Body oils, sweat, makeup, and more can find their way onto your bed sheets, rendering once white, dyed, or patterned bedding dirty with a build up of who knows what. The same goes for pillowcases, duvet, duvet covers, and comforters. When it comes to keeping your sheets clean and your body healthy, it’s important to know how often to wash them.
However, that’s not the end of the story. Understanding the risks and benefits of timely cleanings will help motivate you to stay on a schedule. The way that you wash your sheets is just as key, because proper washings ensure that your bedding remains durable and soft. In this article, we share how often to wash your sheets, the benefits of frequent washing, and a few recommendations for the best bed sheets in case you’re looking for a new set.
How Often Do Most People Wash Their Bed Sheets?
A survey conducted by home textile company Coyuchi found that 44% of Americans wash their sheets only once or twice a month, 11% wash their sheets once a quarter, and 5% wash them only once or twice each year. Alternatively, a 2012 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 91% of people change their sheets every other week.
While the data may vary, we estimate that most people wash their sheets about once per month. While this isn’t as bad as folks who only clean their bedding quarterly, experts recommend more frequent washing for a myriad of reasons, which we’ll explore below.
Experts Recommend Washing Weekly: Here’s Why
The vast majority of organizations staffed with experts on the topic, ranging from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) to New York University’s Langone Medical Center, recommend cleaning your sheets once a week at a minimum. The AAD suggests changing your pillowcases two to three times a week, too.
A number of elements factor into the frequency that’s right for you – including how much you move in your sleep and the clothing you wear when you go to bed –but weekly washing is a good place to start for most people.
Here are other factors that can help determine a frequency that’s right for you:
- Do you sleep in the nude or wear pajamas to bed? Long sleeves and pants can trap some dead skin cells, keeping them away from your sheets.
- Are you a combination sleeper or do you toss and turn during the night? If you stay still, you’re less likely to shed skin.
- Do you shower or exfoliate before bed? This can get rid of some dead skin cells.
- Do you have issues like acne, eczema, or allergies?
- Do your pets sleep with you?
- Do you snack or drink in bed?
- Do you sweat often at night?
- Do you have easy access to a washing machine and dryer?
What are the Benefits of Washing Your Sheets Regularly?
Even if your sheets look clean to the naked eye, they accumulate quite a lot over a short period of time—and you won’t be able to see most of the buildup. Dermatologists at the AAD suggest that humans shed up to 40,000 dead skin cells every day. Considering the amount of time you spend in bed each night, nearly half of them could end up on your sheets.
Moisture is also an issue, especially if you sleep hot, drool, have oily skin, wear lotions and facial products to bed or are sexually active. If you have a pet that sleeps or naps in bed with you, they could be adding pet dander and fluids to your bed.
Unfortunately, moisture and dead skin cells are the perfect invitation for dust mites, bed bugs, and other microscopic critters to take up residence in your bed. Along with the eradication of dust mites and bodily matter, here’s a list of the benefits of washing your sheets:
- The scent of freshly cleaned sheets is more pleasant to fall asleep to.
- Clean sheets feel crisp and soft to the touch, which may help you fall asleep faster.
- Washing prevents a yellow tone from building up on white sheets.
- Clean sheets are free from dead skin cells, bodily fluids, crumbs, and more.
- Dust mites are common allergens, so you may avoid allergy symptoms by washing more frequently.
How to Properly Wash Bed Sheets
If you plan on washing your sheets weekly from now on, developing a proper process for cleaning them will make care simple and – with time – practically effortless. Here’s a step by step guide to proper cleaning:
- Read the care instructions for your sheet set and pay attention to any details that differ from what we recommend in the following steps.
- Put the sheets into the washing machine and be sure not to overload it. Give them space, especially if they’re cotton. Cotton needs room to swish around.
- Use warm water instead of hot water. Hot water will shrink the sheets and destroy the fibers.
- Add detergent that doesn’t have excess chemicals, and don’t overdo it. Do not add bleach (see note below).
- Take the sheets out gently so as not to rip any stitching or details.
- Move the bedding to the dryer, and only dry bedding with bedding—no bath towels, blankets, etc. A dryer sheet is optional.
- Dry the sheets on a warm or warm-plus setting. A hot setting will make the edges of your sheets curl up over time. A warm setting helps keep bed linens fluffy and prevents damage.
Fight every instinct to turn to bleach with white sheets. While this seems counter-intuitive, bleach can react with sweat, oils, and more to make your sheets more yellow, not less. Use a combination of baking soda (½ cup at the beginning of the wash cycle) and white vinegar (½ cup during the rinse cycle) if your sheets have an unpleasant tint. This combo also naturally softens the fabric. And keep in mind that what’s under your sheets is just as important: check out our guide to cleaning your mattress and learn whether you need a mattress protector.
What are the Risks of Not Washing Your Sheets Regularly?
Sleeping in your own dirt, sweat and body oils isn’t just gross—it can lead to negative health outcomes. Here’s a list of the risks of sleeping on dirty sheets:
- Dead skin cells create a breeding ground for dust mites and more, ranging from bed bugs to fleas and lice.
- If you suffer from acne on your face or body, dirty pillowcases and sheets can lead to breakouts.
- If you suffer from eczema, bacteria, allergens, and more could inflame eczema issues and lead to skin irritation.
- If you sleep in the nude, your eyes and mouth could theoretically come into contact with your fecal matter.
- The presence of dust mites can provoke a runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, and other allergy symptoms.
- Dirty sheets tend to yellow over time and may have an unpleasant smell.
What to Do If You Can’t Wash Your Sheets Weekly
If the thought of washing your sheets every week sounds overwhelming or you don’t have at-home access to a washing machine and dryer, there are a few things you can do to healthfully stretch the lifespan of your clean sheets.
- Wash your face before bed to prevent putting a dirty face (even if it’s just sunscreen or moisturizer) on your pillowcase.
- Try to shower before bed and exfoliate to slough off dead skin cells.
- Make your bed every day, as this can encourage tiny skin cell particles to fall to the floor.
- Consider buying 2-3 more sheet sets to rotate so that you don’t have to wash them as often.
Bed Sheet Brands That We Love
Whether you’re on the lookout for a new sheet set or want to add another set to your linen closet so that you don’t have to wash as frequently, these are some of our favorite bed sheet brands to explore.
- Parachute—Parachute offers sheet sets in a variety of styles ranging from cooling linen to luxurious percale. All Parachute sheet sets come with a 90-night sleep trial.
- Eddie Bauer—Known for its boots and outdoor gear, Eddie Bauer also offers a robust selection of flannel bed sheets for a rustic yet cozy look.
- —Boll & Branch offers Fair Trade certified 100% organic cotton sheets in fabrics like percale and chambray.
- Brooklinen—Brooklinen offers an affordable option that checks all the boxes with their Classic Core Sheet Set, which has a silky-soft texture and a deep pocket depth. The set comes in a variety of colors and patterns and is backed by a full year trial.
- Casper—Casper is known for offering quality products at a value price, and their sheet options are no exception. Choose from sateen, linen, supima, and cotton options, which range from $38 to $290.
- Saatva—If you’re looking to not only improve the cleanliness of your sheets but become more eco-conscious with your purchases, the Saatva Lofton Organic Sheet Set is a high-quality choice that’s GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified and is responsibly made.
One of the best parts about buying a new mattress is the bed sheets that go with it. If you sleep hot, you might enjoy our picks for the best cooling sheets, too.