This Is What Happens If You Don't Change Your Bed Sheets

(And how often the average person actually does it.)
Kseniya Ovchinnikova via Getty Images

When it comes to household chores, changing your bed sheets is one of the more exhausting ones. Just the idea of wrestling a duvet into a new cover can be enough to make you feel tired.

So much so, that men in particular aren’t washing them. Half of single men don’t wash their bed sheets for up to four months at a time, according to a new survey. And 12% of them admitted to only washing them when they remember.

Pizuna Linens conducted a survey of of 2,250 UK adults over the age of 18 and found that 62% of single women changed their bedding once every two weeks whilst only 29% single men washed their sheets at the same rate. Almost half (45%) of single men said they only washed their sheets every three to four months.

But what happens when you don’t change them?

Not washing your bed sheets frequently can lead to a host of health problems such as infected wounds and athletes foot, according to Mary Malone, a laundry expert at

According to Malone, during sleep we continue to perspire, meaning body oils and soil are released.

“Infrequent cleaning of sheets and pillowcases allows the fluids to seep into the pillows and mattresses, and those are much more difficult to clean than tossing sheets in the washer,” she told ATTN.

Allowing dust, sweat and dirt to build-up for just two weeks can be enough to leave you with a scratchy throat or the sniffles, according to New York University microbiologist Philip Tierno

Leaving your bedsheets unchanged can result in sweat and dirt seeping into your pillows and mattress. So how often should we be changing our sheets?

The general consensus is that we should all be changing our sheets – including duvet covers and pillow cases – once a week, Tierno says.

We should be giving our duvet a six-monthly clean or – at the very least – washing it once a year, according to The Fine Bedding Company. Bacteria and bodily fluids can build up in duvets over a short period of time, the company argues, with duvet covers and pyjamas merely acting as a “first line of defence” against sweat.

How you wash your duvet will depend on the type of duvet you have and how big your washing machine is.

Check for care instructions on your duvet first and follow the guidelines. But in general, natural-filled duvets (think: feathers and down) should not be washed and dried at home, regardless of the capacity or capability of your machine.

When it comes to synthetic duvets, these are usually fine to wash at home. For larger or higher tog duvets – ie your winter ones – it’s usually recommended that they are washed in a large capacity machine.