What Happens When You Don't Wash Your Sheets Every Week, Doctors Say


Getting a good night's sleep is important to your health, but all those hours spent in the comfort of your bed can leave your sheets less than clean. The general consensus among experts is that washing once a week is ideal for ridding your bedding of unhygienic buildup, but a 2017 study found that Americans only change their sheets once every 24 days, on average.

But what exactly goes on when you surpass that seven-day mark? Read on to learn what happens when you don't wash your sheets every week.

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Most experts recommend washing your sheets one per week.
Shutterstock/Elvira Koneva

If you're clocking the recommended hours of sleep per night, that means you spend between 49 and 63 hours in bed each week. During that time, your bedding accumulates sweat, dirt, dust mites, dead skin cells, and more. That's why most experts—from those at The New York Times to Good Housekeeping—recommend washing your sheets once a week. By stripping the bed regularly, you can minimize this unhygienic buildup.

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Here's what can happen when you don't wash your sheets often enough.

If you don't adhere to the once-a-week rule, dermatologist Alok Vij, MD, warns that dirty sheets can cause itchy skin, asthma flare-ups, seasonal allergies or rashes. And while built-up dirt and sweat can contribute to these symptoms, dust mites and their fecal matter are most often to blame.

"Dust mites are microscopic creatures that are very common in most households. They do not bite, but they can lead to skin rashes and irritation, and may worsen allergy symptoms for many people," explains the Sleep Foundation. "Dust mites can reproduce at prolific rates and can live solely off of dead skin cells. At any given time, there can be tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of dust mites living in your mattress and bedding. Even if you're not allergic to dust mites, you probably don't want to be sharing your bed with thousands of them. Washing sheets regularly can help."

Some people should wash their sheets even more often.
Shutterstock / Zivica Kerkez

Washing once a week is a good baseline for most people who spend an average amount of time in bed. However, experts say you may want to wash your sheets more often if you allow pets to sleep in your bed, or if you have known allergies or asthma. In these cases, washing every three or four days may help improve symptoms and lessen the risk of health problems.

If you plan on washing your sheets this often, it's best to use sheets that have a high thread count and are made of durable materials—Egyptian cotton, for example—that can withstand regular washing and drying cycles.

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Here's the best way to wash your sheets.

To ensure your sheets stay in tip-top shape while washing them with some frequency, you'll want to begin by pre-treating any stains before you begin. To do so, you can use Shout, OxiClean, or even dish soap, working it into the affected area (you may want to wear gloves, depending on the product you use).

Next, put your sheets into the wash cycle on a low-temperature setting—40 degrees Fahrenheit is considered ideal for weekly washes. However, if it's cold and flu season, or if your sheets have gone more than a week between washes, you may want to increase the temperature to kill germs. "Try to avoid using fabric softeners and dryer sheets, or at least don't use them for every wash. Softeners leave residue that decreases the fabric's breathability and absorbency. And if that residue builds up over time, you may end up feeling overheated in your sheets," adds The New York Times.