How often to wash bed sheets? Researchers recommend surprising rule

Deepak Gupta February 7, 2022
Updated 2022/02/07 at 6:39 AM

Even if it is quite cold outside at the moment, it can quickly become uncomfortably hot at night if the blankets are too warm. Then you secrete even more fluids than usual through sweating. And this then joins all the other residues that already collect in your bedding. So it is not surprising that for reasons of hygiene alone, research has a rather critical view of the question how often bedding should be washed.

How often to wash bed linen? Experts advise unusual frequency

The German Textilreinigungs-Verband eV (German Textile Cleaning Association) recommends thoroughly wet cleaning bedding, such as blankets and pillows, once or twice a year if possible. When it comes to sheets and covers, things are of course very different. But here, too, the recommendations differ.

A kind of golden rule is to change the textiles every two weeks. But according to science, that’s not enough. Physicians advise wash the bedclothes once a week.

The dermatologist and germ expert Dr. Annie Gonzalez, for example, thinks it makes perfect sense to put sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases in the washing machine every seven days to get rid of all the dirt they contain. dr Philip Tierno, a microbiologist at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, goes one step further and makes this routine conditional on the presence of a mattress cover.

If there is no additional barrier between the sheet and the mattress, he believes the weekly routine is essential. In such cases, the mattress collects more liquids, fats and scales due to the unhindered seepage. A cover, on the other hand, prevents this and allows the bed linen to be cleaned only every two weeks.

Germany: That’s how often we wash our bed linen in this country

According to a survey from 2016, most Germans have different routines than the rule recommended by doctors. According to this, only 14 percent of those surveyed answered “more often” (than every two weeks) when asked how often they wash their bed linen. After all, 32 percent indicated a regularity of 14 days.

  • Often: 14 percent
  • Every two weeks: 32 percent
  • Every three weeks: 15 percent
  • Every four weeks: 21 percent
  • Every five weeks: 3 percent
  • Six weeks and more: 8 percent
  • Don’t know: 5 percent

Fats, sweat and dust mites: All this collects in your bed linen

It quickly becomes clear that you should clean covers, sheets, etc. regularly when you consider what accumulates in your sleeping area over time.

Within a year man loses around 180 liters of liquid that is deposited in the bed and thus also on the bed linen. Join in fats and skin flakesfrom which in turn mites can feed well. These not only live in your bedroom, but also leave behind their own dirt. Up to 10,000 of the arachnids can romp about in a dirty bed.

Duvets and pillows are perfect for fungi and bacteria

In addition to dust mites, other parasites can also be found in your bed. Moisture and heat create a perfect climate for bacteria and fungi.

According to a study, researchers at the University Hospital of South Manchester found that feather pillows and synthetic pillows in particular ensure rapid spread. After 1.5 years, an average of four and after 20 years about 17 species of fungus lived in the bed linen.

How often to wash bed linen? These people should do it more often

This is particularly dangerous for the health of small children, the sick and the elderly, as the German Textile Cleaning Association explains. A house dust allergy can be the result, which is noticeable with sneezing and a skin rash. But people with a weakened immune system and people with respiratory diseases such as asthma can also develop health problems from long-term contact.

Regular cleaning is also recommended for other special groups of people because they leave behind more residue than others. This includes people:

  • with skin problems such as a rash or acne
  • with excessive salivation when sleeping
  • take the animals to bed
  • who don’t shower before bed
  • who sleep naked
  • who eat in bed
  • who sweat profusely
  • who have asthma or allergies

Attention: 3 mistakes can happen when washing bed linen

Aside from cleaning the linens more often, there are general things to look out for. For example, the following mistakes that you might make.

  1. Wash bedclothes too hot: It is a fallacy that you have to wash bed linen at at least 60 degrees to kill all germs. Modern washing machines can do this at lower temperatures.
  2. The wrong detergent: Not every bed linen needs the same detergent. For white textiles, for example, a heavy-duty detergent is recommended to avoid a gray haze. Colorful or patterned fabrics, on the other hand, would fade, which is why a color detergent is the better choice.
  3. Do not use fabric softener: Especially for the absorbency of your bed linen, it is important not to use fabric softener. This sticks together sensitive fibers, but it is not recommended for cotton either.

How to wash bed linen properly – instructions

Before you start the actual washing process, you can prepare your textiles a little in advance. This ensures good but gentle results.

Manufacturers recommend, for example, always turning bed linen inside out when washing. The inside then looks outwards. You should also close the zippers on the covers. In addition, it is important to wash bed linen and sheets only with similar colors.

