How often should you wash your sheets?

How often to wash sheets

How often you should wash your sheets and bedding is one of those questions that pops up often and probably because there’s no hard and fast rule by which we should all abide.  It comes down to your individual lifestyle and personal preference.  Fresh sheets on the bed is one of life’s simple pleasures, but it’s amazing how few actually care to strip and change the sheets on a weekly basis as is often recommended.

Various surveys and polls put the numbers of the grubby among us as high as 55%, and it seems the younger the grubbier, with mattress company Ergoflex discovering this number of 18-25 year old males not changing sheets more than 4 times a year. Now there's some sheets you would not want to touch, let alone smell!

The down and dirty: what’s in my bed?

Most of us will shudder at the thought of leaving our linens unwashed for so long, and with good reason.  We shed approximately 500 million skin cells every 24 hours, so that equates to about 160 million while you are in bed – and that’s if you don’t share it with anyone!  All those skin cells accumulate, along with products used on the skin, lint and bodily fluids such as sweat, skin oils, saliva, sexual fluids, and even waste material (yes, urine and faecal matter!).  Let’s not even mention dirt and pollen transferred from outside, and crumbs of food if you have a tendency to eat in bed.  All this creates the ideal environment for bacteria and dust mites to breed and share your bed with you.  Doesn’t sound very cosy, does it?  This spells bad news if you happen to have a scratch as it can get infected, and fungal infections can transfer between the occupants easily.  And dust mites can cause problems for people with allergies and asthma.  As if all that didn’t sound bad enough, the longer you leave it between changing sheets, the more likely the fluids are to seep through to the mattress and pillows and trust us – sheets are far easier to wash than those items.  At a bare minimum, you should be using mattress and pillow protectors – but don’t forget to wash those on occasion too! Every few months should do it.

So, how often should you wash sheets?

While most experts recommend washing every 1-2 weeks, this will of course depend on your lifestyle.  How do you sleep?  Do you wear pyjamas or go au naturel?  Do you have a shower before bed?  Tend to sweat a lot?  Are you prone to breakouts?  Do you share your bed with anyone? Spouse, casual flings, children, pets... Are you away from home frequently?  Do you even care if your bedding starts to emit an unpleasant odour?

All of these will affect how often you should change your sheets.  You can stretch the time out if your habits are on the clean side.

The exceptions are if there are obvious stains or smells which call for an immediate wash, and of course if the person sleeping on the sheets has a bout of illness, in which case at a bare minimum, the pillowcases should be washed daily, and certainly the whole set once the illness has passed.

If you manage to wash your sheets weekly, you can probably get away with washing your pillowcases at the same time.  But you might want to do a mid-week cycle just for them if you have skin problems, or tend to have greasy hair and don’t wash it every day.  And definitely more frequently if you have cuts or infections around your face or head.

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How often should you wash quilt covers (duvet covers)?

If you have a set which doesn’t include a top sheet, like our Percale Sheet Set, then wash your quilt cover weekly with the sheets.  If you opt to use a top sheet (flat sheet), you can get away with less frequent washing which will largely depends on smell and appearance, but once a month is about right.

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How often should you wash quilts and pillows?

A Canstar Blue survey revealed that 29% of adults never wash their pillows! If you’re one of those people, you don’t want to know what you’re breathing in every night.  Pillows need washing too – a couple of times a year will suffice, every 3 months is ideal.

Doonas or quilts can be washed or dry cleaned once a year.

Do the seasons matter?

According to microbiologist and pathologist Philip Tierno from the New York University School of Medicine, while you sleep your bedding absorbs about 100 litres of sweat every year.  Most of that is likely to be during the warmer months, so you should aim to change your sheets more frequently in summer.  It’s also the perfect season to dry your sheets and pillowcases out on the line, in direct sunlight as UV light is a great natural disinfectant and it also brightens whites.  And, really - can anything beat that fresh, crisp feel and smell of air-dried cotton sheets?

And if you’ve read this far and still have not been swayed by the ick factor to go and change your sheets right now?  You should do it anyway.  Because fresh, clean sheets feel amazing and are totally worth the relatively small amount of effort involved in changing them.