How Dirty Is Your Bedroom?

I hate to be the one to have to break this to you, but your bedroom is dirty and you should be horrified. Wait, was that too judgmental? Sorry, let me try again: your bedroom is probably dirty and everything in there is probably totally covered in dead skin and dust mite poop, and as you lie in bed at night, innocently watching a DVR'd episode of The Voice, you are probably resting your head on a pillowcase that is soaked through with a lot of the same bacteria that is on your toilet seat. Probably.

Not that I'm judging! I, too, spend my days in a bedroom where every surface is basically festooned with dead skin cells, fungus, and the butt-droppings of tiny organisms. Why are our bedrooms so wretchedly gross? Because our usual mopping and dusting techniques make no impact on the cause of bedroom grossness. We may think that by protecting our bedrooms from the grit and grime of the outside world — by, say, not wearing our outdoor shoes in there, or keeping foot traffic in there to a minimum — we're keeping our inner sanctum so fresh and so clean. But the biggest sources of bedroom-related grossness are actually us. Guys, the call is coming from inside the building! And by "call," I mean filth, and by "the building," I mean our bodies! (I'm not only great at knowing how dirty your bedroom is, I am also amazing at metaphors).

So how filthy is your bedroom, exactly? Why is it so gross in there? Should you even care? And what (if anything) you can do about the way everything you own is covered in dust mite poo? Read on and find out, my Pigpen-ish friend.

How Dirty Is Your Bedroom?

I wasn't joking about every surface in your room being coated in schmutz — most of it courtesy of the humble dust mite, a tiny organism who eats your dead skin cells and calls your room home. The average bed contains between 100,000 and 10 million dust mites, and since we slough off nearly eight pounds of skin per year, our 10 million little buddies are definitely not going anywhere else to find food. Especially if you're among the 20 percent of people who change their sheets less than one a month.

If your pillows are two years old, up to 10 percent of their weight is comprised of living and dead dust mites, and their dust mite poop. And if that wasn't enough for you, our pillows are also covered in fungi, due to their constantly being soaked in our drool. Most of the strains found in pillows are harmless, but one, aspergillus fumigatus, can trigger asthma and other respiratory problems.

But the presence of dead skin, bacteria, or tiny creatures in our room isn't inherently worrying. A cubic meter of indoor air can be host to up to 10 million bacteria cells, for instance, which sounds horrible, but is actually pretty normal and has no real ill effect on our health. Life is dirty, man. But if you have allergies, all that schmutz transforms from simple grossness into a genuine health hazard. And that's where the real trouble begins.

Why Oh Why Is Your Bedroom So Dirty?

The short version is: your bedroom is dirty because you are constantly sloughing off skin cells (almost an ounce per month!). Your dead skin cells are probably imperceptible to you, but they are crystal clear to the ravenous dust mite. Dust mites love to eat your dead skin cells, and since you spend so much time in your bed, sloughing off dead skin as you sleep and bang and watch TV, your skin collects there — and so do dust mites.

But while that may sound like a great arrangement — the dust mites get their food, you get some of your dead skin cells cleaned up, everyone gets what they want! — dust mites can actually have some negative impact on your life. Because after those dust mites gorge on your cast-off skin, they have to poop. And that poop is the reason your nose is always running.

Does It Matter That Our Bedrooms Are So Dirty?

Unfortunately, yes — primarily if you are prone to allergies. Dust mite poop contains the allergen Derp1, which roughly 17 percent of Americans are allergic to. Contact with these allergens can worsen asthma, create hay fever-like symptoms, and even trigger health conditions like eczema. And these allergens are everywhere in your average bedroom. You know when you say, "This room is dusty"? What you're really saying is "This room is covered in dead skin and dust mite poop."

And even if you don't suffer from allergies, the dirt and dead skin covering your sheets and pillow cases can create other problems, like triggering acne breakouts.

How Do You Make Your Bedroom Less Dirty?

I know the battle against dust mites and their hazardous poop may seem hopeless. But there are actually a lot of small changes you can make to make your bedroom cleaner, which can improve your skin, lessen your allergies, and minimize your exposure to (shiver) mite feces.

To begin with: however often you change your sheets, you should almost definitely be changing them more often. Experts recommend that you change your sheets once a week, and wash them in hot water. However, experts plead that you at least change your sheets once every two weeks, and then wash them in hot water. Experts also recommend replacing your pillow once every three years to prevent them from becoming soaked with dust mite allergens, and washing them every two months. Change your pillowcase every three days, especially if you have sensitive skin — this can help keep it from getting irritated.

See? Not totally hopeless. Now stop using your iPhone while you're pooping, and you'll be on the road to a significantly less gross existence.

Images: Tika Gregory/Flickr; Giphy (4)