How often should you wash your bed sheets?

According to a microbiologist.
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Changing the bed sheets is a household chore you may really dread (lifting the mattress to tuck the linen in tightly is kind of like a mini-workout), but the reward is well worth the effort. Crisp sheets, a sweet-smelling pillow and everything tucked in just right – getting into a freshly made bed at the end of a long day is a truly heavenly experience. But how often should you indulge in this feeling, that is, how often should you wash your bed sheets? 

Most experts – from microbiologists to home organisers – recommend washing your sheets at least once a week and changing your pillowcase every 2-3 days. In reality, the frequency with which people change their sheets varies widely. According to a UK survey conducted by Love2Laundry, 55% of respondents said they wash their sheets weekly, while 21% said they wash theirs once or twice a month. Three per cent admitted to washing their sheets only twice a year!

Bed with cosy neutral winter bedding
Most experts agree washing your bedding once a week is ideal. (Photography: Kristina Soljo |

Why you should wash your bed sheets regularly

While lifestyle factors – including whether you shower right before getting into bed, how much you perspire during the night, the climate you live in and whether you sleep clothed or in the nude – may have some impact on the cleanliness of your bedding, the number one reason why you should be cleaning your sheets more, rather than less, is that you happen shed 500 million skin cells a day. 

Manal Mohammed, lecturer in medical microbiology at the University of Westminster, writing for The Conversation says, “These skin cells may attract and be eaten by microscopic dust mites. These mites and their droppings can trigger allergies and even asthma.”

Contemporary coastal bedroom
(Photography: Dave Wheeler |

What’s really between the sheets?

If a bunch of dead skin cells and allergy-triggering dust mites aren’t enough to convince you to strip your bed pronto, turns out there are other invisible nasties that could be living their best life in your thousand-thread-count sheets including: 

  • Staphylococcus aureus: Can cause skin infections, pneumonia and have been shown to worsen acne. 
  • Candida albicans: A type of fungus that can cause yeast infections and thrush. 
  • E-coli: A type of bacteria that can cause stomach upset.

Viruses can also survive on your sheets for prolonged periods of time.

How to keep your bed clean between washes

Along with washing your bed sheets at least once a week, Manal says you should allow your bedding to air out daily. That’s right – don’t rush to make your bed so quickly every morning. 

“Pulling the duvet back to the bed sheets can breathe before making the bed means your sheets and mattress become a less attractive nesting spot for bacteria and mites,” she says.

You should also wash your mattress and pillowcase protectors once a month, and wash your quilt once a year. After stripping the bed, vacuum the mattress and bed base thoroughly. 

Black and white modern bedroom
Allowing your bed to breathe each morning will reduce the build up of germs. (Photography: Helen Ward | Styling: Jessica Bellef)

How to wash your bed sheets

How you wash your bed sheets will ultimately depend on the material they’re made from, but as a general rule of thumb, it’s best to launder sheets in warm water using a mild detergent. Temperatures of about 40 to 60 degrees will kill most germs. 

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