How often should you wash your sheets? And the health risks of getting it wrong

Wondering how often you should wash your sheets? This is the lowdown from the experts

Sheets folded in a pile with an iron next to it
(Image credit: Alamy)

Looking for the answer to the question how often should you wash your sheets? Slipping between fresh sheets is one of life’s pleasures, but how long can they stay on the bed before fresh becomes funky and a change of linen is required?

You might also be wondering if there are different rules if you or someone in your home suffers from asthma and allergies, and when you’re sick. Concerns about energy use come into the picture, too, as more laundering means bills are inevitably going to be higher.

Great laundry room ideas make sheet washing an easy and efficient task but, to determine the ideal frequency, we posed the question how often should you wash your sheets to experts, and this is what they told us.

How often should you wash your sheets?

You should wash your sheets weekly. Washing bed sheets is part of the routine of cleaning a bedroom, but for many people that doesn’t equal weekly. ‘A survey by a textile company found that 44 per cent of Americans wash their sheets only once or twice a month,’ says Becca Fair, certified sleep science coach and editor of MattressNerd (opens in new tab).

Are they getting it wrong? Here’s what sleep, hygiene and fabric experts advise.

Why you should wash your sheets

Like washing pillows, washing sheets is a necessary task, but what does laundering them actually do? 

‘The reasons for laundering bed sheets are based on restoring the appearance, reducing the risk of deterioration of the textiles from the buildup of oils and soils, reduction in the buildup of dust and dust mites, and reducing the buildup of microbes such as bacteria, fungus, and viruses,’ explains board certified dermatologist and functional textile expert Erum N Ilyas, CEO and founder, AmberNoon (opens in new tab).

Wash sheets every one to two weeks

How often you should wash your sheets will depend on some individual factors, which we’ll talk about below. But there is a guideline. ‘As a general rule, it’s medically beneficial to change bedsheets every one or two weeks,’ says Christine Kingsley, advanced practice registered nurse and the health and wellness director of the Lung Institute (opens in new tab)

Does sheet fabric affect how often you should wash them?

Sheet material could influence how often it’s best to wash your sheets. ‘It is true that oils can be more attached to some fibers such as polyester,’ says Erum N Ilyas. ‘Some fibers may actually add to warmth while sleeping leading to more sweat produced.’ 

But fabric doesn’t make a difference on the whole. ‘Overall, similar laundry practices can likely be maintained,’ she says. ‘However consideration should be given to individual factors such as a tendency towards hot flashes that may impact the need for more frequent washes.’

And while fabric isn’t generally a factor in how often you should wash your sheets, color is. ‘Obviously white or light sheets show soil and contamination more than a darker linen,’ says Wayne Edelman, CEO of high-end dry-cleaning service Meurice Garment Care (opens in new tab).

Do asthma and allergies influence how often you should wash sheets?

If you, or someone in your home, has asthma or allergies, err on the side of washing more often. ‘Finding yourself constantly suffering from a runny nose and sneezing, or, in severe cases, wheezing or having difficulty breathing could hint that you have to replace your sheets more frequently,’ says Christine Kingsley.

How often to wash sheets in this case? ‘At least once a week is a good rule of thumb,’ says dermatologist Dr Cory Gaskins of Best Botox (opens in new tab). ‘This ensures that your sheets are free of dirt, dust, and other allergens that can cause problems for people with allergies or asthma.’

How often should you wash your sheets if you share with a pet?

Allow animal companions on your bed – or they get on there anyway? More laundering is the rule.

‘If you have pets, you may need to wash your sheets more often,’ says Dr Cory Gaskins. ‘Pets can track in dirt and other things from outside, so it’s important to keep on top of the laundry if you want to avoid any extra work down the line.’

How often should you wash sheets if you sleep naked?

What you wear (or don’t) also counts. ‘Something so silly as wearing a PJ or no PJ makes a huge difference,’ says bedding expert Anki Spets of New York City-based Area Home (opens in new tab). ‘Having a layer between you and the sheets means less washing.’

How often should couples wash their sheets?

Bed sharers also need to take into account their fellow sleeper with more frequent washing on the agenda ‘if someone is a warm sleeper or has an oilier skin type’, say Susanne Martinez, VP of product development, and Alicen Soli, senior designer, at luxury bedding company SFERRA (opens in new tab).

How often should you wash sheets when you're sick?

Sickness in the home means you should up the frequency of washing. ‘If someone in your household is ill, it’s important to wash your sheets more often than usual,’ says Dr Gaskins. ‘Aim to wash them at least twice a week. If possible, wash them immediately after the person feels better.’

Should you wash your bedsheets every week?

You’ll find plenty of recommendations about washing bedsheets every week, but this isn’t necessarily the case. ‘Unless you eat in your bed, have pets that shed, or stay in bed all day, once a week is too much,’ says Anki Spets. ‘You have to keep in mind that washing and using detergent and dryers breaks down natural fibers.’ 

Dr Cory Gaskins agrees, although there are exceptions. ‘You should wash your sheets every two weeks,’ he says. ‘If you’ve been sweating in them, then you should wash them sooner. However, if you don’t sweat much, and you’re not allergic to anything, every two weeks should be fine.’

Erum N Ilyas notes that the once-a-week recommendation is a popular one, but that how you wash sheets is also crucial. ‘From a textile care perspective this makes sense to create a schedule to routinely remove oils, soils, debris, dust, and other sources for buildup on sheets,’ she says. But she adds, ‘Bear in mind that this does require ideal laundering practices of not overloading the laundry machine and dosing detergent appropriately to ensure that the agitation of the sheets and the temperature chosen for the wash can work ideally.’

Can you get bed bugs from not washing your sheets?

Unwashed sheets won’t bring bed bugs into your home. However, frequent sheet washing will give you the chance to spot an infestation and call in the professionals to rid your home of these pests.

Keep your bedroom as uncluttered as possible and don’t put bags and other items down on the bed to help avoid an infestation.

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.