Many people just don’t wash their sheets often enough. The truth is that if you asked a handful of people how often should you wash your sheets, you’d probably get a range of different answers. Some people might stick to once a week, others every two weeks, some even — if they’d admit it — once a month.
A survey by Coyuchi, a home textile company, found that only 44 percent of the 1,000 Americans surveyed wash their sheets once or twice a month. Just 11 percent get around to it around once a season and 5 percent decrust their sheets only once or twice a year. A survey by Mattress Advisor found that out of the 1,000 people they surveyed, most on average waited around 25 days before cleaning or changing out their sheets.
So just how often should you wash your sheets?
The Good Housekeeping Institute says you should wash your sheets — and other bedding — at least once every two weeks. Although this is a common rule of thumb, many experts recommend weekly washings.
Factors that warrant more frequent washing
If any of the following conditions apply to you, consider laundering your sheets at least once per week::
- You have asthma or dust or pollen allergies
- You or your partner sweat a lot
- You have an infection or lesion that makes contact with your sheets or pillows
- Your pet sleeps in your bed
- You eat in bed
- You go to bed without showering
- You sleep naked
If you’re allergic to dust mites, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends washing your bedding at least once a week. You’ll need to wash them in water that is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 Celsius) to kill the dust mites.
Now, if you’re sick with something contagious, the rules change. Sheets and other bedding need to be changed as soon as you feel better to prevent contracting the illness again. The water will need to be between 140 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit (60 to 65.5 Celsius) to kill the germs, so select the sanitize option on your washer. If your washer doesn’t have a sanitize option, use the highest heat setting on your dryer.
What if you don’t?
Not washing your sheets regularly exposes you to the fungi, bacteria, pollen, and animal dander that are commonly found on sheets and other bedding. In a very short amount of time your sheets get covered with dead skin cells, oils from the skin, saliva and sweat. This can make for a dust mite paradise.
These little critters are too small to see with your eyes, but they live in your bed and make a meal from dead skin flakes. The 1.5 grams of skin shed by a human each day can feed 1 million dust mites. Many people are allergic to dust mites and their feces.
This won’t necessarily make you sick. But in theory, it can. It could also trigger eczema in people with the condition or cause contact dermatitis.
People with asthma and allergies can trigger or worsen symptoms by sleeping on dirty sheets. More than 24 million Americans have allergies. But even if you’re not part of this group, you may experience a stuffy nose and sneezing after a night’s sleep if your sheets aren’t clean.
You can also transmit and contract infections through soiled linens.
How often should you wash your sheets during the COVID-19 crisis
So how does all of that change during a global pandemic? Well, in the simplest terms, it’s time to up your game. No matter how often you were washing your bedding before, you should probably do it more often now, even if you and your family are completely healthy.
While there are no hard and fast rules, generally I’m telling my patients to cut normal wash periods in half
–Joshua Zeichner, board-certified dermatologist told HuffPost.
In other words, if you wash your sheets every other week, start doing it once a week.