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Spring cleaning season has officially arrived, so we figured it’s time we dive into one of the most frequently asked—and hotly debated—topics: how often you should really be washing your sheets. In typical Proper fashion, we’re following the science. Here’s what you need to know:
According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, (1) 91% of people change their sheets and pillowcases at least every other week, while 62% change their sheets once a week (or more often).
Research suggests that once a week is ideal. Here’s why:
- To reduce dust mites
As you roll around at night, you shed thousands of dead skin cells, which dust mites feed off of (they also like pet dander). So the longer you wait to wash your sheets, the more skin cells and dust mites you’ll be dealing with.
And while you can’t see dust mites, you may feel the effects of these microorganisms. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation, (2) dust mites are the leading cause of in-home allergies, with symptoms ranging from sneezing to a runny nose, itchy/red/watery eyes and throat to postnasal drip and coughing. Dust mites have also been found to trigger eczema (3) or contact dermatitis, (4) so however you spin it, they’re not great.
- To reduce bacteria
According to research conducted by Amerisleep, (5) sheets that haven’t been washed in over one week have 17,000 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. After three weeks, they have 405 more bacteria than a kitchen sink. And after four weeks, 39 times more bacteria than a pet bowl. Needless to say, you don’t want to be spending eight hours a night in that.
If you’re wondering whether frequent washing also reduces your chances of bed bugs, unfortunately that’s not the case. While a common myth that clean sheets = no bed bugs, there’s no direct correlation since the little critters come in on things like jackets, purses, etc rather than thriving on dirty sheets.
This once-a-week wash was confirmed by leading New York-based microbiologist Philip Tierno who, in an article on Business Insider, (6) explained that even if you don’t have a known allergy, the allergens and bacteria that build up on fitted sheets, top sheets, duvet covers, and comforters (near your mouth and nose) can trigger a response.
While once a week is the rule of thumb, certain people should consider changing their linens more frequently, including those who have allergies, asthma, or sensitive skin, are more prone to sweating, co-sleep with their dog or cat, sleep naked, or shower in the morning versus at night before bed.
It’s best to wash your sheets in hot water (the hotter, the better!) before tossing them from the washing machine into the dryer. This way, you’ll remove as much bacteria and allergens as possible. (Although you should always read the care label for your specific sheets first.)
When it comes to the lifespan of a typical set of sheets, the average is 2-3 years, although certain staple cotton sheets can be on the more durable side and last up to five years. After that, it’s best to invest in new sheets for a healthy, good night’s sleep.
Looking for more top tips on all things sleep? We’ve got you covered.