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.

bed sheetsPhoto Credit: iStock/dny59

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.

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, MD, 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.

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, MD, the director of cosmetic dermatology at Northwell Health and assistant clinical professor at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. People who should wash their sheets more often are those who are sick, who sleep nude, and who go to bed without showering after a workout or being outside for a long time, according to Dr. Madan. “You can introduce many germs and allergens to your sheets which are not going anywhere without being washed,” he says.

Although experts recommend washing sheets at least once a week, even knowing there are dust mites might not motivate some people to wash their sheets. In a survey by home textile company Coyuchi, only 44 percent of surveyors 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. (FYI: It’s easy to keep up with cleaning if you follow these 10 hacks.)

Keep these tips in mind when you wash your bed sheets

Now that you know the best way to get rid of all that yucky stuff is to wash your bed sheets a minimum of once a week, 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, which is especially important if you have allergies, according to research in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.

Dr. Madan suggests using a hypoallergenic detergent and Dr. Zeichner also recommends opting for fragrance-free detergent—and only using the recommended amount. “Overdosing, or using too much of your detergent, means that the detergent molecules themselves can become lodged between fibres 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, but here are some natural products that will actually help you get the job done.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest