/ Home & Energy

How often do you wash your sheets?


According to a poll, one in ten wait a month to wash their bed sheets and just over a third change them every fortnight. So how often do you wash yours?

As I snuggled into my freshly laundered bed linen on Sunday night, heavenly wafts of lavender-infused fabric conditioner lulling me to sleep, I mused that getting into clean sheets was truly one of life’s simple pleasures.

This got me onto thinking when I’d last actually changed them. A fortnight ago? Three weeks? To my shame, I worked out that it was probably closer to a month. Admittedly, I hadn’t actually slept between them every night during that time, but I was still pretty disgusted by my slovenly ways – particularly because it’s been so humid (read sweaty) of late.

But it seems I’m not alone.

Washing sheets

According to a recent YouGov poll, one in ten confessed that they only washed their sheets once a month. Over a third did it every fortnight, while 33% did it once a week, with over half of those polled saying they believed bed linen became unhygienic after two to three weeks’ use. In the over-60s, 42% put their sheets in the wash after a week, while only 16% of 18-24s deemed this necessary.

Once a week? I’ve only ever done this when I’ve had to, such as when I’ve given up my bed for guests or my cat has trawled in half the garden and left a trail of muddy paw prints on my white duvet cover.

But the 33% of people who do wash their laundry every week could be on to something. During an average day, you shed around a million dead skin cells, the majority at night. On top of that, during a typical night’s sleep you can also lose about a litre of sweat, along with body oils. That combined with saliva, dirt from outside and other bodily fluids all adds up to a perfect breeding ground for up to 16 forms of bacteria plus dust mites. The latter of which won’t do you any favours if you suffer from allergies or asthma.

And then there’s the increased risk of getting an infection if you have a scratch or wound and sleep between dirty sheets.

Cost of cleaning

All pretty grim stuff, especially since the average person spends 35% of their lives in bed. But would this really persuade you to do battle with your duvet cover every seven days?

What about the added expense of putting on a load at 60°C (the Which? recommended temperature for washing bed linen. However, bear in mind that Which? research found that eight out of 12 washing machines tested by us do not reach 60°C on the 60°C program.) Just think of what the cost could be, and much more if you’re changing your whole family’s beds every weekend?

And then there’s the environmental impact. Did you know that the average washing cycle uses about 50 litres of water.

I don’t even want to begin to think about how often I need to wash the actual duvet and the pillows!

Is it really worth being so fastidious about cleaning your sheets?

How often do you wash your sheets?

Once a week (44%, 812 Votes)

Once a fortnight (31%, 585 Votes)

Two to three weeks (10%, 180 Votes)

Once a month (9%, 169 Votes)

Only when necessary (6%, 117 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,863

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Once a week and sometimes I think that’s not often enough. I simply could not sleep in a bed with stale sheets. Pillowcases get washed at the same time.

I wash sheets and pillowcases after four or five days. I suffer from allergies and don’t want to share by bed with dust mites or moulds.

There is not much point in Which? recommending that we wash bed linen at 60°C when we have already been told that most modern washing machines don’t usually reach 60°C on the 60 setting: http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/washing-machines/article/should-i-wash-at-60c The reason is that the current standard for washing machine performance relates to the effectiveness of cleaning than the temperature attained.

Thanks for the amendment.

However ” Just think of what the cost could be, and much more if you’re changing your whole family’s beds every weekend. ” is not as helpful as it might be as it does not quantify the cost . AFAIR the extra cost a year was around £32.

It also would be worth mentioning that if you heat your water by solar power, or by a heat-pump, or indeed gas you might wish to buy a washing machine with dual fill facility. If it only takes cold water you will be paying to heat hot water you already have. Miele actually list the saving for solar fill water washes in their manual.

My Bosch WM 2000 does have dual-fill and on my economy 60c wash I have 60C water straight to the machine from my immersion heater. I have checked the temperature.

Unhelpfully Which? do not show dual-fill in the technical criteria or in the side-list to refine the choice. I realise they are rare so surely it would be a worthwhile help to shoppers who can benefit from them. Perhaps a message you could convey to the people who instruct the test lab that Which? use.

