Interior Cleaning Laundry

Solved! How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets?

Yes, there's a rule of thumb, but some people should wash their bedding more (or less) frequently than recommended. Find out how often you should change your sheets, and how your health can suffer if you don't.
Gretchen Heber Avatar
view from end of bed with wood frame baseboard with pink sheets and pillowcases

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Q: I take daily showers and don’t snack in bed, so I don’t think my sheets ever get that dirty. Still, I wonder if I’m washing them frequently enough. How often should you change your sheets? What about other bedding, like the pillowcases, duvet, and mattress cover?

A: The short answer is that you should wash your sheets more often than you probably do. In fact, you need to wash your sheets once per week, though in some situations you might be able to stretch to once every other week. Some people may even need to wash their sheets as frequently as every 3 to 4 days.

Each night, for 8 hours or so, you’re depositing bodily fluids, such as sweat, saliva, and more, onto your sheets. You’re also shedding tens of thousands of skin cells every night. Those skin cells are the primary food source of dust mites. Yup. Dust mites in your bed. And those dust mites and their droppings can trigger allergies and asthma.

But there’s more. Bacteria are commonly transferred to your bed from your skin or clothing. Let’s say you wash your hands after cooking dinner and then dry them on a kitchen towel that’s less than pristine. You run the risk of transferring bacteria from that towel onto your hands, and then onto your bedding. Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli have been found in bedsheets.

Fungi, too, are found in unwashed bedding—as many as 16 different types of fungus, and millions of spores.

And of course, there’s makeup, hair products, hair oil, face and body lotions, and the ointment you put on that cut on your arm—these are all transferring to your sheets, too. Then, if you share your bed with a pet, you can add to this mixture dirt, fur, fleas, their skin cells (aka dander) . . . you get the idea.

Finally, crumbs. Some people do eat in bed, and they inevitably drop crumbs. These food bits attract bugs, and then … yuck.

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How Often to Wash Your Sheets

overhead shot of woman in bed with white sheets and bedding, sitting with laptop on lap and eating a bowl of cereal

Most people should change their sheets once a week. You might be able to get away with washing them every 2 weeks if you don’t sleep in your bed every night. Maybe you travel a lot or fall asleep on the couch a few nights a week.

If you have pets, however, once-a-week sheet washing is probably not often enough—putting fresh sheets on the bed every 3 or 4 days is optimal. The same goes for people with allergies or asthma, who should also wash their sheets more often.

When figuring out how often you need to wash your sheets, consider the fabric they’re made from. Sheets made of synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon are more effective at repelling moisture than cotton and may not absorb as much from your skin. With synthetics, you may be able to get away with washing your sheets every 2 weeks. But there are still dead skin cells and dust mites, so put off washing at your own peril.

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Why You Should Wash Your Sheets Weekly

close view of woman sleeping in bed with white sheets and pillow

We’ve already mentioned that allergies and asthma can be exacerbated by dust mites. However, that’s just the beginning of the health concerns associated with infrequent sheet washing.

For starters, bacteria residing in your sheets can aggravate acne, eczema, and other skin conditions. They also pose more significant medical risks: S. aureus can cause serious infections such as pneumonia or bone and joint infections. E. coli can cause severe gastrointestinal distress and kidney failure.

If fungi are allowed to flourish in your bedding, fungal diseases such as ringworm and onychomycosis (toenail fungus) may occur.

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How to Wash Sheets

white and grey sheets in wicker basket sitting in front of laundry machine

Washing sheets is a pretty straightforward task, but the goal here isn’t just to get them clean. It’s crucial to incorporate the high heat that’s required to kill bacteria.

  • Pretreat stains as you would for any soiled clothing items.
  • Wash sheets using a normal wash cycle with the hottest temperature setting recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Use any regular detergent, or a detergent for sensitive skin, if that’s your usual go-to.
  • Dry sheets at a medium to high heat setting.

An additional consideration when thinking about how to wash sheets: Hot water washing and hot drying can fade richly colored fabrics, so you may want to stick with light-colored linens.

How Often to Wash Other Bedding

a young woman removes the pillowcase from her pillow

Don’t forget the other components of your bedding. It’s important to figure out how often should you wash your comforter, how often should you wash your blankets, and how often should you wash your pillowcases. These items, too, must be washed regularly, although in most cases less frequently than sheets:

  • Comforter: Wash quarterly, unless your pets nest on it nightly, in which case you should wash it as often as weekly.
  • Duvet cover: Wash quarterly, unless you have pets or don’t use a top sheet, in which case you’ll want to wash it weekly.
  • Pillowcases: Wash weekly with the sheets.
  • Pillows: Wash quarterly.
  • Blankets: Wash monthly.

Final Thoughts

For most people, the answer to the question “How often should you wash your bed sheets?” is once a week. Folks who aren’t always home to sleep in their beds might be able to go 2 weeks between changes, and others with pets or allergies may need to change their sheets as often as every 3 to 4 days. Take your living circumstances into consideration as you decide what makes the most sense for your family.