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How Often Should You
Wash Your Sheets?

January 19, 2021

We spend a lot of time in our beds, and after 49+ hours of sleeping each week, our sheets, pillowcases, and other bedding can start looking dingy or even downright dirty. As we sleep, dirt, sweat, dead skin cells, and other yucky stuff accumulate on and in our sheets and mattress. Throw in the crumbs from your midnight snacks,the dust that floats around in our bedrooms, or your pet’s fur, and it’s easy to see why “How often should you change your sheets?” is one of the most common housekeeping questions we see.

When you don’t wash your sheets often enough, the buildup of allergens can aggravate asthma, allergies, dermatitis, and other skin and respiratory issues. The symptoms associated with these health issues can also keep you from getting a good night’s sleep. To create a healthier environment in your bedroom and make sure you get enough sleep, you need to keep things clean.
So, how often should you wash your sheets?

You should generally wash your sheets once per week. But like all cleaning rules, there are exceptions. If your pets sleep in your bed, wash your sheets twice per week (or get your pets their own beds). If you suffer from allergies or other respiratory issues, consider washing your bed sheets every couple of days to see if your symptoms decrease.

In the summer months, you may need to wash your sheets more often because you sweat more. If you have seasonal allergies like hay fever, washing your sheets more often in spring could help relieve some symptoms. Read on as we make our case for keeping your sheets crisp, clean, and healthy on a regular schedule.

Why It’s Important to Wash Your Sheets Regularly

When you consider the health benefits and that wonderful feeling of sleeping on fresh, clean sheets, you may want to wash your sheets more than once a week. Even if you shower every night before bed, after only a few days, your sheets can become soiled with dead skin cells, body oils, sweat, and other nasty stuff—like dust mites.

Dust mites are microscopic pests that live in the upholstery, carpet, drapes, and beds of almost every home. They don’t bite, but they create allergens that can cause skin rashes and trigger allergic reactions in people with asthma and allergies. The allergens—which come from fecal matter and body fragments—can even cause symptoms in people without respiratory issues.

Dust mites live off your dead skin cells and reproduce quickly, so there could be hundreds of thousands of them in your bedding and mattress right now. And those dead skin cells do more than feed all your dust mites. The skin cells you shed, along with sweat and other bodily secretions, won’t typically make you sick, but they can trigger eczema in people with contact dermatitis.

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Washing your sheets and other bedding often enough can help get dust mites under control. Even if you don’t experience any negative symptoms, do you really want to sleep with dust mites and your own sweat any longer than you have to?

No? We rest our case. Now, let’s get those sheets off the bed and into the washer.

How to Wash Bed Sheets

Now that you know how often to wash sheets, there are a few things you should do to make sure yours are as clean and fresh as possible.

  • For sweat, blood, and other stains, pretreat stained areas before you wash the sheets.
  • Read the label. Most sheets are cotton or a cotton blend, and they rarely require special care. But read the label anyway. Polyester blends may call for using warm water, while cotton can be washed in hotter water.
  • To get your sheets as clean as possible, wash with the hottest water temperature allowed per the label. The hotter the water, the better it kills germs and dust mites.
  • Separate bed sheets and other bedding by color to prevent dark colors from bleeding onto lighter colored fabrics.
  • If you have dermatitis or allergies caused by something other than dirty sheets and bedding, consider using a fragrance-free detergent.
  • Hang your freshly washed sheets outside on a clothesline if you have one. Sunshine will help whiten whites and acts as a natural disinfectant. Otherwise, dry your sheets on the setting recommended by the label.
  • Iron your sheets. It may seem like overkill, but ironing helps kill germs and dust mites that remain after you’ve washed your sheets. If you’re not putting the sheets back on your bed, store them away from direct sunlight to avoid fading.

Most likely, you’ll end up washing your sheets once or twice a week, so keep three sets of sheets on hand. That way, you can stick to your clean sheet campaign and always have fresh sheets when you need them.

How about washing other bedding?

Comforters, shams, and other bedding rarely get soiled as much as your sheets, but they still require regular cleaning. Wash pillowcases and your mattress topper when you wash your sheets. Under normal conditions, duvet covers and shams should be washed every couple of weeks; comforters and blankets should be cleaned quarterly.

How to keep your sheets clean between washes

No matter how often you wash your sheets, there are plenty of ways to keep them tidy between washes. Showering before bed is a good place to start because you wash away the dirt, sweat, and dead skin cells before you hit the sheets. Here are some other ways to enjoy that fresh sheet feeling for a bit longer:

  • Take off your makeup before you go to bed.
  • Don’t put on oils, moisturizers, or other lotions before you go to sleep.
  • Don’t eat or drink in bed.
  • If pets sleep with you, let them sleep on the covers.
  • If you wear socks to bed, brush them off before you get into bed.

Now you know how often to wash sheets, why you should wash them, and ways to keep those sheets fresher longer. But we’re not done quite yet. If you want to enjoy night after night of blissful, healthy sleep with the aroma of fresh-washed sheets, we have a couple of other tips to share.

Don’t Forget the Mattress and Pillows!

Your bed pillows can be full of all the nasty things you’d find in your sheets with the addition of drool, dandruff, and possibly more. If you aren’t washing your pillows regularly, you could have the same issues you have with dirty sheets, plus the risk of mold. A 2005 study found that pillows, especially feather and synthetic-filled, are a primary source of fungi.

You’re also shortening the life of your pillow. All that dirt, sweat, and dust mites can break down the fill material, leaving you with a dirty, lumpy pillow. If you want to keep your pillows fresh and firm, avoid allergy symptoms, and get a good night’s rest, keep those bed pillows clean. Wash your bed pillows at least quarterly and replace them every year or two. You may also want to invest in pillow covers. These pillow protectors are used to protect pillows from dust mites and stains, and they usually have a zippered closure for ultimate safeguarding

Just like bed pillows, mattresses can also harbor germs, dust mites, and bodily secretions—but on a much larger scale. The moisture from sweat and other fluids soak into your mattress, creating the perfect breeding ground for mold, mildew, and allergens.

If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned your mattress, start with this mattress cleaning guide and then make routine cleaning a regular thing. At the very least, add mattress vacuuming to your weekly cleaning routine, or do it every time you change the sheets. A thorough vacuuming will get rid of dead skin, dust mites, hair, dirt, and dust, and help keep your sheets and other bedding cleaner.

You may also want to invest in a mattress cover. According to microbiologist Philip Tierno, a water-resistant, breathable mattress protector is a must. Not only will a mattress cover prolong the life of your mattress, it also protects your mattress from soiled sheets. Tierno puts it this way: “When you’re in the bed you desquamate, or you slough off tissue, and all that cellular debris collects between your sheet and the sheet over the mattress. That serves as food for dust mites. They eat human tissue. And they defecate and excrete substances and then they die.”

Case closed.

The Maids is committed to making homes all across North America healthier, cleaner places to live. Whether you rely on our extensive library of cleaning guides or use one of our popular residential cleaning services, we’re here when you need us. Find out more when you get your free estimate online.

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