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How Often Should You Change Your Sheets?

Written by Kristen Hamlin

Should you change your sheets today? The answer is likely “Yes.”

You’ve probably heard that you shed skin cells every day — as many as 40,000 of them, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. But did you realize that the skin you shed every day is enough to feed more than a million dust mites? And that there’s a good chance that many of those mites are living in your bed? And not to make you cringe too much, but all of those microscopic bugs living in your bed are doing things that bugs do, namely going to the bathroom.

Yes, it’s kind of gross to think about sleeping with dust mite feces, and it probably makes you want to wash your bedding right away. If that doesn’t do it, think about everything else that may be on your sheets, like sweat, drool, oils from your skin, and other bodily fluids. Do you really want to sleep on all of that?

Surprisingly, not everyone washes their sheets regularly. In fact, one survey revealed that only 44 percent of people wash their sheets monthly or twice a month — and 5 percent only wash their sheets once per year.

How Often You Should Wash Your Sheets

While washing your sheets every month is certainly healthier and more sanitary than sleeping on the same set for 365 nights in row, it’s still not often enough. Ideally, you should wash your sheets a minimum of every two weeks, or every week if you tend to sweat a lot while you sleep.

That being said, several additional factors can influence how long your sheets can go between cleanings. For example, if you always wear pajamas, they likely catch many of the skin cells you shed, so you can probably go a few extra days between washings.

However, even if you wear clothing to bed, or shower before hopping into bed naked, some factors create a need for more frequent sheet changes, including:

  • Sharing a bed with pets
  • Drooling
  • Moving around a lot (this causes you to shed more skin)
  • Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis

Why You Should Change Your Sheets

If the idea of sleeping with dust mites and their droppings isn’t enough to convince you, there are actually some really good reasons to wash your sheets more often.

If you have allergies, sleeping on clean sheets can help you keep them under control, as dust mites irritate your airways and trigger reactions like a stuffy or runny nose and watery eyes, which can keep you awake.

However, your skin is likely to see the greatest benefit from clean sheets. According to dermatologists, sleeping on dirty sheets full of bacteria can disrupt your skin’s microbiome, or the balance of microorganisms living on your skin that keep it healthy. For some people, this disruption shows itself in the form of acne. For others, it means an increase in irritation. People with eczema, for instance, may have flare-ups when their sheets aren’t clean.

Not changing your sheets often enough can also be an issue if you sleep in the nude. It’s possible that bacteria from feces could get on your sheets, increasing your risk of illnesses spread via those germs. It’s unlikely, but still a possibility.

How to Keep Your Sheets Clean

Keeping your sheets clean is relatively simple, as most are machine-washable. To effectively kill dust mites, you should wash your sheets in hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit) with a mild detergent. Dry in the dryer, or line dry for extra freshness. Drying your sheets outside can also help keep your whites brighter and kill germs. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for washing sheets; often, using bleach or water that’s too hot can damage the fibers and cause discoloration, shrinking, or other issues.

The major exception to the “wash at least every two weeks” rule is when you are sick. At the very least you should wash all of your bedding in hot water once you get better to kill the germs and prevent getting sick again. Some people find that changing their sheets (or getting someone else to do it for them) also helps them get more rest while they’re sick, especially if they have been sweating from a fever.

It’s easier to wash your sheets more often if you have an extra set to put on your bed while the others are in the wash. Homemaking guru Martha Stewart suggests having two sets of sheets per bed. If you have a child who regularly wets the bed, or you aren’t always on top of the laundry, then keep three sets on hand.

Making your bed every day can also help keep your sheets clean. Fluffing the pillows and blankets helps move some of the dead skin cells to the floor, where they can be vacuumed up when you clean the floor. Leave your bed unmade for 30 minutes or so when you first get up to allow any moisture to evaporate, then straighten out the blankets. This way you can prevent more dust from landing on your sheets — and if your furry friends decide to nap on your bed during the day, they won’t leave their dander and fur behind.

When to Replace Your Sheets

Even when you wash your sheets regularly, they don’t last forever. With regular use and washing, the average set of sheets will start to show wear after about two years. That doesn’t mean that you need to run out and purchase new sheets every other year, but that’s typically when the fibers start to break down and you’ll notice pilling, fading, and wear.

The better the quality of your sheets, the longer they will last. For example, Egyptian cotton sheets tend to resist wear and tear longer than regular cotton sheets, so you will not need to replace them as often.

If you have two or more sets of sheets that you cycle through, you can extend their lifespan. Bottom line? If your sheets have worn to the point where they no longer fit on the bed, they have holes, or they are disrupting your sleep, it’s time to invest in a new set.

Changing your sheets regularly isn’t just hygienic, but it can also help keep them in good shape — or even improve them. Many sheets are made from fabrics that are designed to soften with time and washing, and the more often you clean them, the softer and more comfortable they become. So add sheet changing to your weekly or biweekly chore list, and sleep easy on clean, fresh bedding that won’t make you sick.