How Often Should You Really Wash Your Sheets?

If it’s been a while since you washed your sheets (or, honestly, you can’t even remember the last time you swapped them out), you’re in good company. On average, Americans say they wash their sheets every 24 days, according to a recent Mattress Advisor survey. However, they only considered bedding legitimately gross after over a month had passed.

Since you’re nose-blind to your own body odors, you likely don’t notice the funk in your sheets as much as someone else might, says Laura Goodman, M.S., a senior scientist for P&G Fabric Care. But, whether or not they’re smelly, unwashed sheets can lead to some health issues over time, like irritated skin, acne, and allergic reactions to dust mites.

So, how long is too long to go without a fresh set? Here, your guide to how often you need to wash your sheets, why you’re best off sticking to the schedule, and how to cope if you’re already dreading laundry day.


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So, how often should you actually wash your sheets?

As a general rule, you should wash your sheets every one to two weeks, says Goodman. That being said, if you or your sleeping partner get sweatyhave sex, snooze in the nude, or share your bed with pets, you’re dirtying up your sleep space more than you would if you were, say, sleeping alone in your PJs. If any of the above sounds familiar, you should aim to wash your sheets once a week.

Another note: If you’re prone to acne, you might want to toss in your pillow cases even more often (think: two to three times a week), per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Ditto if you tend to fall asleep without removing your make-up, wash your hair only a few times a week, or lather on heavy moisturizer before bed, says Goodman.

What happens if you don’t wash your sheets that often?

First, there’s the ick factor: Every hour, you shed about 200 million dead skin cells (that’s upwards of 1.4 billion per night, times two if you’re sleeping with a partner). And, in your bedding, tiny, eight-legged dust mites feast on your dead skin cells. While these critters don’t carry any disease, their body parts (and poop) are one of the most common triggers for year-round allergies, per the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American (AAFA). If you don’t regularly clean your sheets, you might find yourself sneezing with a runny nose or, in extreme cases, even wheezing or having a hard time breathing, says Goodman.

Beyond pesky dust mites, you’re also spending lots of quality time with whatever you’ve picked up or put on throughout the day, including dirt, make-up, lotion, and environmental pollutants, to name a few, says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Add to that your own sweat, body oils, and sexual fluids, plus pet dander, and you’ve got some pretty nasty sheets.

As all of these substances comes in close contact with your skin as you sleep, a wide range of problems can ensue — from skin irritation to acne to possibly even infections (though we’re talking worst-case scenario here), says Dr. Zeichner. If you have dry or sensitive skineczema, or rosacea, you’re at most risk because your skin barrier (the top layer of your skin) is already weakened, he says.

Even worse? Microorganisms like bacteria and fungi tend to thrive in moist environments — including your dirty pillowcase, says Dr. Zeichner.

But what if you don’t have time to wash your sheets every week?

Life’s busy, especially if your washing machine and dryer are a drive away. The easiest solution is to stock up. Keep three sets of sheets for your bed and cycle them out every one to two weeks, suggests Goodman. (May we suggest a set of our favorite linencooling, or silk sheets?)

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