How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets, Really?

by Kat Kuehl

You wipe down your kitchen counters, you scrub your toilets, and you vacuum your floors. You like to think of yourself as a pretty cleanly person — but have you ever wondered how often you should wash your sheets, really?

I remember when I was much younger, Oprah would always be on TV when I got home from school. One day, she did this whole special about all of the disgusting things that happen after not washing your sheets regularly, and I was absolutely terrified. To this day, if I go more than two weeks without washing my sheets, I essentially feel like I'm sleeping within an episode of Swamp Monsters.

But, while I like to think that I've got a pretty good handle on the whole sheet-washing thing, I've never actually stopped to research how often I'm supposed to do it. Even though I'm pretty meticulous about it, am I actually doing it enough?

My friends, I decided to face my fears and do some research for all of our benefit in order to determine how frequently you should really be washing those pesky bed sheets. And, to really drive the point home, I've also pulled together some warnings about all of the gross things that happen if you don't heed this advice. Be forewarned — nightmares will ensue.

Try: Arm & Hammer Liquid Laundry Detergent for Sensitive Skin, $16.89, Amazon

How often should you wash your sheets?

Let's jump right in with the need-to-know facts, shall we? To be on the safe side and avoid things like dust mites, bacteria, and allergens, you should plan to wash your sheets once per week.

That might sound like a lot, but take a minute to think about it. If you snooze for seven hours per night (because, honestly, who really gets the recommended eight hours of sleep?), that's 49 hours per week that you're spending in your bed. What are you leaving behind — other than your comfort and desire to stay under the covers? Sweat, body oil, dead skin cells, drool, and tons of other nasty things you'd probably rather not think about.

So, needless to say, tossing those sheets in the wash every week is definitely recommended.

What's the best way to wash your sheets?

If you're anything like me, you stuff as much as you can into the washer, dump in some detergent, turn the dial, and wait for the cycle to be over. But, if you really want to wash your sheets the right way, there's a little more you need to know.

First, sheets are pretty bulky, and they need some room to truly get clean. So, avoid cramming everything in the washer at once. If that means washing the flat and fitted sheet separately, so be it. There's really no point in washing them if they don't have the space to actually get clean.

The washer setting will vary based on the material of your sheets, so remember to check the care instructions before washing. However, setting your sheets to a hot/warm cycle helps to truly disinfect them and reduce allergens. So, if your sheets are able to be washed at that temperature, you should definitely go for it.

Since you have your bed stripped, now's also a great time to address that mattress of yours. While this doesn't need to happen every time you wash your sheets (in fact, doing this only every six months is just fine), it's a great way to kill dust mites and deodorize your mattress.

Remove your mattress cover if you have one and lightly sprinkle baking soda all over your mattress. Let it sit for about an hour, and then use the hose end of your vacuum to completely vacuum the mattress. The baking soda helps to draw up any moisture and deep-down dirtiness — leaving you with a totally clean mattress!

Try: Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, $5.94, Amazon

What happens if you don't wash your sheets enough?

Now, let's move on to the terrifying part. What exactly happens if you neglect to wash those bed sheets regularly? Basically, a whole lot of nastiness — including all of that sweat, body oil, and those dead skin cells we mentioned before. Here's a glimpse at all of the gross surprises that could be lurking between your sheets.

Dust Mites

Yes, these nasty little critters really do exist. And, as if they weren't already terrifying enough, I'm sure knowing that they're feeding off of your dead skin cells is enough to scar you for life. While it's impossible to totally eliminate dust mites, washing your sheets regularly will help to keep them at bay.

Other Critters

If you're one of those people who loves munching on chips, cookies, and other snacks while relaxing under the covers (hello, who doesn't?), you can bet you're filling your bed with tons of tasty crumbs that can attract all sorts of other little critters like ants, lice, and bed bugs. So, unless you enjoy dozing off in a legitimate ant farm of terrors, regular washing is advisable.


Of course, all of those disgusting leftovers create plenty of bacteria between your sheets. Some studies show that human sweat contains trace amounts of excrement and even E. coli. And, all of that sweat and those rubbed off cosmetic products that get stuck to your sheets? They can lead to plenty of body breakouts and other irritating skin reactions.


That's right — mold. Cladosporium mold is a type that tends to grow on damp mattresses, hence why that baking soda trick is so important. Inhaling the spores can lead to asthma and pneumonia. Even worse? It can cause a fungal infection called Onychomycosis. Not only is it hard to say, but it can also result in skin lesions and crumbling toenails. Ugh.

Animal Diseases

Wait, what? I'm one of those people who lets my dog sleep in the bed — he even burrows under the covers most of the time. However, letting your pet snuggle into the sheets means you're at risk for catching worms, fleas, and all sorts of different animal diseases. Sorry, Fido, You might be getting demoted to the floor.

Needless to say, that whole washing once per week thing is important if you want to avoid transforming your beloved sleep retreat into a horrifying science experiment. Everybody loves the feeling of slipping into some clean sheets. So, if these disgusting warnings weren't enough to inspire you, use that as your motivation to wash your sheets regularly. So, sleep tight and don't let those bed bugs bite — literally.

Images: Fotolia; Giphy (8)