They say you spend a third of your life sleeping, which means that you spend a third of your life in bed.
If you're spending that much time in one place, it's important to make sure that it's clean. There are all sorts of things lurking in your sheets that you may not be aware of, and they could pose a threat to your health if cleanliness isn't maintained. Let this guide help you understand the importance of washing bed sheets regularly.
What's In Your Sheets?
If you could put your sheets under a microscope, you might be surprised - and a little freaked out - by what you would see. Almost every bed has dust mites, which are microscopic bugs that feed off of dead skin cells. These little things live, die and reproduce in the same bed sheets that you sleep in. The only way to keep these creatures under control is to wash your bed sheets on a regular basis. Otherwise, you may develop an allergy, or even a lowered immune system. As gross as dust mites are, they aren't the only things hiding in your bed sheets.
Here's what you also may be sleeping in:
- Dead skin cells - Your body sheds about a million skin cells a day, so some of those are bound to come off when you sleep. Unfortunately, dead skin cells are a tasty snack for dust mites.
- Oils - Your body secretes natural oils as you sleep, which, of course, end up on your bed sheets.
- Sweat - If you get too hot during the night, your body will sweat to cool off.
- Bodily fluids - Saliva, blood, urine, fecal matter and bodily fluids from intercourse are all liable to show up on your bed sheets.
- Food crumbs - If you like to bring that midnight snack to bed, there's probably crumbs and other food particles that are begging to be eaten by bugs.
How Often Should You Wash Your Bed Sheets?
- If you're washing your sheets only once a month, that's not going to cut it. Your sheets need to be washed at least every other week, but weekly is ideal.
- It's also important to wash your pillow at least twice a year. Pillows can harbor mold, yeast and bacteria, which can cause diarrhea, asthma or bronchitis. If you have never washed your pillow, you may want to consider throwing it away and getting a new one. For more information on the dangers of mold, read Health Hazards of Mold Exposure.
- If you are taking care of someone who is sick, you should try to wash the sheets every day so that person isn't recuperating in a germ-filled bed. If you aren't able to wash them every day, then just changing the pillowcase daily should suffice.
How to Wash Your Bed Sheets
The key to keeping bedding clean is to know how to clean it. It's important to follow the manufacturer's care instructions, but if you aren't familiar with them, then follow these tips to clean everything from sheets to comforters:
- Wash them in hot soapy water and let them dry completely in the dryer.
- Don't wash them with clothes as it might damage the sheets or cause them to become fuzzy.
- If the sheets have a stain, tend to it before washing.
- For a natural way to brighten white sheets, add a quarter of a cup of lemon juice to the wash and wash with warm water.
- Use medium or low setting when washing or drying. High heat can cause the fibers to weaken, which can lead to rips and tears.
- Ball your sheets up when you put them in the washer. This will prevent them from stretching out and losing shape.
- Wool blankets should be washed in cold water and put on a low spin in the dryer.
- Electric blankets should not be dry-cleaned since the solvents used can damage the wiring.
- If you don't want to wash your blankets often, vacuum them in between washings to remove dust and lint.
- Mend any rips or tears before washing blankets.
- Test your comforter or bedspread for colorfastness before washing it. Dip a corner of the bedspread or comforter into a bit of the detergent to see if the color bleeds. If it does, have it dry-cleaned instead.
- Consider cleaning your comforter or bedspread in a commercial washer and dryer. Your own appliances may not be able to tolerate the wet weight of the bedding.
- Wash your comforter in cold water and dry it on low heat. Or, hang it on a clothesline and let it air dry.
- Wash quilts the same way as a comforter.
- If the quilt is filled with batting or is old and fragile, hand-wash it.
- If the quilt has silk or velvet on it, do not wash it.
- Machine-wash pillows in cold water and dry them on a cool setting.
- Fluff pillows daily to get rid of lingering dust and dead skin cells.
- Air out your pillows frequently to freshen them up. Hang them on a clothesline or near an open window.
If you're washing sheets for someone who is sick, hold the bedding away from you and make sure you wash your hands afterward. Wash the sheets in warm water and dryer them on a high setting.