Is there any place on earth cozier than your own bed? You collapse there at the end of a long day, eager to snuggle down and start stacking ZZZs. But if you’re not cleaning your covers often enough, there’s a lot of microscopic stuff in that bed with you. Here’s our guide to keeping bed sheets clean.
What your body leaves behind on bed sheets
Each night your body unloads dead skin cells, hair, skin oils, sweat and bacteria, not to mention local dust, pollen and animal dander, onto your bed sheets. Your bed is not exactly Chernobyl, but these pollutants certainly taint the picture of it as a safe haven. The dirtiest area is your pillowcase, where you breathe, shed hair and … well, you get the idea.
Alien bed invaders
But it gets worse. Those dead skin cells you shed each night ring the dinner bell for the dust mites that feast on them. (Good thing these little beasties are too small to see, because when placed under a microscope they look like alien space invaders scary enough to send you screaming.) After their meal, the mites drop microscopic amounts of poop on your bed sheets. Enough said.
How often should you wash bed sheets?
The simplest answer to this question is once per week, maybe more often for pillowcases. That should keep the dirt under control and eradicate mites. This schedule works for sleeping every night in the bed. If you sleep there less often, you may be able to wash every two weeks. Under no circumstances should you wait a month or more between washings.
Wash sheets in warm soapy water and dry on medium heat. High heat can cause excessive wear to fibers and shorten the life of your bed sheets. You should also wash your pillow two or three times per year, since over time the same contaminants penetrate it.
Something else you can wash to help manage bed contaminants: yourself. Taking a shower before bed rinses most of the bodily pollutants down the drain so that you enter your bed clean.
Though your other bedding rests on top of the bed sheets, the same contaminants work their way onto blankets, quilts, bedspreads and comforters. These don’t need to be washed as often as sheets, but it’s good to clean them every month or two. Be sure to read and follow washing and drying instructions on the label. Never wash or dry clean an electric blanket.
How contaminants affect your mattress
Bed covers can be washed, but over time, dirt and mites sink through your sheets onto and into your mattress. Use the hose and hand attachment on your vacuum cleaner a few times a year to go over the mattress thoroughly. Purchase a mattress pad and cover to add extra layers between you and your mattress. Impermeable mattress and pillow covers are the best protection of all.
Speaking of mattresses, there is no strict guideline that dictates when to purchase a new model. The Better Sleep Council recommends replacing a mattress every seven years as a rule of thumb, but the best indicator of whether you need a new one is how rested you feel in the morning. As a mattress ages, it wears and becomes less comfortable. When your mattress isn’t providing a good night’s sleep, it’s time for a new one.
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