In the days when all we had was a twin-tub washing machine we could fill it up with very hot water straight from the hot tank heated by the gas boiler. The wash process probably used more water but I reckon it was still more economical overall compared to heating all the water by electricity. I think the performance was no worse and the hygiene standard was better.

Thanks Melanie.

Washing powders and tablets generally contain a bleaching product whereas liquids and gels do not. Anyone who is washing bedding at 40°C should certainly be using products containing bleach to deal with microscopic wildlife.

One thing revealed is that Londoner are the least clean! Fancy Which? missing that Londoners significantly wash less sheets less often.

I am pleased to note the Which? recommended cleaning temperature. Will Which? now be publishing the temperatures that machines reach when it is a claimed 60C?

And three years on what has happened with Defra and Which? regarding misleading temperatures? I do know that the German testing body discovered a machine that claims a 60C wash whilst only heating to 27C.

Whilst many nursing and ancillary staff, plus other trades need very clean washes from their home laundry is it not time Which? tested the 60C cycles and provide those so useful graphs that featured in the magazine in late 2013. AFAIR recall the Beko actually kept a temperature of over 55C for half an hour whilst some machines barely exceeded 43C and some reached a high temperature for a handful of minutes before dropping away completely.

AllergyUK actually do test machines and so might be worth looking at what they do to select the best for removing mites etc.

“We each use an average of 160 litres of water each day at a cost of 55p – less than the cost of just one litre of bottled water.” southeastwater

So how expensive and environmentally damaging is one wash using 50 litres? Well the cost if you do two washes a week is around £15. The cost of the water is a reflection of the infrastructure costs to provide it and take it away for treatment. Looks like a bargain.

What does a litre or cubic meter of water cost?
Last updated
May 23, 2016
1 litre of water costs less than 1p
1 cubic metre costs £2.92
A cubic metre equals 1,000 litres of water

1,000 litres is equivalent to:
3,300 cups of tea
28 showers
13 baths
Flushing the toilet more than a hundred times

We wash the sheets weekly. The issue is whether to stuff the King size duvet, bottom sheet and pillow cases in one wash or divide into two. The latter more economical. It is more about freshening them up as not really dirty. We always wash at 30 degrees but now and again I do a 60 degrees on the grounds this kills bed bugs etc that cause allergies BUT most of these in the pillows! Ideally you should freeze your pillows once a year to kill these and replace every 2 years.

Flip the duvet cover after two weeks and change it once a month.

Change the bottom sheet and pillowcases every two weeks.

Sheets every week, quilt cover every week, the quilt every other week, pillowcases every other day (I use a messy treatment on my eyes overnight so pillowcases go in with every wash). Mattress and pillow protectors every 2 to 3 three weeks. Usually wash at 40°C except for the protectors @ 60°C. Never use fabric conditioner.

My grandmother had a bath twice a year whether she needed one or not. I follow her ways in many things. Many people take hygiene to extremes insisting every thing is perfectly clean all the time. I do not seem to have suffered harm by not insisting on perfect cleanliness and doing things which would abhor many people in over 70 years.

by most peoples standards i must be a really mucky person, I only wash my bedding when its dry weather,
and i am not working and i am in the mood. I also gave up ironing 23 years ago, think how many power stations of electricity i have saved. I think I better go and wash my sheets now!!!!

An alternative to washing sheets is to use disposable hygienic non-woven flame retardent paper sheets. Advertised by m*d*s*v* at £20.99 for 50. matching pillowcases £9.11 for 50. Just the thing for your house guests, or for those who can’t be bothered washing.

As it might cost 60p or more to do a wash – cost of water, electricity, detergent and extra if you use a tumble drier – and as a sheet and pillowcase cost 61p a set, it might well be cheaper to use new paper linen all the time. Be the envy of your friends.

. . . and you could do the crossword while trying to get off to sleep.

