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How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets?

So… You want to know how often you really need to wash your sheets. Well, if you ask enough people, you’ll probably notice that everyone has a different answer. But I’m here to set the record straight and settle this debate once and for all.

Don’t get me wrong — most of us already know that it’s important to keep your sheets clean. But you might not know about all the creepy critters and funky fungi that can live in your bedding if you don’t wash it properly. So keep reading to learn exactly how often you should be laundering your linens, and why snoozing on clean bedding will earn you better Zzz’s.

Why Do I Need To Wash My Sheets?

Before I reveal exactly how often you should be washing your sheets, let’s talk about why you need to wash them.

  • Dust Mites – Every night as you roll around in bed, you shed thousands and thousands of skin cells, with any dirt or sweat going right into your bedding. And to make matters ickier, dust mites actually feed on those shed skin cells.
how often to wash sheets
Dust mites feed off of dead skin cells that you shed every night.

Some of you may already be familiar with these little pests, but dust mites are microscopic insects that feed off dead skin and pet dander. So the longer you wait to wash your sheets, the more those skin cells will accumulate (which means more food for hundreds of dust mites!). (1)

  • Allergens – A buildup of sweat and skin cells is reason enough to keep your sheets clean, but keep in mind that a great many of us are allergic to dust mites! Regularly washing your bedding can serve to keep those allergens at bay, and prevent you from waking up with a stuffy nose. (2)
wash your sheets
The longer you wait to wash your sheets, the more dust mites will want to hang out in your bedding!
  • Skin Care – In addition to the dust mites hunting for a free meal, bed sheets can collect all kinds of bacteria, fungi, and other allergens that are totally invisible to the eye. Not to mention, makeup and face cream can accumulate in your bedding pretty quickly, which has been known to cause acne and other skin-related issues. (3)

By now, most of you are probably feeling pretty grossed out (and betrayed?) by your bedsheets. But if skin-eating arachnids aren’t enough to incentivize you, take this disturbing stat into consideration: Sheets that haven’t been washed for 3 weeks can harbor over 10 thousand times more bacteria than a toilet seat, and 40 times more bacteria than your pet’s food bowl. (4)

But fear not! I’m about to reveal exactly how often you should wash your sheets in order to keep them fresh and clean.

More: On the hunt for new sheets? Check out my roundup of the BEST sheets of 2019!

How Often Should I Wash My Sheets?

Now we know there are plenty of reasons to keep your sheets clean, but how often do you really need to wash them? Well, the short answer is once a week. Think of it like clothing — you’re going to want to wash your bedding every week in order to keep the daily grime from accumulating within the fabric. After all, we do rub our bodies all over our sheets every night for 8 hours at a time.

allergens bacteria sheets
Bacteria, fungi, and a whole host of allergens can build up in your bedding if you don’t wash it regularly.

That said, how often you wash your sheets depends a lot on your personal habits, so let’s discuss further with a little Q&A.

FAQ

Q: How often should you wash your bed sheets? A: Washing your sheets once a week is ideal. However, if you absolutely can NOT wash them once a week, there are some things you can do to cut down on the amount of bacterial buildup in your sheets.

Firstly, don’t allow your pets in bed (no matter how tempting it may be), as the dander from their fur only adds to the allergens. Similarly, don’t eat food in bed as stray crumbs can attract bugs and/or increase the risk of spills. And lastly, if you shower every night before crawling into bed, you can probably get away with washing your sheets every other week.

Wash Sheets once a week
Washing your sheets once a week is the best way to keep your bedding fresh!

FAQ

Q: Do I need to wash new sheets? A: Most bedding brands suggest that you wash your new sheets before you sleep on them, but others do not. Personally, I always wash a new set of sheets before I put them on my bed because they typically undergo various chemical/dyeing treatments during the manufacturing process.

And while these treatments are usually non-toxic, it’s still best to let it all rinse out in the wash. Additionally, most sheets shrink a bit after being washed for the first time, so running them through that first cycle will give you a better idea of how they’ll fit on your mattress.

Wash new sheets
It’s best to wash a new set of sheets before you sleep on them.

FAQ

Q: Can you get bed bugs from not washing your sheets? A: Dust mites may love your dirty sheets, but bed bugs aren’t so interested. It’s a common misconception that you’re more likely to attract bed bugs if you don’t properly wash your linens, but these critters can only flourish if they’re close to their primary food source — blood.

That said, it’s possible for bed bugs to attach to your body when you’re out and about (they can be found anywhere from libraries to movie theaters), and then hitch a ride into your bedding when you return home. If you suspect that bed bugs have found a way into your sleep space, contact Pest Control as soon as possible.

bed bugs
Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs are relatively rare, and don’t feed from dust or dirt.

FAQ

Q: How often should you replace your bed sheets? A: In general, you should replace your bed sheets every 2-3 years. But keep in mind that sheet durability depends upon specific materials and the quality of the fabric itself.

For example, linen sheets are incredibly durable, and have a reputation for getting softer and cozier as time goes on. In fact, some linen bedding can take you through decades of use. When it comes to cotton sheets, extra-long staple cotton tends to be more durable, and can often last up to 5 years. But in general, the average cotton or polyester sheet set will begin to pill or break down after 3 years.

Keep in mind that you should always have a spare sheet set to use while your others are in the wash. If you want to know more about which fabrics are most durable, check out our Bedsheets Ultimate Guide.

Wash Sheets clean
You should always keep a spare set of sheets to use while your others are in the wash.

Final Thoughts

Well there ya’ have it, folks. Now when people ask you how often you’re supposed to wash your sheets, you’ll have the right answer and the proof to back it up! And if you’re sitting there thinking, “Jeesh, once a week sure is a lot of washing,” I totally get it. But remember that keeping your sheets clean is an investment in your sleep health, and a good night’s rest is always worth the effort.

And while you carefully select your favorite fabric softener, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for all the answers to your sleep needs. Sweet dreams, everybody.

References

  1. Portnoy, Jay, et al. “Environmental Assessment and Exposure Control of Dust Mites: a Practice Parameter.” Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology : Official Publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5156485/.
  2. Fassio, Filippo, and Fabio Guagnini. “House Dust Mite-Related Respiratory Allergies and Probiotics: a Narrative Review.” Clinical and Molecular Allergy : CMA, BioMed Central, 19 June 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6006752/.
  3. Dunn, Robert R., et al. “Home Life: Factors Structuring the Bacterial Diversity Found within and between Homes.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2013, journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0064133.
  4. Woodcock, AA, et al. “Fungal Contamination of Bedding.” Research Gate, 2006, www.researchgate.net/publication/7406800_Fungal_contamination_of_bedding.
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Sarah is the Senior Writer and bedding expert at Sleepopolis. Every week, she personally tests and reviews new pillows, sheet sets, and other sleep accessories. She accompanies every video review with a meticulously detailed article to ensure her audience has all the pertinent info they need for the best shopping experience possible. Perhaps that’s why her fans have dubbed her “the most thorough pillow reviewer on the Internet.” Having tested everything from sleep trackers to mattress toppers, Sarah's expertise runs deep and is always expanding. She received her degree in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College and spends her free time doing stand-up, making pasta, and hanging with her cats.
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