Have You Washed Your Sheets Lately? The Hidden Health Risk in Your Bed

written by Skye Sherman - Aug 7, 2023

Photo Credit: by freepik.com
Photo Credit: by freepik.com

Going to sleep is a retreat from the world. Your bed should be a cozy place where you experience true rest and recharge for whatever life throws your way the next day. But did you know that your bed can be a breeding ground for hidden dangers, posing a health risk in the one place you should be safe from it all?

Not washing your sheets often enough isn’t just poor hygiene. In fact, it can pose a serious health hazard. From mild skin conditions to serious ailments, here are the health risks you need to know when you think about how often you plan to wash your sheets.

The hidden health risks of unwashed bed sheets

You might think that not changing your sheets often enough doesn’t really matter. After all, you only sleep there, right?

Wrong. The reality is that unwashed bed sheets are linked to asthma, allergies (caused by dust mites), fungal or bacterial infections, pink eye, and even the flu! It can also lead to unfortunate conditions like pneumonia, rhinitis, and even skin conditions such as acne or eczema.

In fact, dirty bed sheets can contain more bacteria than toilet seats and pet bowls! According to Fox News, “Sheets and pillowcases may actually be embedded with bacteria … Unwashed bedding could even contain more bacteria than toilet seats after just one week, according to the study findings.”

The recommendation is to wash bedding once every seven days.

However, if you want to push your luck, the article continues, “The maximum number of days sheets can go without being changed before being considered ‘gross’ is 35 days … By 35 days, bedsheets will have accumulated more than 30 grams of dead skin cells, two gallons of body fluids like sweat and saliva, and more than one million dust mites.”

Now that’s a nightmare to keep you up at night!

How could dirty sheets be linked to asthma and other conditions?

As you know now, dirty bed sheets are linked to asthma. What’s worse, some people require asthma medications such as Flovent and Albuterol when their condition flares up, so your sheets could be having even more of an effect than you think. Consult your doctor or a qualified healthcare provider before taking any medications.

What will dirty sheets do to your health? Besides not granting you the most restful sleep possible, you might experience symptoms like a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, itchy skin, and watery eyes if you fail to wash your sheets regularly.

This is especially true if you do not shower at night, and thus go to sleep with all the pathogens and germs you encounter as you go throughout your day. Those rub off on your sheets and stay there, even growing worse over time. However, even if you’re a nighttime showerer, the dirt and oil that may accumulate on your sheets from your simple normal bodily functions (or taking a quick walk outside) may be bad enough.

The Mirror reports, “Further studies have also linked dirty bedding to the development of severe diseases like pneumonia, appendicitis, and gonorrhea … the body excretes fluids and oils each night during sleep, along with thousands of dead skin cells. This can attract dust mites which excrete fecal matter linked to allergy, asthma, rhinitis and eczema flare-ups.”

You may have never expected that dirty bed sheets may be linked to appendicitis, but studies say it’s true!

Showering off your day before you hit the hay may be a good plan, but make sure not to go to sleep with wet hair, because that can also become a bacterial breeding ground by dampening your sheets and pillowcases.

If you’re experiencing unexplained symptoms like irritated skin or even a rash or more serious conditions like acne or ringworm, it might be due to not washing your bed sheets often enough.

But there are other factors at play, too, says Fox News: “Other factors that can add to gross stuff between the sheets include sleeping in the nude, snacking in bed, sleeping with kids or excessive sweating at night.” Sleeping with someone else (even a spouse) also means you’re subject to however clean (or not) they were when they got into bed.

These are some of the factors that can make your bed sheets even dirtier, so depending on your lifestyle, you may need some helpful tips on keeping your sheets clean.

Tips for keeping your bed sheets clean

Getting real cotton sheets can be a great boon to your health. It’s better than sleeping in artificial, mass-produced fabrics like microfiber or something similar. Instead, opt for sheets with high thread counts made of natural materials like cotton and bamboo. You’ll sleep more comfortably and experience better sleep hygiene, too.

Plus, it’s easy to wash these sheets. Just use hot water (if the care label allows) and the laundry detergent of your choice, then dry them with some nice dryer sheets or a wool ball with essential oils on it. The heat of the dryer can also kill any germs that may remain after the wash cycle. If you’ve been sick or want an added boost of cleanliness, color-safe bleach can be especially powerful for cleaning bedding.

So how often should you wash your sheets? A good cleaning schedule might be to change your sheets on a weekly basis, but of course this depends on your lifestyle, overall hygiene, and the condition of your skin. You might be able to go for a bit longer between changing your sheets, or you might need to wash them more frequently.

However, just because you need to change your sheets doesn’t necessarily mean washing, drying, and putting them back on, all on the same day. In fact, you can have multiple sets of sheets so that changing them doesn’t require a full laundry day, too. If doing laundry is your biggest roadblock to changing your sheets on a more frequent basis, simply invest in a spare set or two so that you can change your sheets and do laundry when it’s convenient for you!

Another thing to consider is your pets. While you may love to snuggle with them in bed, you do need to consider how clean they are. Sleeping with a pet can be very unhygienic, as your pets gather a lot of dust, dirt, and bacteria as they go throughout their days, especially if they go outside. You should also remember that their bathroom hygiene is not equivalent to a human, so it’s something to consider before you invite them to sprawl all over your bed with you! They can even spread infections like mange or ringworm.

Fox News also explains, “If you’re sick, bedding should be thrown into the wash immediately to kill lingering germs.” This is because some bacteria and viruses can survive even after you’re on the mend, which can make your sickness last longer or even infect others in your home.

For a quick list to remember it all, here are some of the best tips for keeping your sheets clean:

* Use sheets with high thread counts made of natural materials like cotton and bamboo

* Wash your sheets weekly (or more often) in hot water, and use color-safe bleach when warranted

* Stock up on extra sets of sheets so you can change them more often

* Don’t let your pets sleep in bed with you

* Shower off before getting into bed and wear clean pajamas

* Don’t eat or drink in bed

* If you’re sick, wash your sheets every day



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While the above article is based on thorough research, we do not claim to offer a substitute for medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider. The article was written for information and educational purposes only. We aim to provide helpful information to our readers, but cannot provide a treatment, diagnosis, or consultation of any sort, and we are in no way indicating that any particular drug is safe or appropriate for you and your individual needs. To receive professional medical attention, you must see a doctor.