If sales volume increased one would expect the price to come down. It would still leave the duvet cover to be laundered although paper versions are also available. Mattress and pillow protectors might be less necessary as well. I looked at the *e*i*a*e website and they look quite good. It seems that single-bed sizes only are available at the moment as they are primarily designed for institutional use I expect.

Malcolm – when you referred to those “who can’t be bothered washing”, I wasn’t sure whether you meant people who don’t wash themselves or just don’t like doing the laundry. The cleaner we are when we get in the bed the nicer it will be in the morning. These new fragrance sprays for bedding might also induce reluctance to change the sheets.

Not a fan of smell-concealers John. I’d rather wash than squirt deodorant in nooks and crannies – or onto bedding.

We bought some 600 tpi cotton sheets instead of the usual lighter ones and they are much nicer to slip under.

Bedding cleanliness presumably depends upon whether you use nightwear or not. I’ve located non-woven disposable nightgowns at £38.99 for 50 to cover this.

I like your crossword sheets John. John le Carre novels would require bedding to stay on too long, but Mills and Boone might capitalise. Or the Beano?

A daily disposable night-set would be a good idea – a sort of paper onesie. Fully recyclable and bio-degradable of course. Handy for painting the ceiling too.

Of course, some of us look for hints of glamour and allure in our nocturnal habits so the rustling paper nightie might not appeal to all, but I am sure the design industry could rise to the challenge. There’s a thought.

We wash the sheets ONCE a week. I am currently suffering from a recurrence of Lymphoma unfortunately, and can sweat quite profusely through the night with the sheets becoming soaked. This makes for quite an uncomfortable night sometimes. We are fortunate to have a Bosch washing machine that does a great job, and is very quiet on the spin cycle.

I don’t have any particular timeframe for changing my bed sheets but it’s usually somewhere between 2 and 3 weeks. I gave up trying to stuff my double 13.5 tog hypoallergenic duvet into its cover every few weeks long ago, resorting to a top as well as a bottom sheet which are both washed together with the pillow cases. The duvet cover is removed and washed about twice a year when the duvet is taken outside and given a jolly good shaking.

In the days when eiderdowns and blankets were popular it was not uncommon for people to wash just the bottom sheet and replace it with the top sheet every week before washing machines became affordable for most. Sheets then were boiled to kill off any micro-nasties lurking within the warp and weft of the fabric before being lifted into the sink with a pair of wooden tongs (or is it tongues?) for rinsing and then put through a mangle.

It is difficult to establish a standard duration for everyone to change their sheets as this would depend upon the number of people sharing the bed, whether they shower or bathe every day, in the morning or evening or every 6 months as Bishbuts grandmother used to! Dependant also upon the type of work they engage in, the season and whether they suffer from allergies as Wavechange does, not forgetting also the number of pets in the household.

When all is said and done, to treat myself to an early night and climb into a bed with freshly laundered sheets, a hot toddy (liquid and nonalcoholic of course!) a pair of stereophonic headphones so as not to disturb the neighbours and my favourite music coming via Bluetooth from YouTube on my iPad is sheer indulgence and bliss and usually guarantees me a trip away into the wonderful land of nod, sweet dreams and good nights restful sleep

Most of my bed linen advises washing at 40 degrees, but I understand that 60 is necessary to kill germs/bugs. What should I do?

I would say generally use the 60 programme [which confusingly does not mean sixty degrees but is hotter than forty degrees] and then, once in a while, do the sheets and pillow cases on a hotter programme. A frequent wash is just as important as the temperature.

JW a 60 degree wash may not be hotter than a 40C wash.

In September/August 2013 the lowest 60C washer peaked briefly at 43C in the one off Which? test. Stiftung Warentest have found a washer that peaked at 27C for it s 60C wash.

The bizarre situation is that the 60C was a proper temperature of washing until the EU and the washer manufacturers decided that it was an optical cleanliness equivalency. SO if you find your C wash now takes 210 or 240 minutes it is because of the extra time in soapy water but not necessarily that hot.

