As the weather turns colder and we adjust our skin care habits and showering routines, we can’t help but wonder if we should also be thinking about changing the frequency of our sheet-washing.
After all, our bodies feel different during the fall and winter. And given the fact that we come in close contact with our beds for long periods of time, it only follows that seasonal lifestyle changes should bring along with them laundry schedule shifts.
“Our beds and sheets are a micro-environment of all that we come into contact with during the day,” explained Dr. Mona Sadeghpour, a board-certified dermatologist at SkinMed Institute. “They can harbour bacteria, yeast, pollution, dead skin cells, as well as mites, allergens and danger that our pets carry as well.”
Most, if not all, of those organisms are actually invisible to the naked eye. As a result, whether you actually notice your bed is contaminated is beside the point: when getting cosy under your blanket, whatever is on your skin will rub off on your sheets. Therefore, you might want to wash them pretty often.
How often should we wash our sheets and what happens if we don’t wash them often enough?
In addition to simply being dirty, if not properly cleaned, bedding can worsen issues related to eczema and allergies while also attracting mites, Sadeghpour explained.
“Dead skin cells are a food for dust mites, which can serve as a source for common allergy symptoms as well as eczema exacerbation for those with sensitive skin,” Sadeghpour said. “Our skin’s natural oil content, how much we tend to sweat, whether we go to sleep with makeup on, how many oils or creams you put on before sleep, or whether pets are allowed in bed will also contribute to the amount of pollution.”
It’s clear that every aspect of the day contributes to our chances of sleeping in a clean environment throughout the night. Spilling a cup of tea in bed is therefore not the only reason we should wash our sheets; the way we take care of our bodies on a daily basis is intrinsically connected to how clean our sleeping arrangements are.
“For most people, putting them in the wash once per week is fine,” said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Mary Lupo. “But if you have an active inflammatory skin disease with lots of shedding, or you have allergies and you do not shower before bedtime to remove allergens like pollen, or if your pets sleep with you, 2-3 times per week might be more optimal.”
“Not washing your sheets often enough can trigger allergies,” Lupo noted. “And, in worse case scenarios, it increases the risk of skin infections.”
Of course, the more time you spend in bed, the likelier it is that your linens will get dirty ― and therefore need washing. That is, perhaps, not great news to folks who tend to work from home more often than not.
According to research conducted by OnePoll for Office Depot, “more than a third of employees spend an average of an hour a day working from bed (35%),” a fact that they should take into account when setting up their laundry schedules.
“Increased amount of time spent in beds translates to increased ‘transaction’ between our skin and our sheets, as well as potentially increased transfer of dirt and allergens to our beds,” Sadeghpour said. “Therefore, you should consider increasing the frequency of your sheet washing.”
To help combat this, showering before bed should be a common practice, noted the experts. The practice will, in fact, maximise your chances of resting in a clean set of sheets that will not trigger infections, allergies, eczema and the like.
“Showering at bedtime is always a good idea,” Lupo said. “It removes dirt, pollen, bacteria, dead skin cells and will keep bedding cleaner, longer.”
As noted by both Lupo and Sadeghpour, washing off before bed won’t only be beneficial to your sheets but to your skin as well.
“Washing at the end of the day allows for dirt, oil and sweat that have accumulated on our skin throughout the day to be washed off,” Sadeghpour explained. “It will also help reduce the load of bacteria, allergens, pet dander and other environmental pollutants that enter our bed sheets.”
According to that logic, someone who doesn’t regularly shower before bed would be advised to wash his or her sheets more often than the once-a-week that’s generally recommended.
Should we be washing our sheets more often in the colder season?
Although there isn’t definitive research regarding folks’ shower frequency throughout the seasons, the general assumption is that people might bathe slightly less during colder months than they do during warmer summer months when there’s more sweating and perspiration, which would soil sheets more.
“Winter months for some people means less sweating and therefore less need for showers,” Sadeghpour said. “This is due to lower temperatures ... triggering less sweating as well as less time spent outdoors being active. Also, the idea of being cold and naked after a shower may be less enticing in the winter than it is in the summer for some folks.”
Given winter’s lower humidity index and overall dryer weather, skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis can flare up, which, according to Sadeghpour, may lead many to also shower less frequently than usual.
“Excessive showering, especially using hot water, can further worsen flares during the winter, since eczema-prone skin cannot hold on to the water well,” she explained.
So if you happen to be among those who shower less in the winter then, yes, you should be washing your sheets more often during the season ― at least two to three times a week, as mentioned above.
Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that winter usually coincides with cold and flu seasons, Sadeghpour said.
“That can mean more germ and respiratory fluids exchanged with our sheets at night,” she said. “I always recommend washing sheets more frequently than once weekly if you or your family has been sick, but at minimum keeping up the once-weekly schedule even during winter months.”
Working-from-home patterns should also be accounted for when trying to understand whether winter brings along with it more frequent sheet cleaning. Given the research that over a third of people who work from home actually do so from their beds, people who do so more in the winter may want to wash their sheets more frequently.
Overall, just try to use logic: Do you get into bed “dirty” frequently? Then make sure to wash your linens just as often.