All these precautions are intended to prevent damage to the fabric or abrasion of the printed motif, while at the same time preserving the luminosity of the colors.

Temperatures of up to 60 degrees are sufficient to thoroughly clean your bed linen afterwards. These are particularly recommended for allergy sufferers, because they kill house dust mites as best as possible. However, this takes more than 30 minutes at 60 degrees.

Optimum temperatures depending on the degree of soiling

  • Wash bed linen at 30 degrees: Not recommended for hygienic reasons. Bacteria and germs can then even multiply. However, if the bed linen is made of microfiber or printed, 30 degrees is often necessary to avoid color loss.
  • Wash bed linen at 40 degrees: If the soiling is rather light to normal, 40 degrees is optimal and sufficient.
  • Wash bed linen at 60 degrees: To really give germs and bacteria no chance, 60 degrees is good. When you buy it, you should make sure that these temperatures do not cause damage.
  • Wash bed linen at 90 degrees: If the textiles are not dyed or are made of linen, they can also be cleaned at 90 degrees without any problems. However, this is not necessary, because 60 degrees is already sufficient for hygienic cleanliness.

Different textiles also have different care requirements. For example, there are the following basic rules for the washing routine that affect cotton and co.

Temperatures and detergents depending on the type of fabric

  • cotton: 60 degrees Celsius and color detergent; white cotton bed linen can also be washed at 95 degrees Celsius
  • microfiber: 60 degrees Celsius and special detergent for microfiber or mild detergent
  • linen: 40 degrees Celsius with mild detergent; in the gentle program or with a low number of revolutions
  • satin: 40 degrees Celsius with mild or heavy-duty detergent
  • silk: maximum 30 degrees Celsius with mild detergent or silk detergent

tip: Before washing, always pay attention to the care instructions for sheets and co. For germ-free washing, you can also add the appropriate disinfectant detergent.

Wash bed linen often but in an environmentally friendly manner

If you want to wash bed linen in a particularly environmentally friendly way, spin at 1400 revolutions. But you can do a lot more to save energy, for example, especially with frequent cleaning.

  • Skip the pre-wash. This is only necessary if the duvet cover, linen and the like have really stubborn dirt on them.
  • Do not wash the linens until there is enough laundry to fill the drum.
  • Let the linens air dry instead of tumble drying. This consumes additional and also a lot of electricity.

Wash pillows and duvet (instructions)

Of course, if you wash your bed linen frequently, you shouldn’t neglect the bedding itself. Putting dirty blankets and pillows in freshly cleaned covers won’t help you in the end either.

In general, it is therefore best to wash pillows and duvets regularly once or twice a year, according to experts. First of all, make sure that both can be put in the washing machine according to the label. If this is the case, it can still be a problem with very large duvets because they may not fit in the drum. From a width of 1.55 meters, for example, things can get critical.

Alternatively, you can wash oversized duvets in the chemical cleaning give one laundromat visit (the drums usually hold more volume there) or the own bathtub use for it.

tip: Down comforters should not be over-squeezed and should always be dry cleaned. Bedding made of silk or animal hair, on the other hand, has a self-cleaning effect due to its natural fibers and requires less care. If the outer shell is dirty here, it is also recommended to go to the cleaning.

Can I wash my mattress?

In addition to bedding and bedding, there is still the mattress. This is likely to be cleaned the least, even though you lie on it every day. Washing a mattress sounds a bit more complicated at first. Ideally, however, you should use a removable cover that can be easily cleaned of stains and sweat in the washing machine. If you don’t have one yet, it may be worth buying for the future.

How often should you wash the mattress cover?

Experts generally recommend here, wash your mattress cover once a year. Allergy sufferers should increase this routine all at once every three to four months to stay safe.

For temperatures, it is best to follow the manufacturer’s label. Most mattress covers can be washed at 60 degrees. However, some microfiber covers are particularly hard-wearing and can also be washed at 95 degrees. Others, for example if they have a textile finish, can only endure hot water at 40 degrees. In general, a liquid mild detergent is recommended for washing.

by the way: Science also has a concrete answer about mattresses and when a change is needed.

Tips for healthy sleep

Regardless of how often you will be washing your mattress cover, bedding and linens from now on, there are a few other factors that are important for a healthy sleep. 6 tips for better sleep will help you to improve your routine. In individual cases, this also includes the best sleeping position to combat breathing disorders.

Sources: Textilreinigungs-Verband eV, Stern, The Healthy, ResearchGate/University Hospital of South Manchester

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