Nobody has addressed the hygiene situation where it is well proven heat does have an effect reinforced by bleaches etc. In the UK where a lot of hospitals require staff to wash their uniforms the difference between a hygienic wash and one that looks clean I think is an important matter.

Which? disagree and have done nothing in their testing regime to change the focus from optically clean at 40C. Unlike the German consumer body they also do not run three machines of each type solidly for 6 months to establish durability of the machines.

Washing machines should clearly differentiate between optical washing and hygiene washes so a consumer can decision facts what machine suits them best.

I think any subscriber would feel that washing machines are a vital part of most homes and inadequate testing by Which? needs to be better. Particularly true if the talk of anti-biotic resistance has any substance.

Thanks, DT. It is because of this anomaly that I think a 40C recommendation should be interpreted as a wash on the 60 cycle, which most machines will perform at a prevailing temperature above 40C. I still think my suggestion to Anita was a reasonable way of cleaning her bed-linen adequately but economically. In my opinion the manufacturer’s guidance on the care label [i.e. wash at 40 deg C] is not good enough for machine washing since there is no way of knowing the actual washing temperature [or its duration at peak heat]. The manufacturers are presumably trying to defend themselves against any claims that their bed linen has prematurely faded and worn thin due to being thrashed in a very hot wash every week. Apart from the obvious economy of washing at a lower temperature [promoted as an act of environmental responsibility], people are naturally concerned about the effect on their expensive bed-sets of high temperature washing. Today’s bed linen is made much thinner than that from my youth – I still have a number of bedsheets that I use when painting that I had when I left home in 1968; they were bought on the high street and are still superior to comparable modern ones despite multiple hot washes [I know that all grades of cotton sheets are available today but the prices for the best are bordering on the astronomical and are probably no more resistant to very hot washing].

I agree with you wholeheartedly on the need for better testing and reporting by Which? on what is arguably one of the top domestic functions and on which, over time, more pages have been filled with intelligent comments in Which? Conversation than any other subject.

I don’t think the modern nurses’ outfits, half synthetic and without the white starched aprons, would survive the traditional hospital laundry process.

Marina says:
18 October 2017

Definatly 60 to kill bacteria.Sheets, pillowcases and towels should all be washed on 60, 40 is not hot enough to kill germs.

We change our bedding on average weekly – a little more often in hot sweaty weather and a little less often in the coldest part of winter.

We only wash bedding using the standard 40 deg wash cycle. They get hung out on the line or tumble dried depending on the weather. We never use fabric softener: it is vile stuff.

During the day, the quilt is always pulled right back to air the inside and the pillow is wedged vertical so that air can circulate both sides.

We wash bedding every fortnight and dry on the line outdoors whenever possible. We also air the bedding every day by pulling the bedding to the bottom of the bed, opening the window a little and turning the pillows.
If you cool off the bedding in this way during the day it apparently kills off a lot of the bugs that thrive in the warm bedding. The bed also feels cool and fresh for the following night.

Does anyone have any comments about washing pillows, particularly if protectors are used? ——Afterreading this lot I hope I don’t itch when i go to bed tonight!

I don’t know the answer to your question, Neil, but it’s easy to experiment.

I use pillow protectors and two pillowcases. The top pillow gets washed after six months and replaced after a year. I have had problems with pillows when away from home and I’m glad that feather pillows are uncommon these days. When I travel by car and stay in an hotel or with friends I take my own pillow and explain that I think I have an allergy to certain detergents. 😉

Wendy says:
3 July 2018

Every three days, sometimes more. You spend as much time swaddled by your sheets as wearing clothing – would you wear your underwear for as long as you don’t wash your sheets? A bad night’s sleep can be a serious health issue (see the NHS website) and IMO clean, crisp, fresh cotton sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers are essential to a good night’s sleep. Also duvets and pillows every two months. Our old Bosch washing machine has a quick 40 degree wash and a 1600 spin which leaves cottons almost dry and I have a small covered area in the garden good for drying washing all year round.

How anyone can stand the smell of stale sheets … but perhaps I am also just a tad obsessive over this!