How often should you really wash your sheets?

It turns out, quite a few of us are failing when it comes to keeping our sheets cleanPhotographer: Alan Jensen

Despite spending about a third of our day between the sheets, it turns out, many of us don’t know how often to wash them. Over time, our bed becomes a haven for bacteria, dirt and other nasties that build up while we sleep.

According to Dr Philip Tierno, Jr., Director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, your bed sheets can accumulate an array of dead skin, bacteria, fungus and mites after just one night’s sleep.

With the average person producing more than 98 litres of sweat each year, dirty bedding can cause breakouts, skin irritations and even make us sick.

In a recent study, researchers found that feather and synthetic pillows between 1.5 and 20 years old can contain between four and 17 different species of fungus. In short, your bed can be a pretty filthy place. And according to cleaning guru Shannon Lush – quite a few of us are failing when it comes to keeping our bed linen clean.

How often should you wash your sheets?

“If you’re showering once a day, you can wash your sheets weekly,” Ms Lush says. “However, pillowcases should be changed every second day without fail. It’s against your face, and your hair holds more dirt than anywhere else on the body. It’s like a mop.”

Photographer: Jade Cantwell

How often should you wash your pillows and duvets?

Ms Lush said very few people realise how much skin cells and other nasties build up in a bed over time, recommending we wash the duvet every month along with our pillows.

“Most people don’t wash their pillows enough, and it’s really vile,” Lush said. “They collect old skin cells, which we shed especially when we are asleep. The pillow is a major cause of blackheads.”

Use your mattress and pillow protectors

Good quality mattresses and pillows don’t come cheap, so you want to look after them and keep them clean. Using protectors is the best way to prolong the life of your mattress and pillows. They should be washed every two weeks.

“Human skin is protein, and lots of nasties live in protein. If you don’t use protectors, that will go into the bedding,” says Lush.

Photographer: Tim O’Connor

Don’t forget to air your mattress

There’s no way to stop dust mites from making themselves at home in your mattress but you can reduce the number of microscopic creepy crawlies inhabiting your bedroom.

When you wash your sheets, let your mattress air out and give it a good vacuum. Many new vacuum models have special attachments designed for this very purpose!

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