How Often Should You Clean Your Sheets, Really?

How Often Should You Clean Your Sheets, Really?
Photo: New Africa, Shutterstock
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You’re probably not washing your sheets as often as you should. A survey done by the Mattress Advisor found that, on average, people will wait about 24 days before changing them — and the number was even higher for pillowcases. Here’s how often you should be washing your linens, and why.

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How dirty can your sheets be?

The average person is sleeping on their sheets anywhere from 50 to 60 hours a week. That’s 50 to 60 hours of skin flakes, body oil, dirt, and sweat. Microbiologist Jason Tetro told home improvement site This Old House, “Every single hour, we’re going to be shedding bacteria — and the numbers vary, but it’s in the millions every hour.”

Waiting three weeks to wash your sheets can result in large amounts of dirt, dander, hair, and dust mites (including their dead carcasses and faecal matter), and can contribute to skin irritation and respiratory issues like asthma. Business Insider reported that “A typical pillow has as many as 16 different species of fungus and literally millions of fungal spores.” To avoid unwanted issues like allergies and harmful germs, we should wash our sheets on a more regular basis. But exactly how often?

How often should you clean sheets?

The Sleep Foundation recommends washing your sheets every two weeks, as bacteria begin to multiply rapidly after that. You might also vacuum your mattress each time you change or clean your sheets, to help mitigate the dander and dirt underneath the sheets. When it comes to cleaning duvet covers, every three months should suffice, and pillows every four months. (The actual pillows themselves; pillowcases should be washed every two weeks with your sheets.)

If you have pets that like to snuggle in bed with you, The Sleep Foundation recommends washing your sheets every three to four days. Pets have dander and other bacteria you don’t want building up next to you as you sleep. And when you get sick, make sure to wash sheets even more often.

Change your sheets every two weeks, at minimum

If that sounds like one too many trips to the basement or laundromat, consider having enough sets of bedsheets to change them every two weeks. Replace them with a clean set and wash them based on your schedule — that way, you can go ahead and wait the average 24 days to actually put them in the wash.

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