Bed sheets often come with detailed information on thread counts and washing machine instructions. However, the labels neglect to say how often bed sheets should be changed.
Fresh bedding is important to keep up the hygiene and cleanliness of the sleeping environment and get the best night’s sleep possible. So, how often should you change your bedding?
Bedding HYGIENE KEY QUESTIONS AND INFORMATION
- Why Change Bed Sheets?
- How Often Should You Change Bedding?
- Bed Sheet Fabric
- How to Keep Bed Sheets Clean
- Changing Pillowcases
- How to Change Bedding
- How Often Should You Buy New Bed Sheets?
WHY CHANGE BED SHEETS?
Bed sheets can get very dirty, very quickly. A lot quicker than most people realise. After a few days of use, bed sheets accumulate dead skin cells, oil from skin, saliva, sweat and even small amounts of urine and faecal matter.
It turns out, the human body leaves a trail of grime behind it and our bed sheets catch it all. If left long enough, bedding can become so unsanitary that simply sleeping with a cut or wound can lead to an infection.
Lengthy periods of time between changing bed sheets can increase exposure to various fungi and bacteria that make their way onto bedsheets and begin to grow. The presence of these substances isn’t guaranteed to cause illness but can be very bad for health and even lead to various diseases.
One major problem with used and unchanged bedsheets is the build-up of dead skin cells. Individuals may not notice as skin cells shed and settle on bed sheets, but it creates a perfect environment for dust mites to thrive.
Dust mites are tiny, 8-legged creatures that are invisible to the naked eye. They love to live on bedsheets and feast on the dead skin they find there. Even a small amount of dead skin cells can feed millions of dust mites.
Dust mites don’t bite. However, they aren’t exactly the best bedfellows as their faeces are a common allergen. Their presence can badly affect people with asthma and can cause symptoms of hay fever, eczema, skin irritation and coughing even in people without any serious allergies.
Changing bed sheets isn’t only about avoiding the negative consequences, there are also many benefits to changing the sheets. In fact, there are few feelings as good as slipping into a bed with some crisp, freshly changed sheets.
The peace of mind that comes from being surrounded by the fresh scent of new sheets when sleeping could even be considered luxurious.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU CHANGE BEDDING?
Chances are, most people aren’t changing their bedsheets as much as necessary. The general rule is that bed sheets should be changed about once a week.
Some people could probably get away with changing bedsheets once a fortnight if conditions are absolutely perfect, however there are many variables that make a once a week bedding change absolutely necessary.
If any of the people sharing a bed are sensitive to common allergens like dust or pollen or if a pet sleeps on the bed, bed sheets need to be changed once a week. Also, if an individual is particularly sweaty, the weather is hot, they sleep naked or they don’t shower before bed then a weekly bedding change is ideal.
Some situations require even more frequent changes of bedding. If someone is sick with a contagious cold or infection, the sheets need to be changed as soon as possible. Germs can settle and persist on bedding and have the potential to cause reinfection.
Each bed should have at least 2 sets of bedding available for use so that when one set of bedding is being washed, another fresh set is on hand to take its place. This is to avoid sleeping on a bare mattress without any sheets.
Any amount of time sleeping on a mattress without sheets can have some unsavoury consequences. The mattress will absorb all the oils, dead skin cells, germs and dust that bed sheets normally would.
However, washing mattresses is not as easy as changing sheets and the grime will stay and accumulate leading to increases in bacteria, fungi, fabric discolorations and unpleasant smells
BED SHEET FABRIC
The overall recommended amount frequency of bedding change is once per week. However, the type of fabric that bed sheets are made can play a huge role in both how dirty sheets get and how often they need to be washed.
Cheaper fabrics like acrylic, polyester and short fibre cotton rely solely on frequent washes to keep clean and fresh. As they are typically less absorbent, they create the ideal environment for bacteria, fungi, moisture and dust to accumulate.
