How often should you wash your bed sheets? This 'calculator' has answers but requires intimate details

Not sure how often you need to toss your sheets in the washer? There's a new calculator that can give you personalised advice.
Not sure how often you need to toss your sheets in the washer? There's a new calculator that can give you personalised advice.
Getty Images/Elena Grigorovich-EyeEm
  • Experts generally recommend we wash our bed sheets once a week.
  • However, this may not apply to everyone and depends on an individual's lifestyle and habits.
  • A new 'Clean Sheets Calculator' tool analyses your cleanliness and lifestyle habits and advises you on how often your sheets need washing.

More than 50 000 people ask Google each year how often they need to wash their bed sheets. Granted, you spend a great deal of your day in your bed, and your sheets collect thousands of dead skin cells, dust mites, bodily fluids and oils – and if your furry friend shares a bed with you, then pet hair, too. 

The common rule of thumb, wherever you live in the world, is to do weekly washings, but that is often at odds with what actually happens in people's homes. A report from Hammonds revealed that a third of Britons wash their sheets just once a year, while the average time between bed sheet changes for Americans is around every three weeks.

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Molly Freshwater, founder of Secret Linen Store, says: "The truth is that most of us don't wash our sheets every week, and that's totally fine." Secret Linen Store has created a tool called the 'Clean Sheets Calculator', which asks you a quick set of questions based on your personal cleanliness and lifestyle habits, analyses your responses and then immediately advises you on how often your sheets need washing.

"We wanted to create a tool that reassures people that it's ok to leave a little longer between your bed washes," says Freshwater. "How often you wash your bedsheets is completely dependent on how much usage they get, which is why we created a calculator to give people bespoke bed washing advice based on their individual habits." 

The tool takes into account things like whether you share your bed with your pets and how many times you shower, through to how often you have sex and whether you eat a lot of food in your bed.  

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For example, people who shower often and don't spend multiple hours lounging in bed, don't have pets, and sleep in full pyjamas could sensibly leave much longer than a week between their bed linen washes – even up to a month if their bed sheets see very little action, suggests the new calculator. On the other hand, for those who eat a lot in their beds, sleep naked, share their beds with a furry friend and sweat a fair amount, the calculator is likely to suggest a weekly wash for heavy usage.

How often do you wash your bed sheets? Tell us here

Less washing, smaller carbon footprint

Eskom's tariff hikes have made electricity largely unaffordable for millions of South Africans, so washing your sheets only when needed may just save you some extra costs to your electricity bill.  Importantly, washing your sheets also creates a significant amount of carbon emissions, especially if you're washing at 60 degrees or higher. 

Says Freshwater: "Overwashing can cause unnecessary wear of your bed linen, and a full hot wash and tumble dryer cycle has a significant impact on your household carbon emissions. Our calculator provides advice with an eco-friendly approach to keeping your bed sheets clean, with tips on how to make your sheets stay fresh for longer between washes and suggestions on reducing your carbon emissions with cooler washers and air drying." 

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According to the BBC, 11% of household carbon emissions are produced from using washing machines, with a warm wash and dryer cycle creating 3.3 kg of carbon per load. Washing your bed linen once a week on a 60-degree wash, with a tumble dry cycle too, causes over 171 kg of carbon every year, whereas washing your bed sheets once a month on a 30-degree wash and air drying reduces that amount down to just 7.2 kg of carbon.

How to keep your sheets fresher for longer

To make your sheets last longer between laundry days, the experts at Secret Linen Store recommend the following hacks:

  • Linen sprays: The smell of freshly laundered sheets is so inviting that it can prompt overwashing, but investing in a beautifully scented linen spray will give your sheets that 'just washed' feel without putting them through the machine too much.
  • Consider combining some drops of your favourite essential oil with water for a refreshing bedding spry. 
  • Wear pyjamas: Dead skin cells and oils that your body excretes are one of the main hygienic reasons for washing bed sheets regularly. Wearing pyjamas protects your bedding by creating a barrier between your body and your sheets, and pyjamas are much smaller and easier to wash than your full bed set.
  • Small area cleaning: If you encounter the odd ad hoc small stain, you can blot clean small spots with a liquid detergent spray rather than hauling all the linen into the washing machine. Washing just your pillowcases if they stain quicker than your sheets is another way to reduce your washing load.
  • Air your bed: Pull back your blankets or duvet when you're not sleeping in your bed to allow your sheets to breathe; this helps remove moisture that mites need to thrive.
  • On storing your sheets: Fold your laundry and store it somewhere cool and dark, but be mindful of wooden drawers. The smell of some wood could transfer into the dry laundry. Remember, you should only store sheets when they're completely dry: If your laundry is moist when you store it away, bacteria will grow on the fabric, and it will become musty. No one likes musty sheets.
  • Shower before bed: Washing the day's dirt off your skin before going to sleep is a top way to reduce bacteria buildup in your bedding, plus a hot water soak can aid your night's rest!

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