes in contact with the towels in your kitchen. Do you also use them to dry dishes and wipe down counters? Even more reasons to toss them in the laundry basket every week.
As for bathroom towels… you really don’t want to know how much bacteria live in those. It makes sense since they stay in a damp, warm room and are used to clean your dirty hands. Most health experts recommend washing bathroom towels every few days, instead of once a week. Just because you only use your towels after you wash your hands doesn’t mean they’re clean. Bacteria breeds quickly- a study led by a doctor at the University of Arizona found that a used hand towel has 1,000 times more coliform bacteria than a brand new one. You knew your towel was dirty- but did you know it was that dirty?
Pillows are a little trickier to clean. Most experts recommend washing them at least twice a year to prevent dust mites and fungi from making homes in the pillow stuffing. Check care labels, but down and synthetic pillows should be able to go into the washing machine. Use a gentle cycle and liquid detergent and run the rinse cycle at least twice to ensure everything is cleaned out.
Put pillows in the dryer on a low-heat setting to prevent stuffing from clumping. It can take a couple of hours for pillows to fully dry, so be patient. Check for dampness when you take them out- remember to fully dry them!
Bottom line: wash your sheets!
Feeling the sudden urge to go home and clean your bedroom? We do too! Assuage your stress by sticking to a cleaning schedule. We have some easy daily, weekly and monthly printable schedules to help you stay on track. It may be a big change to your cleaning routine, but your health and bedding will thank you!
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