Spoiler: Probably more often than you do right now!
It makes sense that bed sheets probably aren't at the top of your mind by the time you're flopping into bed after a long day. But clean sheets play an important role in making our sleep enjoyable and just straight up sanitary.
When we crawl into bed every night, we're signing up for 6-9 hours of being inside a sheet sandwich. Isn't that reason enough to pay attention to the cleanliness of our sheets? Most experts recommend washing sheets weekly.
Weekly? Yeah right.
Unfortunately, we know that for most households, this isn't the case. We're going to tell you why you should probably be washing your bed sheets more often than you do right now.
It's common practice to do the laundry whenever the hamper fills up, which for most households is once or twice a week, depending on how many people are in your home. But most laundry loads don't include the bed sheets. Why not? Well, other than the fact that the hamper usually fills up quickly enough on its own, washing the sheets generally takes more time and energy.
Washing the bed sheets is a bit more of a commitment than doing just a regular load of clothing. Washing the sheets requires deconstructing the entire bed. You need to find a place to keep the pillows and duvets, wash the sheets on their particular setting, and not to mention having to remake the bed afterwards—definitely more of a project than washing clothes.
We think it's safe to say that washing the sheets isn't a popular household chore. A 2017 survey found that almost half of us only wash our sheets twice per month. That's every other week, doesn't sound too bad, right? Well, it's not that simple.
Your bed sheets are dirtier than you think.
Bed sheets are usually dirtier than they appear to be. This is because most of the "gross-ness" that accumulates in our sheets isn't visible to the human eye. To really understand just how dirty our bed sheets get, we need to take a closer look.
- Humans shed 30,000-40,000 dead skin cells every single day. Think of how many of those rub off onto our sheets from the friction of tossing and turning throughout the night.
- With dead skin, follows dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic little buggers who feed on dead skin. A bed full of dead skin cells is like a picnic in the park for dust mites.
- Every inch of our skin has 650 sweat glands. We're not accusing you of sweating in your sleep… not that that would be bad or anything… we're just saying.
- Do you shower at night? Do you shower every night? Maybe not. Think of the accumulated dirt, oils, and other things that we accidentally track into our beds each night. Sweat, sunscreen, facial products, the list goes on.
- Do you eat in bed? Maybe sometimes? Crumbs are bad enough on their own and they will usually also attract insects like ants. (But also, we don't want to be rolling around in leftover peanut butter sandwich, do we?)
You get the picture. Beds may look soft, cozy, and inviting, but they're actually cleaned less often than most other areas in the house. How does that make sense? Beds are supposed to be our sanctuary, the centerpiece of our humble abode. Let's rethink how often we should be washing our sheets.
Factors to consider
- Do you usually sweat throughout the night?
- Do you ever eat in bed?
- Does a pet usually join you in bed?
- Do you have any skin sensitivities?
- Do you go to bed without showering?
- Do you sleep in pajamas or without?
- Do you have any allergies or skin sensitivities?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, read on!
Keep sheets clean in the first place!
Life happens. We know that plans come up and change all the time. Just because "Sunday is laundry day," doesn't necessarily mean that the laundry will get done on Sunday. But that's ok. We can be doing little things each day that can make a big difference in keeping our sheets clean throughout the week (and when need be, throughout the month).
Invest in good sheets.
- There are bed sheets out there that help keep themselves clean.
- Some sheets are made up of materials that help prevent bacterial growth all on their own, meaning they stay cleaner for longer and you can wash them less often.
Keep a few extra sets.
- Stock up on a couple extra sets of bedsheets so you can change them more frequently.
- If you answered "yes" to any or a few of the "factors to consider," it may be a good idea to have a stock of extra sheets on hand so you can change more often without having to do more loads of laundry.
Take a shower before bed.
- Having a shower before hitting the hay can help remove dirt and oil that you would otherwise track into bed with you.
Make your bed each day.
- Making your bed each day will help shake off excess dirt and dust that's accumulated throughout the night, which will help prevent build up.
- If possible, give your bed 30-60min in the morning to air out before making it. This will give your sheets a chance to breathe and allow any heat and moisture that has developed throughout the night to be released.
Wash your sheets in hot water.
- Water needs to be at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any dust mites. Most laundry machine's "warm" setting is around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so as long as you're not using the "cold" water setting, you should be good to go.
- 140 degrees Fahrenheit is the minimum required temperature that will kill germs and bacteria. Most laundry machines' "hot" setting is between 130 and 150, so unless your machine also has a "sanitize" option, try to always use the hot water setting.
But how often should you be washing the sheets?
You're probably catching onto the fact that there isn't a clear answer to the "sheet washing equation." Every situation is different and there are so many factors that play into answering this question.
A good rule of thumb is that you should be washing your sheets at least once a week.
We're sorry we can't give you a definitive answer, but it really depends on a number of different things. We don't know you or your lifestyle well enough to be bossing you or your cleaning habits around.
And if you don't wash them?
You're not trying to avoid washing your sheets, are you? Of course you're not, that's what we thought. But just in case you were, this should scare off that silly thought:
- Dirty sheets will turn into a breeding ground for bacteria, dust mites, and maybe even bed bugs.
- You may develop allergies to dust.
- Some sickness can survive on linens. This will keep you sick for longer and can also infect anyone else you may share the bed with.
- Your skin may become irritated and vulnerable to breakouts.
Don't forget the pillows!
Make sure you're not forgetting to throw the pillow cases in with the sheets. If anything, pillow cases should be washed even more frequently than sheets. Why? The sweat, oil, dirt and dust that accumulates on pillow cases spends about seven hours a day (depending on how much sleep you're getting) in contact with your face. The skin on our faces is some of the most sensitive skin on our body. It's also the first thing people see when we're out and about in the world. The cleaner your pillow cases are, the healthier and happier your skin will be. Keep an eye out for special pillows that have antibacterial properties to give your skin the best shot at staying healthy and vibrant.
Let's not forget about our hair either. Even if we are showering every night before bed, it's likely this doesn't include doing a full hair wash. Hair actually holds onto more dirt than anywhere else on our bodies.
Don't believe us? Ask sleep scientist, Chris Branter. Each night, our pillow case is smuggled by our face and hair. The dirt and oils practically play hop-scotch between our face, hair, and the pillow case, all night long. Dirty pillow cases are a leading cause of acne and blackheads. Branter even says that we should be changing our pillowcase every two days.
- Wash your sheets at least once a week.
- If possible, change them more often.
- Don't forget the pillow cases either.
- Give yourself the best shot at a clean sleep every night by investing in a high-quality set of antimicrobial bed sheets in the first place!