According to the CDC, most adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night, and few things invite a good night’s rest like crisp, freshly laundered sheets at bedtime. However, clean bedding has benefits that go far beyond restfulness. When you change your bedding regularly, you may help reduce allergies and improve your overall sleep health. Let’s take a look at how often you should change your sheets and pillowcases to promote a healthy household, along with effective ways to wash these essential items.
The Benefits of Clean Bedding
Beyond enhancing the quality of your sleep, regularly changing your sheets and blankets has a multitude of benefits for your physical and mental health. Here are a few ways fresh bedding can help keep your family happy, healthy and well-rested.
Minimizing Exposure to Germs
Sheets can accumulate numerous unpleasant substances that may lead to a build-up of bacteria and other germs that can cause illnesses, rashes and respiratory symptoms. These substances may include:
- Body oils and other secretions
- Dirt, dust and lint
- Pet hair and dander
- Lotions and creams
- Discarded skin cells
Even sneezing or coughing can spread germs to your bedding. A regular change of bedding and a thorough laundering of sheets, blankets and pillowcases can minimize your exposure to these potentially harmful microorganisms, reducing the chance of an adverse reaction.
Reducing Dust Mites and Their Byproducts
Dust mites can be found in pillows, mattresses and other bedding materials, drawn by the dander and dead skin cells they typically feed on. These microscopic pests and their byproducts, which include carcasses and fecal material, may cause symptoms, such as sneezing and stuffiness, in individuals who are allergic.
By changing bedding regularly, washing and drying sheets at high temperatures and using dustproof mattresses and pillow covers, you can reduce the presence of dust mites and their byproducts and minimize the symptoms of allergic rhinitis that they may cause.
Dust mites aren’t the only pests drawn to unwashed sheets. If you find yourself snacking in bed, any crumbs you leave could serve as a calling card for critters, such as ants, lice and bed bugs. Consistently clean bedding deters visits from these pests.
Soiled sheets can feel gritty or sticky and can give off unpleasant odors. A regular change of bedding means that your sheets and blankets always feel and smell great, making it easier to drift off into dreamland.
How Often Should You Change Your Bedding?
Sheets, pillowcases and other bedding that touches your skin directly should typically be changed every other week, although some organizations, such as the New York State Department of Health, believe in laundering weekly to minimize exposure to germs and unwanted substances. Because they typically don’t touch your bare skin, blankets, comforters, pillows and mattress protectors may be washed less frequently.
How often you change your bedding may also depend on a variety of factors, such as whether anyone in your household has a relevant medical condition. If any of the following situations apply to your household, you should change your bedding more frequently:
- Family members with allergies, skin sensitivities or respiratory conditions, such as asthma or COPD
- Your household has pets
- Someone in your household has a contagious illness
- You or your bed partner sweat heavily or experience night sweats
For households battling contagious illnesses, all bedding should be washed upon recovery to avoid reinfection or spread to other family members.
The Best Way to Wash Bedding
The methods for laundering bedding vary depending on the item itself and its construction. It’s always helpful to read the manufacturer’s care instructions prior to washing.
Sheets, Pillowcases and Blankets
Sheets, pillowcases and blankets should always be laundered according to the instructions on the care label, using the highest possible temperature allowed. The NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recommends washing your bedding weekly at a temperature of 130 to 140 degrees to eradicate dust mites and machine drying on the high-temperature setting.
If your bedding’s care labels call for cooler water and lower drying temperatures, try hanging items outdoors. Sunlight’s natural antimicrobial properties can provide an effective alternative to machine drying for eradicating germs. It’s also highly effective in killing dust mites. Bedding that can’t be washed may also be frozen overnight, and all items should be dried thoroughly before putting them on the bed.
Because they’re tucked into pillowcases, pillows are often forgotten when it comes to laundering bedding. Unfortunately, they can still trap dirt, dust mites and other unwanted allergens.
Most synthetic pillows are machine washable and should be washed at least twice a year. They can be laundered with regular detergent on the hottest wash cycle and dried in your dryer on the highest heat setting. By throwing in a dry bath towel with your pillow, you can reduce the drying time significantly. If your pillow is made with down or another high-end filler, professional dry-cleaning services may be the best option to avoid damage.
When you change your bedding, don’t overlook comforters. Although they typically aren’t in direct contact with your skin, they can still become soiled with dust, dander, pet hair and dirt from the environment and should be laundered every few months.
Unfortunately, because of their size and composition, comforters may prove challenging to wash. Comforters that are too big for your washer and dryer, or that have more delicate fillings, may be washed by hand in an oversized sink or a bathtub and hung outside to dry.
Your mattress is an integral part of your bedding and should be cleaned at least several times a year following the manufacturer’s care instructions. Vacuuming your mattress with an upholstery attachment can help eradicate dust, lint and other small particles that can harbor bacteria and cause allergic responses in sensitive individuals. A sprinkling of baking soda prior to vacuuming can aid in odor and moisture removal. If you use a mattress pad, toss it in the wash and launder it according to the manufacturer’s care instructions.
Keeping Your Bedding Fresh Between Washings
To minimize stains and soiling and keep dust mites at bay, use commercial mattress and pillow protectors. These products are typically dustproof and moisture-resistant, and many are easy to remove and machine washable.
You may also want to opt for a lightly fragranced laundry detergent or fabric softener to keep your sheets smelling clean. Light floral scents, such as lavender, are designed to promote feelings of calm and relaxation and are conducive to sleep. Regularly opening windows to air out your bedroom can also help keep your bedding fresh between washings.
There are so many benefits to keeping your bedding clean and washed regularly, from decreased allergen exposure to higher overall sleep quality. Have you experienced better sleep since sticking to a bed washing schedule? Leave a comment!