Updated: Mar 4
In the previous blog post, we learned about dead layers of the skin, the process, and the consequences. So when I recently visited a bedding store in search for a new comforter/duvet supporting rejuvenating sleep the question came up: DO YOU WASH YOUR SHEETS OFTEN ENOUGH?
My guess is, you probably don't wash your bedsheets (or towels) as often as you should, along with make-up brushes. Seriously, in a survey of 2,000 people in the U.K. almost one-third of respondents admitted to cleaning their bedsheets just … are you ready for this? Once a year. Well, let's hope the outcome of the survey would have been different if it was taken in the U.S.
Why is this so important?
The skin sheds 200 million dead skin cells per hour, which equals 9 pounds of dead skin cells annually, according to a board-certified dermatologist in San Diego.
Given the sheer number and weight of this cellular debris, it is easy to then understand how bed sheets can become dirty easily without regular cleansing.
But what does ‘regular cleansing’ mean, exactly, and how often should you wash your sheets? Below, experts share how frequently you should toss your bedding in the washing machine — and how to get them as clean as possible.
The Risks of Sleeping On Dirty Sheets
In the best-case scenario, sleeping on dirty sheets night after night can cause skin irritation, but in the worst-case, all the dead skin cells sitting on your bedding act as "food" for dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic, insect-like pests that often live in the dust on your mattress, bedding, upholstered furniture, carpet, and curtains, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The problem: Their poop is a major allergen, and they're known to worsen conditions such as asthma, hay fever, atopic dermatitis, and eczema. Allow those dead skin cells to multiply on your sheets, and the presence of dust mites in your home will also increase.
There's also a possibility that infection-inducing bacteria and fungi can be transmitted if sheets aren't washed frequently enough. If someone has a fungal nail infection, for example, skin shedding could easily allow the fungus to spread to bed partners. While studies investigating this transmission are limited, it's just another reason to erring on the side of caution and sticking to a regular sheet-washing schedule.
So, How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets?
Despite the relatively simple question, there isn't one clear-cut answer as to how often you should wash your sheets. Currently, there isn't much clinical evidence from medical literature supporting a specific washing frequency.
I think aiming for once weekly is a great goal and likely covers any potential skin- or health-related risks. Still, there are some cases in which you may want to wash your sheets more frequently, such as if you're using an ointment to treat a skin condition, as the bedding may get soiled, or if you're experiencing excessive sweating throughout the night, as the combo of sweat, dirt, oil, and bacteria that may be present on your bedsheets (much like your workout clothes) could lead to body acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Similarly, more frequent washing may be needed if you (or your bed partner) has a contagious skin infection or a mite infestation such as scabies. And this goes for non-human bed partners — like fur babies — too; pets can harbor fungal organisms (e.g. ringworm) and mites that can be transferred to humans and cause skin issues, and cleaning sheets more often may help reduce the risk of transmission, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
How to Properly Wash Your Sheets
Regardless of your washing schedule, it is recommended to clean sheets in hot water to destroy any infection-causing microbes and allergy-inducing dust mites. Washing bedding — including sheets, pillowcases, and blankets — once weekly in hot water (think: 130°F) has been shown to kill mites and remove the allergens they create.
My personal tip is to change at least pillowcases regularly. I change mine every time I wash my hair. That would be every other night. I also use satin-like materials for pillowcases, as this helps to avoid sleep wrinkles and crazy hair the next day.