How Often Should You Actually Wash Your Sheets? A Microbiologist Weighs In

mbg Sustainability Editor By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability Editor
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care."

Photo by Milles Studio

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There's nothing like that just-crawled-under-fresh-sheets feeling, but sometimes getting there can be a pain. While it's always tempting to leave the laundry for another day, it turns out we should all be scheduling a wash into our weekly calendars.

Clinical microbiologist Douglas Toal, Ph.D., is intimately familiar with the unseen chemicals and microbes that live among us, and he's quick to point out that beds attract tons of them. "One study found that between 4 and 17 different species of fungi can be found on pillows of various ages," he tells mbg. "In addition to fungal and bacterial species, bed coverings contain all sorts of microscopic debris including pet dander, lint, soil, dust, dust mites and their droppings, various excrements from the body, skin cells, cosmetics, synthetic chemicals, and other particles."

While plenty of microbes in our environment are not harmful, Toal advises keeping them in check. When inhaled, certain microbial assemblies can cause or exacerbate existing respiratory disease and allergies. "Since the microscopic particles in our bed are in close proximity to our airways, we can be confident that the microbes, debris, and allergens that have built up in our sheets and pillows are in frequent contact with our airways and skin," he explains.

In order to make sure your dreams are sweet and allergen-free, Toal recommends cleaning or changing your bed sheets once a week, more so if you're prone to infection. When you think about the fact that we spend a third of our life rolling around on our sheets, this rigid schedule makes a lot of sense. According to a small 2016 study, a good amount of people—nearly 46 percent—are already washing their sheets weekly, while 30 percent do so a few times a month, and 22 percent do so once a month or less.

If you fall into the latter camp, consider making a Sunday-night bed-stripping a nonnegotiable. This laundry guide lays out the most effective, eco-friendly ways to clean dirty sheets. When it comes to detergents and stain removers, you'll want to avoid petroleum-based synthetic fragrances and synthetic, nonbiodegradable dyes. Seventh Generation and Buggy Love are great options.

Make an evening of it by giving yourself a pro-quality facial or taking a spa-inspired bath while your sheets are in the wash and get into bed ready for a clean, cozy week. Dust mites not welcome.

Your sheets aren't the only thing you may not be cleaning enough. Check out these other hidden sources of germs at home.

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