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How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets?

Written by Abbie Stutzer

Your bedding may look clean, but is it? More often than not, bedding can quickly become coated with human skin, hair, bodily secretions, pet hair, allergens… We could go on.

We dove into the research to figure out how often people truly should wash their bedding and here is what we discovered.

How Often Should You Wash Your Bedding?

In general, you should wash bedding weekly. This includes washing all sheets, blankets, pillowcases, and bedcovers. All bedding should be washed in hot water that’s at least 130 fahrenheit (54.4 celsius). This hot temperature ensures that dust mites are killed and allergens are removed. If you can’t or prefer to not wash your bedding in hot water, you also can place bedding in a dryer at the same temperature for 15 minutes prior to washing.

Before washing your bedding, always consider the fabric care instructions. Different pieces of bedding will need different forms of care. Generally speaking, sheets can be washed every one to two weeks. Blankets will need to be washed depending on how they are used. Blankets that see a lot of direct use and skin contact should be washed every two weeks. Blankets that do not can be washed every few months.

Many fabrics are safe to wash with warm water on a gentle cycle, but different fabrics will do better with specialized care.

Percale Sheets

Percale sheets are made from a tight cotton weave that makes them breathable and resistant to pilling. Percale sheets also soften with each wash while staying relatively crisp. Use warm water, a gentle dry cycle, and avoid harsh detergents or bleaches.

Wash percale sheets with standard frequency of one to two weeks.

Silk Sheets

Silk sheets are made from a more delicate fabric which requires more specific care. Silk should be washed on a gentle cycle with cold water. You may also opt for hand washing your silk sheets in a large basin of cold water and gentle detergent that is rated for silk sheets. Silk is more prone to color bleeding, so it is best to wash a set of silk sheets separate from other items.

You can wash silk sheets as frequently as you would other sheets. Take care in handling as silk sheets are more susceptible to wear and tear.

Cotton Sheets

Cotton sheets will vary slightly depending on the material and weave, but they are typically washable using warm or hot water and a low to medium dryer setting. Consider using cool water on darker sheets to keep colors from fading.

Wash cotton sheets with standard frequency of one to two weeks.

Flannel Sheets

Flannel sheets need a little extra care to maintain the characteristic softness of the fabric. Avoid high temperatures at every step to prevent pilling. Wash flannel sheets separate with cold or warm water and a gentle dryer cycle. Use few, gentle washing products.

Wash flannel sheets every one to two weeks.

Weighted Blankets

Washing a weighted blanket is going to depend largely on the blanket’s construction, fabric, and filler. Follow provided fabric care instructions as closely as possible. The average washing machine can safely handle a fifteen-pound blanket. Heavier blankets will need to be washed by hand or in a commercial washer at a laundromat.

Wash weighted blankets according to use. If you choose to wash your blankets frequently, consider washing the inner component of the blanket only occasionally.

Wool Blankets

Wool is best washed with cold water, either by hand or using a gentle washing machine cycle. Hang the blanket on a rack and allow it to dry for about half a day. Do not use a dryer with wool.

Consider washing a wool blanket every three months.

Allergens Accumulate on Bedding

A study in the journal Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that bedroom allergen exposures are high. This is because people, in general, spend a lot of time in bed. And while in bed, people are in “close proximity” to “allergen reservoirs,” aka bedding. Also, airborne particles can be inhaled during sleep.

According to the Immunology journal article, almost 99 percent of study participants had at least one allergen in their home; 74.2 percent had three to six allergens. These high percentages demonstrate why it’s important to launder bedding frequently.

Washing Does Work

Another study in the journal Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that washing with a simple laundry detergent at 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) for 5 minutes could effectively remove mite allergen and cat allergen from bedding dust. The study stated that normal laundering is an inexpensive and effective way to “reduce allergen reservoirs.”

Sometimes Prevention Works

In addition to cleaning, people could consider using pillow, mattress, etc. “encasements.” According to an article in the journal Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, minimizing allergen exposure via encasements kept allergens on pillows, bedding at bay. In fact, these encasements helped improve asthma control in adult asthma patients.

Going Beyond Bedding

If you notice that your allergies increase when you sleep, that your mattress has an odor or stains, or have noticed strange bites on your body, you may want to consider cleaning your mattress.

The following are simple ways to clean your mattress:

  • Vacuum: Use your vacuum’s upholstery tool to vacuum your mattress every few months when your sheets are removed and in the wash. Make sure you go over the mattress top, sides, and bed spring. For an extra cleaning kick, add baking soda to the mix. Just sprinkle it on your mattress, let it sit for a few minutes, and vacuum it up.
  • Spot Cleaning: Spray stained areas with a dish detergent mix; use 50 percent water and 50 percent dish detergent. Let the solution sit and then scrub it thoroughly.
  • Eliminate Odors: Spray the mattress or affected area with vinegar. If you are concerned about the vinegar smell, Febreeze works as a good odor eliminator, too.