Everyone has their own routine (or lack of one) for how often they flip their mattress and change their bed sheets. Maybe your sister changes her sheets every Sunday, but you tend to do it more like once every couple of weeks or even once a month.
But experts say, your sister is right–it’s best for your health to strip your bed and wash your sheets once a week.
Really? Once a week? You may be thinking to yourself, “Well, I’ve only been washing my sheets every other week my whole life and nothing bad has happened yet.” Well, you’re not alone.
In a 2015 poll by Women’s Health Magazine only 44 percent of the women surveyed said they wash their sheets routinely once a week, while 31 percent said they wash them every other week, and 16 percent said they do so only once a month.
Why Once a Week?
Think about it–do you use the same tissue multiple times after using it? Do you put layer after layer of makeup on without cleaning your face in between? Many doctors, health professionals and housekeeping experts say the same line of thinking can apply to your bed sheets.
“Given that you spend hours every night in bed, your sheets collect skin flakes and an assortment of body oils and fluids,” say experts like Martha Stewart and the team at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “Then there’s dust, dust mites and (if you have a cat or dog) pet hair. You should wash your sheets regularly to get rid of that buildup.”
“Bed sheets can rack up a serious collection of sweat, body oils, saliva (if you drool), dirt from outside, sexual fluids and even urine and fecal matter,” says laundry expert Mary Marlowe Leverette.
The consequences of not washing your sheets often enough go beyond your sheets not smelling quite as fresh–you can even end up giving yourself an infection.
For example, if you have an open wound on your body, dirt that has built up on your sheets can actually give you a staph infection, Marlowe Leverette warns.
In turn, this can also end up ruining your pillow and mattress. Not to mention, Athlete’s foot and other fungi can be transferred from fabrics. When you don’t wash your bedding often enough, infectious fluids can seep through your sheets and into your mattress, which is way more difficult to clean than sheets or a blanket.
Experts also agree on one other matter–how you wash your bed sheets is almost as important as how often.
The Best Methods for Washing your Sheets
In addition to having a great mattress, sleeping on top-quality bed sheets can have a big impact on the quality of your rest. So, you want to make sure you take good care of your bed sheets so they can help you get your best rest.
For longevity, the Good Housekeeping Institute recommends cold or warm water for most washes and occasionally hot water to help effectively disinfect your sheets, especially if a member of the family has been sick, or has had an accident. Hot water can also help get rid of allergens if you have sensitive allergies or sinuses. However, Martha Stewart points out that hot water can shrink some fibers, so to keep your sheets in excellent condition, it’s recommended not to use hot water with every wash.
Laundry expert Leigh Krietsch Boerner warns to be careful with what you add to your wash cycle. For stains or a quick burst of whitening, it can be good to use color-safe bleach once in a while. Plus, if you have sensitive skin, Boerner recommends adding ¼ cup of white vinegar to your detergent the first few times you wash a set of sheets to help get rid of some “factory finishes” that can irritate skin and cause contact dermatitis.
Be stingy with other things like fabric softener and dryer sheets. Using them with every load of laundry can actually leave behind layers of residue over time that can cause your sheets to become less breathable, meaning you’re more likely to overheat while you sleep and sweat more.
As for drying your sheets, she says the lowest possible heat setting is best to keep your sheets, comforters and duvet covers in their best shape over time. They’ll last longer if your wash them on a low heat for 45 minutes versus scorching them for 15 minutes, even when they’ve been washed in hot water.
Martha Stewart recommends washing pillow cases or duvet covers inside out to prevent color fading. She also adds that if you take your linens out of the dryer just before they are fully dry, it’s easier to prevent excessive wrinkling. Lay them flat or hang-dry them the rest of the way.
When Should you Say Goodbye to your Favorite Sheets?
Unfortunately, even if you follow all these expert tips and take perfect care of your favorite bed sheets, they will not last forever. The average life of sheets is about two years, according to most professionals including NBC News.
Mattress Clarity, House Beautiful and Martha Stewart all agree that the best indicator for when your sheets need replacing is visible wear and tear, as well as how the sheets feel.
“Visible signs such as thinning, yellowing and fading are the most obvious indicators your sheets are past their prime, but you might start to feel the decline as well, which can disrupt your oh-so-important sleep,” says the team at House Beautiful.
Martha Stewart agrees, saying that even the highest-quality sheets will eventually break down with frequent washing. When you start to signs of aging (stains, fraying, fading), replace them.
Opt for High-Quality, Easy-to-care-for Sheets
We couldn’t agree with Martha more–find yourself a set of high-quality sheets that are not only easy to take care of, but will give you the most luxurious, deep rest possible.
The Leesa Sheet Set is the perfect addition to your sleep sanctuary. Wrinkle-resistant and made from 500-thread count sateen weave cotton, Leesa sheets are breathable, soft, and made to fit every mattress (but especially designed for ours). Plus, they come with free shipping and returns, and you can try them risk-free for 75 heavenly nights. What’s more, we donate one set of sheets for every 75 sets we sell, to 42nd Street Charity.
Start getting your best rest with Leesa. And for more bed care tips and tricks, check out our Resource Guide.