How Bad Is It to Not Wash Your Sheets Every Week?

No one loves laundry day, but lying in petri dish of germs and bacteria is even less appealing.


Should You Wash Your Sheets Every Week?

We tend to believe that our homes are clean, cozy places. No matter how vigilant you are with house cleaning, some places still fill with undesirable dust mites, fungal elements, fecal matter, pollen, dander and dead human cells. Gross! What’s worse, one of those hotbeds of germs is the very place you rest for a sweet slumber. That’s right — your bed.

Plus, check out these home cleaning tips straight from the CDC.

Your Bed Sheets Collect Gross Particles

Some of the 500 million cells we shed daily, along with our perspiration, pollen, pet dander, fungi and mold, are all snuggling in bed with us at night. Your sheets also accumulate oil, sweat, dirt and makeup, according to Joshua Zeichner, M.D., the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

“Not washing your sheets regularly puts all of this in close contact with your skin for several hours at a time while you sleep,” he says. “This can lead to a variety of problems ranging from skin irritation to acne to possibly even infections in a worst-case scenario.” Generally speaking, Dr. Zeichner recommends washing your sheets once per week, or more if there is any visible spoiling. In addition, there are also plenty of items in your home you really should have replaced by now.

Some People Need to Wash Their Sheets More Often

There are exceptions to the once-a-week bed sheet cleaning rule, according to Raman Madan, M.D., the director of cosmetic dermatology at Northwell Health and assistant clinical professor at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. People who are sick, sleep nude, or go to bed after being outside for a long time should wash their sheets more often, according to Dr. Madan. Same with anyone who works out and hits the hay without showering. “You can introduce many germs and allergens to your sheets which are not going anywhere without being washed,” he says.

If that isn’t enough to convince you to wash your bed sheets regularly, consider that more than 84 percent of beds in America contain dust mites. They love to live in our sheets and feed off our dead skin. Here’s the difference between dust mites and bed bugs.

Although experts recommend washing sheets at least once a week, even knowing there are dust mites might not motivate some people to do it. In a survey by home textile company Coyuchi, only 44 percent of respondents say they wash their sheets once or twice a month. Another survey, from Mattress Advisor, found that surveyors waited around 25 days before cleaning or changing out their sheets — 18 days too long.

Find out 23 grossest things in your house you’ve never bothered to clean.

Keep These Tips in Mind When You Wash Your Bed Sheets

Now that you know how often to wash your sheets, remember to use the hottest temperature suggested on the care label. The hotter the water, the more likely you are to kill most of the germs, remove dust mites and stop pollen from sticking to the fabric. The latter is especially important if you have allergies, according to research in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.  Here are seven effortless ways to freshen linens without chemicals.

Dr. Madan suggests a hypoallergenic detergent, and Dr. Zeichner also recommends fragrance-free detergent, using only the recommended amount. “Overdosing, or using too much of your detergent, means that the detergent molecules themselves can become lodged between fibers of the fabrics,” Dr. Zeichner says. “Exposing your skin to this can lead to irritation reactions.”

More isn’t better when it comes to cleaning. These are 10 things you’re probably cleaning too much.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest