It feels amazing to slip between clean, sweet-smelling sheets at bedtime. In fact, a survey commissioned by the National Sleep Foundation revealed that more than half the people they asked rated fresh-smelling sheets as important to their sleep experience. Lots of people love the smell of clean sheets, but most of us don't wash them often enough to keep them that way.
Why you need to wash your sheets a lot more
Let’s talk about hygiene. No matter how clean you are or how often you shower, you leave a lot of yourself behind in your sheets. Mary Johnson, Tide Principal Scientist at Procter & Gamble, told us that every day, “People produce one liter of sweat, 40 grams of sebum (the stuff in your pores that makes your skin oily), 10 grams of salt, and 2 billion skin cells.”
And your sheets absorb lots of other random messes, too: “All that stuff that happens below the waist [and] up by your head—skincare products, hair care products, ear wax, snot, drool, lots of really gross stuff—is transferred to your sheets,” Johnson says.
Not only are you sleeping surrounded by all those products and bodily secretions, but you’re also coming in close personal contact with dust mites. Millions of them are residing in your bed right now, consuming your dead skin flakes. About 20 million Americans are actually allergic to the mites, and nobody wants to sleep with them. The best way to get rid of them is to wash and dry your bedding.
How often you should wash your sheets
When we took an informal poll in our newsroom to find out how often our journalists wash their sheets, the responses ranged from, “Every week!” to “Whenever they look dirty.” There's no wrong answer, but experts say it's best to wash sheets at least once every two weeks. And that might not always be often enough.
Because they come in contact with your face, you should clean your pillowcases every week. And if you’re allergic to dust or pollen, or if a pet sleeps in your bed, you should wash your sheets weekly, too. Good Housekeeping says to wash them every week if you have night sweats. And if you, your partner, or your child has been sick, get the sheets, comforter, and pillow into the washer as soon as possible, though not necessarily all at the same time. To get it all clean, you have to make sure it has enough room to move around the washing machine.
How to wash your sheets
It's not like it's hard to clean your sheets. Wash them in the warmest water they can stand (always check the care tags) because warm water can help dissolve body oils. Then, either tumble dry or hang them in the sun—sunlight is a natural disinfectant. And don’t throw your bedding in the dryer with your towels. Terrycloth retains a lot of moisture from the wash cycle and can extend drying time (and wear and tear) on your sheets.
You need two sets of bed sheets
Since it’s no fun having to wait for sheets to dry, it helps to have at least one backup set so you can slip off the dirty ones and slip on the clean ones whenever you need to. And when you buy a new set of sheets, make sure to wash them before you use them for the first time. Manufacturers often treat sheets with chemicals like formaldehyde before packaging, and it’s better to wash out the residue before putting them on your mattress.
You can check out our guide to the best bed sheets to see our favorites, with luxury picks and value picks that cost well under $30 for a set.
But you don’t need pajamas
Although wearing your jammies might keep your bedding a little cleaner, you don’t really need them. The National Sleep Foundation says that there are benefits to sleeping in the nude. Sleeping cooler can help you sleep longer and deeper. But if you decide to sleep in pajamas, make sure you wash them at least as often as you wash your bedding—and twice a week is better.