Sleep

How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets?

Or how to keep things as clean as possible between the sheets.

How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets?
Updated 
Dec 17, 2021

Maybe you've got fond memories of swapping horrors stories during sleep overs. Or maybe you're more a hide-behind-a-pillow-screaming type. Wherever you fall on the horror story scale, we're here to tell you the true (and scariest) horror story is what's lurking in your bed sheets.

Luckily, there's a quick and easy way to guard yourself against this particular horror story: washing your sheets. Not only do clean sheets smell lovely and feel even lovelier, they're key to a good night's rest and your overall sleep health.

Why you need to wash your sheets

Spoiler alert: you share your bed with a lot of things. Every time you fall into bed, you're bringing along your own:

  • Dirt.
  • Dead skin cells.
  • Sweat.
  • Body oils.
  • Makeup residue.

It only takes 2-3 days for a lot of this stuff to build up. Fine you might think, that's all stuff of mine! I'm ok with that. Which brings us to the number one reason you should wash your sheets: dust mites.

Dust mites are 8-legged creatures that are invisible to your eyes. They're super common and are found in most households. The good news: they don't bite. The bad news: they feast on your dead skin cells. What happens when they're done eating? Same as what happens to humans: it has to come out the other end.

It's estimated that by the end of its life, a mattress can have 100,000 to 10 million dust mites in it, using it as their very own toilet. Up to 10% of the weight of a 2-year-old pillow can be made up of dead dust mites and their, um, poo.

So to clarify: you're sleeping alongside dust mites, their dead bodies and their poo.

This leads us onto our number two reason: allergens.

Dust mite carcasses and their poo are an allergen. This means they are a big cause of asthma and allergies, including  hay fever, eczema, coughing, a stuffy nose and more. Even if you're not allergic, you probably don't want them (and their thousands of siblings) as a bedfellow.

As well as being a breeding ground for allergens which can cause a flare up of allergy symptoms, dirty bed sheets can harbour germs. If you're sick, especially with something contagious like the flu or a cold, those germs are hanging out in your bedding too.

Finally, dirty sheets can impact on your skin health - your skin is in direct contact with them for so many hours each day. You might experience:

  • Skin irritation, rashes or infections.
  • Acne.
  • Sensitive skin.

Gross, yes? But washing sheets is a great way to keep all this not-so-lovely stuff under control. Other good news: you won't get bed bugs from dirty sheets. Bed bugs have nothing to do with cleanliness and are normally brought in from other places.

Oh, and regardless of whether your sheets are bamboo or cotton or another material, even the best sheets with the highest thread count get dirty.

How often you should wash your sheets

If by now you're fully convinced of the need to wash sheets (phew), how often should you do it?  Ideally, most people should wash their sheets every week.

We know, that sounds like a lot. But you spend around 8 hours every single night in your bedding, rubbing your body all over your sheets. So, it's not surprising that a lot of icky things are going to accumulate on them.

If you can't face washing them once a week, they need to be washed at least once every 2 weeks.

Are there any exceptions to this?

Yep, some people need to wash their sheets more often.

If you've been sick with a virus or infection, you need to wash your sheets as soon as you start to feel better. Otherwise, you're going to continue to be surrounded by germs.

Wash your sheets every few days if:

  • You suffer from allergies or asthma.
  • You sweat excessively or have night sweats.
  • You eat in bed.
  • Your pet sleeps in your bed.
  • You have any open wounds on your body.
  • You sleep naked.
  • You live in a hot, humid climate.

If you don't sleep in your bed every single night, you can get away with washing your sheets once every 2 weeks.

I just can't face washing my sheets once a week!

We hear you.

Here are some ways to keep your sheets as clean as possible without weekly washing:

  • Keep pets off. Pet dander from their fur adds to allergens and provides an additional tasty snack for dust mites.
  • Don't eat in bed. All the crumbs are tempting spots for bacteria to lurk.
  • Try to shower before sleep so you can get rid of any built-up sweat / skin cells and hair / etc.
  • Invest in more sheets so you can change your sheets weekly but you don't have to wash them weekly.

What about other bedding?

Although sheets should have a weekly wash, you'll also need to regularly wash your other bedding.

  • Pillow cases need a weekly wash. Your head lies directly on them so it's easy for dirt / skincare products / make up residue / dead hair, etc. to build up.
  • A duvet cover should be washed once every 2-4 weeks.
  • A mattress protector should be washed every 2 months.
  • A duvet / doona should be washed once every 2-3 months.
  • A blanket should be washed once every 2-3 months.
  • A pillow should be washed every 4-6 months, if possible.

Some of your bedding (like your duvet / doona, blanket and pillows) might be too big for your washing machine. In which case, you can take them to a launderette with their industrial-size machines.

If you can't wash your bedding (some pillows aren't washable, for example), you can still:

  • Hang your bedding outside on the line to freshen up.
  • Open your bedroom window to let air circulate.
  • Leave them in a sunny spot inside where UV light can naturally sterilise them.

Do I need to wash brand new sheet sets?

It's a good idea to, yes. Most new sheets go through a chemical treatment or dyeing process when they're  manufactured, and a machine wash can help rinse any residue out. Plus, it's normal for sheets to shrink a little on their first wash so you can see how they fit your mattress.