We asked cleaning and bed linen experts 'how often should you wash your sheets' and the answer was unanimous.
Over-washing bed linen can turn the softest sheets into stiff, starchy cardboard. However, not washing your sheets enough can have bad side effects for both you and your bed.
Just like cleaning a kitchen, cleaning your bed linen and changing pillow cases, sheets and quilt covers needs to be a regular task, or you'll soon see the impact on your bed linen, skin and sleep routine.
How often should you wash your sheets?
Cleaning expert and TV’s Queen of Clean, Lynsey Crombie (opens in new tab) recommends washing sheets on a weekly basis, saying, "Once a week is sufficient."
Chrissie Rucker, founder of The White Company (opens in new tab), purveyors of the best sheets and finest thread counts, agrees adding, "Bed linen care is crucial to maintaining a fresh and healthy bedroom. You should wash your bed linen at least once a week."
Although Lynsey offers a loophole to her one-week cleaning guidelines, adding, "If you have a double bed, sleep on your own, and time is against you, there is no harm in swapping sides and then washing once a fortnight."
She also adds, "If you have a cold or suffer badly with hay fever, I would advise washing your pillowcases more often or swapping them around." Washing pillowcases is far easier than washing your pillows, which you'll end up having to do if you let dirt build-up by not washing sheets regularly enough.
"The main reason for washing bedding is obviously hygiene," psychologist, neuroscientist, and sleep expert, Dr Lindsay Browning tells woman&home. "We all sweat, and that along with dead skin cells gets into the bedding not only making them smell disgusting but also becoming clogged up."
"There is also the added problem of dust mites which live on the dead skin cells. Your bed should be a pleasant place to be where you can feel relaxed, if the sheets aren’t washed, look dirty and smell, your bed isn’t somewhere you want to be. In the warmer months, when we sweat more, we should ideally wash our sheets weekly."
What happens if you don't change your sheets often?
Our experts advise on the reality of not washing and changing your sheets regularly:
"Washing your sheets less regularly than you should (once a week) could leave you more vulnerable to allergies," warns Jessica Handley, founder of natural linen bedding company, Piglet in Bed (opens in new tab).
"Clean sheets are key to preventing skin irritation and maintaining a good relationship with sleep. We spend a lot of time in bed – an average total of two days a week to be precise. During that time, we shed millions of skin cells, we sweat (even if we don’t notice it) and we produce natural body oils that build up in the sheets. Even if you shower before bed every night, this will still happen."
Not washing sheets regularly enough can also have on affect on our skin, as explained by Tara Farmer, advanced skin specialist and founder of Flawless Advanced Skincare (opens in new tab): "Not washing sheets regularly results in a build-up of bacteria and germs that can attack the skin's immune system."
"It can also clog pores and result in bumps on the skin, pimples, and even cystic acne breakouts. It can also exacerbate existing conditions such as eczema." Explaining the root of the problem Tara tells woman&home, “When we sleep dead skin cells, oils, germs, and bodily fluids collect on our sheets and pillowcases and the bacteria multiply at an extremely fast rate. The average person sheds 1.5g of dead skin a day."
"It's therefore vital for optimal skin health that you keep bed sheets clean and washed regularly in order to avoid this build-up of dirt, dust, and bacteria that can be so damaging to the skin and lead to premature aging.”
Not changing your sheets often enough could also jeopardize how well you sleep and cause your mattress to become dirtier, according to cleaning expert Lynsey who says, "You won’t sleep well and your bed will smell. You will be more at risk of bedbugs as they love dark, moist spaces.
She also warns that not washing your sheets regularly will lead to you seeking advice on how to clean a mattress, because dirty sheets will eventually affect the mattress below. " Sweat will leak into the pillow and mattress," Lynsey explains, "and these are much harder to clean than your sheets. Pillows can double in weight over the period of six months through dead skin cells and saliva if bedding is not changed on a regular basis."
Finally, the longer you leave it between washing your sheets, the shorter the lifespan of your sheets will be in the long term - as dirty sheets are more likely to wear out faster.
Mark Tremlett, founder of Naturalmat (opens in new tab) explains, "The longer you sleep on your sheets the more stress you’re putting on the fibers in the fabric, and as they get dirtier they get weaker too. Washing your sheets not only makes them cleaner, but also refreshes the fibers and, in turn, will increase their longevity."
How can you keep sheets clean between washes?
While you might not have time to wash sheets every single week, there are some simple ways to keep sheets clean between laundering:
- Shower before bed
- Wear nightclothes
- Avoid naps after a sweaty sleep session
- Remove any make-up before going to bed
- Avoid putting on lotions, creams or oils right before bed
- Don’t eat or drink in bed
- Don’t allow pets on your bed
- If you aren’t showering, remove debris and dirt from your feet before climbing into bed
Alison Davidson has been working as an interiors and lifestyle journalist for over 30 years. She has been Homes and Gardens Editor of Woman & Home magazine and Interiors Editor of House Beautiful magazine, she has also freelanced and worked for most of the interiors magazines at one time or another. She is currently embracing the move to digital using the same knowledge and expertise to produce high quality features for an online audience.
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