HomeHealthFeb 2016


How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets?

Why do you need to change your sheets and pillowcases every week? Because, even if you shower every night and sleep alone, you're not the only one messing up your bed.

Here's a riddle for you: What has eight hairy legs, no eyes, no head, a big mouth and snuggles up with you at night? That's easy; a house dust mite. Everybody has them. You may not realize it, but when dust settles on your sheets, pillowcases, cover and quilts, these little housemates are sleeping in your bed. And that's just one reason why it's important to clean your bed linens at least once a week.

Unless you have allergies, you might not notice that your sheets are sprinkled with dust mite skins and fecal pellets. Even if you do have allergies, you can't see dust mites or their droppings, because they are microscopic in size.  But the fact is, the average used mattress houses up to 10 million mites, and a two-year  old pillow gets up to 10 percent of its weight from dead mites and the materials they leave behind. Add to that pile of refuse the skin cells and oils you leave behind every night, along with all the other household matter that ends up in dust particles, and you've got quite an invisible mess in your bed.

Encasing your mattress and pillows in mite-proof covers will trap any mites, dead or alive, that are already in your bedding, suffocate those that are still breathing and prevent new mites from moving in. That takes care of that. But new dust settles on the surface every day, so to keep your bed free clear of both mite and human debris, you have to do your laundry. It also helps to frequently vacuum the area around your bed.

To keep your bed clean, wash all sheets and pillowcases in warm or hot water once a week, and all blankets, mattress covers, quilts and other bed covers almost as often. According to University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension services, washing your bed linens with regular detergent, in water that is at least 77F, will kill most mites. Any bedding that cannot be washed at home, such as wool blankets, should be dry-cleaned at least once a year.