We’ve all been there: You promise yourself that you’re going to change the sheets that have been on your bed for who-even-knows-how-long. But by the time you get home after commuting and spin class, collapsing into your bed seems much more appealing than stripping it. So, you tuck yourself into the dirty sheets and swear you’ll do it tomorrow. The next morning, the cycle repeats itself.
“Just one more night” in dirty sheets actually can make a difference.
Real talk, though: How often should you actually be changing your sheets? “Sheets and linens should be changed on a bi-weekly rotation—and pillowcases weekly—especially if you use a large amount of hair and skin products,” says Gwen Whiting, co-founder of The Laundress. “Duvet covers should follow a washing rotation of every two weeks.”
What if you have extra challenges?
If you’re letting Fido sleep with you or skipping post-workout showers (no judgments!), for example, you should be tossing your bedding in the washer-dryer more often, but if you’re sleeping on silk sheets, it’s okay to let things go a little longer, she says.
Don’t go too long, though, because “just one more night” in dirty sheets actually can make a difference. According to microbiologist Laura Bowater, PhD, dozens of different types of bacteria and viruses can survive on your bed sheets, including E. coli, ringworm, salmonella, herpes, norovirus, athlete’s foot, and the flu.
“You may not be able to tell from looking at bed linen if it is contaminated with microorganisms that are pathogenic,” she explains. “They can be really hard to see with the naked eye.” She, too, recommends an every-other-week wash to get rid of these bacteria, but notes that if you’ve been sick or share a bed with someone else, you may want to hit the laundry room more frequently.
How to deal with a serious laundry challenge
Aside from feeling grossed out every time you have to get into them, there are a few telltale signs that your sheets are ready for a spin cycle. “Stains, discoloration, and dinginess are all sure signs of dirty sheets,” explains Lindsey Boyd, The Laundress’ other co-founder. “Additionally, any odors mean your linens are due for a wash.”
But even if you don’t see or smell any problems, it’s still important to keep things clean. Between the drooling and sweating that happens when you sleep—and whatever other activities are going on in bed that could make things feel a little dirty—regular washing is important to help maintain the appearance and integrity of a fabric.
For your brightest-ever sheets, the ladies of The Laundress suggest using extra-hot water in the wash. “The hotter the water, the brighter the sheets,” Whiting says. “It truly works wonders at removing stains.” They suggest using a non-toxic bleach-alternative, like this one from their product line, to keep things feeling extra-fresh.
And really, what’s better than snuggling into nice, clean sheets at the end of a long day? Your REM cycle will be thankful.