OK TMI: How Gross Is It That I Don’t Wash My Sheets After Sex?

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How many conversations have you had with your friends or coworkers (just us?) that begin with, “OK, TMI but…” We believe that no body function is "weird" or "gross," and no question is too embarrassing to ask. But for those moments you'd rather hit up the internet than your bestie for answers, we've got you covered. See All

It makes sense, theoretically, why someone wouldn't change their sheets after having sex. After a passion-filled session (or even a whole weekend enveloped in a love cocoon), cleanup might well be the last thing on your mind. But here's a friendly reminder: Sex—and that includes solo sex—isn't a mess-less ordeal. And for hygiene-related reasons, know that when you get down and dirty (literally, in this case), all components of that mess go into the fibers on which you lay your head and rest your body, which can be pretty gross.

While how often you change your sheets may depend on your specific lifestyle, an every-other-week switch-out is generally a good rule by which to live. One recent study investigated the bacteria accumulation on bedsheets over the course of several weeks and found that at one week, sheets gathered 17,442 more bacteria than a bathroom door handle. So, you know, it's worthwhile to not let your bedding go longer than that.

Experts In This Article
  • Felice Gersh, MD, board-certified OB/GYN and founder of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine

That gross factor intensifies when you add sex into the equation. According to gynecologist Felice Gersh, MD, OB/GYN, founder of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine and the author of PCOS SOS Fertility Fast Track, there are no specific vaginal risks associated with choosing to not change your sheets after sex, but exposed skin can potentially react later on to the numerous bodily fluids involved in sex play.

"It’s not a good hygiene practice to rub one’s skin on semen, even after it’s dried." —Felice Gersh, MD

For instance, "Semen and sperm are biological products that can act as a medium to grow bacteria, and may even have pathological bacteria and viruses," Dr Gersh says. "It’s not a good hygiene practice to rub one’s skin on semen, even after it’s dried."

Even with no penis involved in your rendezvous, though, your sheets are still at risk for the myriad fluids a vagina can release during sex play. Dr. Gersh points out that some vulva-owners can dispell urine or other bodily secretions (especially if someone squirts during climax). And regardless of sex organs and anatomy, other fluids can be involved, like sweat and saliva during oral sex or kissing.

"Most people sweat significantly with sexual activity, which gets onto sheets, which make the sheets uncomfortable afterwards and can also act as a medium for bacterial growth," says Dr. Gersh. And if you happen to sleep in the buff, the sweat aspect especially might cause dermatological woes like body acne. "Given the potential load of human biohazardous substances that can land on the sheets, the simple act of changing them is a wise move," Dr. Gersh says.

So, what are some quick-fix solutions for those who aren't avid launderers? First of all, those who are anti-top sheet should probably invest in an easy-to-wash duvet cover, which are more practical to clean on a regular basis than a hefty comforter. Likewise, there are bonafide bedding toppers made for sexytimes. For example, Passion Mate's Waterproof Sex Bed Pad ($67) is an easy, machine-washable option to throw on your mattress. And if you want something heavy duty, the Liberator Fascinator Throw Moisture Proof Blanket ($120) can handle the works of body fluids that can get on your sheets during sex.

All of that said, if you don't change your sheets after sex, it won't necessarily put your body in bacterial danger. Just be aware of what you're bathing in when you slip into the sheets the next night.

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