How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets?

Let’s answer the question by looking at some variables, seeing what other people are doing, and checking in on what the experts have to say.

By Sheryl Grassie

Washing your sheets is a part of everyday life, you probably have some kind of routine for how often you do it, and you probably don’t give it much thought. You sleep in them; they get washed; life goes on. However, we all know that the experience of sleeping in crisp clean sheets is indulgent, delicious, and for many equates to a better night’s sleep. So, why not wash them more often?

Well frankly, washing sheets is a fair amount of work. Stripping the bed, washing and drying the sheets, and putting them back on the bed, probably not something you would choose to do daily. And daily is probably overkill. But having sheets washed at an appropriate interval is a good thing for many health-related reasons, because dirty sheets have some serious downsides. Here’s what you may (or may not) want to know about washing your sheets.

Washing Frequency: The Variables

Washing your sheets is part of good sleep hygiene like brushing your teeth is part of good oral hygiene. And the experts will recommend how often you should do both of these tasks. But before we get to that, let’s ponder a few things.

When all the variables are considered, the frequency with which you need to wash your sheets can vary considerably. So, what are the variables. and how do they make a difference? The variables are really how your sheets get dirty, and with what, and if you are having any health issues that may be impacted by dirty sheets. General considerations are as follows.

Lifestyle Variables

Do you eat in bed? Have animals or young children sleeping with you? Have a very amorous romantic life? Drool while you sleep? What about night sweats? Do you sleep in the nude? These variables, combined with the constant shedding of dead skin cells (which we all do), can suggest the need for a more frequent washing schedule. At a regular interval, it is good to get all those leftovers out of your bed: the sweat, the baby drool, the dog hair, the fecal matter, the sexual fluids, the crumbs, and the dead skin.

Generally speaking, the less you do in bed and the more that is between you and your sheets, the longer you can go without washing them. So, for example, if you sleep alone, shower before bed, don’t eat in bed, and wear long pajamas, you can go considerably longer between washings than someone who has a baby and a dog in the bed, eats an evening snack, and sleeps in the nude.

Health Issues

The other variable that plays into washing frequency is health. If you’ve had an illness, if you have allergies or asthma, and if you have certain skin conditions like acne or eczema, you can benefit from cleaning your sheets more often.

The more your sheets are exposed to organic matter, the more bacteria will develop that can affect health. In addition, where there are dead skin cells, there are dust mites: microscopic little critters that feast on our dead skin cells and can frequently play a role in allergies and skin conditions. The average human sheds enough dead skin cells overnight to feed 100’s of thousands of dust mites. Washing eliminates them, at least temporarily.

What Are Other People Doing?

One way we assess norms in our society is to look at what others around us are doing.  A CNN report looked at average sheet washing intervals and found that between 10 and 14 days was common, but also that going up to 3 or 4 weeks between washings was not uncommon. In a survey of 1,000 people conducted by Mattress Advisor, 24 days was the average. In an earlier 2014 British YouGov poll they found that the habits of British people rolled out at about 33% weekly, 35% every two weeks, and 29% at three or more weeks, with a small 3% at more than once a week. In the United States, those statistics are even higher for the every-two-weeks group. In a National Sleep Foundation survey in 2012, they found that 91% of those surveyed washed their sheets every other week.

What The Experts Have To Say

So, how does our washing frequency compare with what the experts recommend? It appears that we are in the ballpark as experts suggest we wash our sheets every week or two depending on all those variables. Some experts advocate for every week, while others, like the Good Housekeeping Institute, say every other week is fine.

If there are more people, pets, and activities in the bed, or you have health related concerns, go for the once a week option. If you have less people, activities, and health concerns, you can stretch it to two weeks or more. Remember to wash in hot water and dry in a hot dryer if possible, to kill the dust mites and bacteria. A furnace filter can help cut down on them as well.


Summary

How often you wash your sheets should be largely determined by how much is happening in the bed. Lots of kids, dogs, and romantic fun can necessitate more frequent washings. Most people seem to naturally choose an every other week schedule. Some experts support this, while others recommend once a week. If there are health related issues like asthma, or skin conditions like acne, the experts encourage washing more often. What everyone agrees on is that clean sheets feel exceptionally good.


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