Sheets & Blankets: How Often Should You Wash Them?

messy bed sheets
Do you really know who, or rather what, you’re sleeping with? According to Philip M. Tierno Jr., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, most people don’t know just what may be lying inside of their sheets and blankets.

Read: Allergy-Free Home: A Room-By-Room Guide

People’s bed linen washing habits greatly vary – some people wash theirs several times a week, while some, particularly younger adults, will leave their linens on their beds for much longer. But how much should you, ideally, wash them?

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Wash sheets and pillowcases once a week, and you’ll eliminate that debris that has accumulated in the bed for that week, Tierno says., adding that once-a-week washing schedule will make it safer to breath in that material.

Debris? What Debris?

Human skin cells become food for dust mites. That is one of the biggest problems associated with bedding. Mites accumulate, along with their feces. But there is also animal hair, dander, fungal mold, fungal spores, bodily secretions and bacteria. Also: dust, lint, fibers, particulates, insect parts, pollen, soil, sand and cosmetics.

“One person can perspire as much as a liter in a night—even more if you have a lot of covers,” Tierno says. And, of course, people eat in bed as they watch TV.

The Health Risks?

It is mainly a threat to respiratory tracts and not an infectious source. If you have allergies or asthma, this matter can exacerbate it. If you don’t have an allergy, you could develop one because you’re constantly challenged.

The Best Way To Wash Bedding

The water should be 130 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, typically the washing machine’s hot-water cycle. Then dry using a hot drying cycle. That is germicidal; it actually kills and destroys a lot of vegetative material. It also kills the dust mites. For extra protection, bleach is excellent. It is probably the cheapest germicide and can be used in a low concentration. Cold water non-bleach bleaches use peroxide, so they’re also germicidal.

One More Thing…

To protect the mattress, use an impervious outer cover. If you look at a mattress, it collects debris by gravity. All kinds of things collect on it that are absorbed into its core. Without the impervious cover, your mattress is a “zoological and botanical garden,” Tierno says. The outer covers are made of pliable, plastic vinyl and are commonly used by people with asthma and allergy symptoms. The covers should also go on pillowcases. “If you put an impervious outer cover over the mattress and mattress pad, your mattress won’t harm you.”