Other, better quality fabrics like silk or Tencel™ are super absorbent and have anti-microbial and hypoallergenic. Bacteria, fungi and even dust mites have a hard time surviving on these fabrics, creating a much more sanitary environment.
Whatever bedding fabric someone has, it’s still advisable to wash bedding regular. However, having more hygienic, antimicrobial bedding like Tencel™ can give peace of mind that between washes, the bedding isn’t getting too dirty.
HOW TO KEEP BED SHEETS CLEAN
One of the reasons so few people are changing and washing their bedding frequently enough is because it can be a time-consuming activity. Once a week is manageable for most people but to avoid accumulating dirt in the meantime (or having to change bedding more frequently), there are several steps you can take.
Bedding quickly gets dirty by absorbing the body’s natural oils, fluids and sweat. While it’s hard to control how much sweat is produced in bed, it’s possible to minimise the amount of oils brought into the bed.
Showering before bed is a great way to wash off the day’s grime and sweat before drifting off to sleep. Additionally, avoid heading straight into bed after a trip to the gym or any other sweaty activity.
The absorbent properties of bedding make them bad environments for any extra liquids or chemicals. This means all make-up should be taken off before bed and any lotions, oils or creams should be applied and absorbed outside of the bed.
Eating and drinking in bed is one of the fastest ways to make bed sheets dirty. Even if the food or drink doesn’t spill, there will likely be crumbs and oils from the food that makes its way onto the bed sheets.
Pet dander is a common allergen and the build-up of it on bedding can be a source of irritation event to those who have no allergies. Not only can it cause a stuffy nose in the morning and itchy eyes, it also makes the bed an unhygienic environment.
As cute as it may be to let pets up on the bed, it may be better for your health and sanitation to give them their own space on the floor.
To keep bed sheets cleaner avoid making the bed when you get up in the morning! A neatly made bed can trap oils, dirt, warmth and moisture under the sheets which provides the ideal environment for bacteria, fungi and dust mites to thrive.
This toss-up between neat and clean will be hard for some people to get their head around but leaving sheets unmade will increase exposure to air flow and sunlight which can dry out sheets. UV light from the sun also acts as a natural disinfectant!
One more way to avoid the build-up of dust mites is to vacuum the bed frequently as well as other soft furnishing like rigs or carpet in the bedroom. The vacuum will suck up both the dust mites and the dead skin cells that they love to snack on.
Pillow cases have slightly different circumstances to other bedsheets. They are most likely to deal with saliva, hair oils and facial oils. This means they can get dirty pretty quickly and should be changed at least once a week, if not more!
Although protective, the pillow case is not impenetrable and plenty of grime makes it way to the actual pillow. Therefore, it’s important to also wash the pillow itself, at least once every 3 months or so.
HOW TO CHANGE BEDDING?
Remove any blankets, cushions or cuddly toys from the bed before taking off the bottom fitted sheet, duvet covers and pillow cases. Give the mattress and pillows some time to air out and get some sunlight before putting on a new set of bed sheets.
Read the care instructions on the label of the bedding to find out how to wash it. In general, bedding should be washed at a higher temperature of around 60°C to effectively remove dirt and kill bacteria, dust mites and fungi.
Once washed bed sheets can be dried in a dryer or left in the sunlight before ironing and folding, ready to be put back on the bed.
HOW OFTEN TO BUY NEW BED SHEETS?
How long bed sheets last depends on the amount of wear and tear it goes through as well as the quality of the bedding. The initial cost of luxury fabrics is often largely offset by how durable they are.
Bedding unfortunately doesn’t last forever and how often should you change your bedding is dependent on its condition. If there are any major spills, rips or other damage, it is best to change bedding immediately. Otherwise, bedding has a natural lifespan that differs with the fabric used.
Cheaper fabrics such as polyester, acrylic and low-grade cotton may last around 2 years before becoming discoloured, dull and damaged. High quality fabrics on the other hand, such as Tencel™ or silk can last up to 20 years.