How Often Should You Change Your Sheets?

7 Min Read | By Nat Took

Last Modified 4 March 2024   First Added 14 January 2020

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

In short, how often you need to wash your bedding really depends, but it’s likely more often than you think.

Different types of bedding have different needs; for example, sheets need to be washed more regularly than pillows and duvets. Lifestyle also makes a big impact; if you have pets on the bed or tend to eat in bed, you’ll need to change your sheets more often to keep them hygienic.

But why does it matter so much? Well, like anything we use or wear, bedding also picks up stuff like bacteria, sweat, and dust, which isn’t good for us. Join us to explore further how often you should be changing your sheets and the impacts of leaving it too long…

How often to wash your bedding

Let’s jump straight into the perfect wash routine:

1. Change your sheets every week

Our 2022 Sleep Survey asked the nation how often they changed their sheets, and the results were eye-opening:

  • East Midlands 0.8
  • East of England 1
  • London 1.1
  • North East 0.9
  • North West 1
  • Northern Ireland 1
  • Scotland 0.9
  • South East 0.8
  • South West 0.8
  • Wales 0.9
  • West Midlands 1.2
  • Yorkshire and the Humber 0.7

As we can see, the majority of the country isn’t averaging the recommended once-a-week, and we get it. Changing and washing sheets can be a time-consuming task, but your body will thank you for it.

When washing your sheets, be sure to wash at at least 60°C. Washing at any lower temperatures will get rid of any dirt, but it will not kill pathogens; you’ll just be giving dust mites a bath at lower temperatures. Drying bedding in sunlight is also a good idea, if you can, as the UV light helps to reduce dust and harmful bacteria build-up.

2. Wash your duvets twice a year

Duvets should be washed at least twice a year. Check that your duvet is machine washable and your machine’s drum capacity before washing your duvet at home, though. This might be one for a launderette or dry cleaner.

Another factor is to make sure that you dry your duvet as quickly as possible. This is especially important if they have a natural fibre filling, as they hold moisture and can become smelly if they’re left damp.

3. Wash your pillows every three months

Like duvets, pillows should be washed at least twice a year. However, as up to a third of the weight of your pillow can be made up of dead skin, bugs, dust mites and more, a more regular wash can be beneficial. In fact, an average unwashed pillow can contain sixteen species of fungi. Therefore, washing every three months is a good idea. It can also be a good idea to choose hypoallergenic pillows, which will massively improve hygiene.

Again, we recommend washing your pillows at a minimum of 60°C and, like duvets, dry them quickly and thoroughly.

4. Wash mattress protectors every two months

Mattress protectors help extend the life of your mattress and so need to be cared for too. It is recommended that you wash a mattress protector every two months. However, you may need to wash this more often if spillages occur or if you allow pets on the bed.

5. Clean your mattress every couple of months

Depending on the filling of your mattress, you may be able to give your mattress a clean by vacuuming it. However, be sure to check the manufacturer’s care guide for your mattress. As a general rule, use an upholstery attachment and the lowest suction setting. If your care instructions for your mattress allow this, vacuum every couple of months. You can also clean your bed frame with a damp cloth.

Keep in mind, regardless of cleaning, we recommend changing your mattress every eight years.

Why do you need to change your sheets regularly?

Unfortunately, your bedding doesn’t stay clean for long, and you end up harbouring all sorts of unwanted guests in bed with you – much of them you can’t see either. Think dirt, sweat, body oils, skin cells, and dust mites. They all build-up, especially if you suffer from night sweats or share the bed with a partner, kids, or pets.

Therefore, washing your sheets regularly and properly is essential for good health. Here are just a few of the issues that can arise from dirty sheets:

1. Allergic reactions

For those who are allergic to dust, it’s actually an allergy to dust mites, which are microscopic bugs that feed on dead skin cells. They are part of nature, and you will never be able to get rid of all dust mites. However, keeping things clean gets rid of their droppings and reduces irritation.

2. Skin irritations and breakouts

If your bedding, particularly your pillow, isn’t clean, then you’re likely to get irritated and itchy skin or breakouts. For those who already suffer from conditions like eczema, it’s especially important to keep sheets fresh to minimise flare-ups.

3. Harbours bacteria

In many studies, bacteria like Staphylococcus and E.Coli were found in hospital bed linens, showing that our bedding does hold onto bacteria that sheds off of our bodies. Gross, we know.  While most bacteria are natural and harmless, the bad kinds can cause acne, stomach upsets, and even UTIs.

If you have been sick with any kind of infection or virus, it’s really important to change your sheets as often as you can and wash at a high temperature. This will kill anything lingering and ensure that you or someone else in your household doesn’t get sick again.

4. Mould sickness

Like anything, your bedding can go mouldy if exposed to the right (or wrong!) conditions. Humans create a lot of humidity through sweat and breathing, so bedding like pillows and sheets is often at risk of mould and fungal growth if left for a long time.

Funguses are responsible for conditions like thrush or ringworm and have been shown to survive on fabrics like cotton, polyester, and wool for nearly a month! So clean sheets are essential to combat anything that may have been carried in on your shoes, clothes, or pets.

image of washing machine and a tidy utility space image of washing machine and a tidy utility space

Tips for keeping your sheets cleaner between washes

If you can’t find the time to change and wash your bedding as often as you’d like, there are ways to help keep your sheets clean between washing, such as:

  • Don’t allow pets in the bed
  • Shower before going to bed
  • Don’t put on lotions before bed
  • Remove make-up and wash your face before bed
  • Don’t eat or drink in bed
  • Get house plants that improve air quality 

Although this will not kill any germs or dust mites, it will help to keep your bedding feeling clean in between washes.

Why you shouldn't make your bed first thing

Another surprising tip for more hygienic bed sheets is… not making your bed. At least, not straight away. While being warm and toasty is great when you’re under the covers, it’s not so great for your bed. You’ve probably heard that you should “air out” your bed or even seen the Scandi tradition of putting your bed sheets out in the cold to freshen them up. This is actually really good advice.

@sejsejlija

the Scandinavian way to GREAT sleep ✨️ #svalbard #longyearbyen

♬ Metamorphosis – Danilo Stankovic

Studies have shown that allowing the heat and moisture to escape by leaving the covers pulled back or hung up (preferably in the sun) can reduce bacteria and fungi growth, dust mite build-up, and bad odours. You should also ensure good airflow in the room, so make sure you leave a window or door open for at least a couple of hours a day to improve air quality.

Are two duvets better than one? Get more bedding tips...

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