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Here’s how often you should actually be changing your sheets

Here’s how often you should actually be changing your sheets

Whether you wash your sheets once a week or wait to do a sniff test, you’ve most likely wondered how often you should be changing your bed sheets at the moment. Like many things in life, the answer isn’t so black and white, but we’re here to answer it for you in these unprecedented times. 

To increase your protection against the new coronavirus, the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) recommends daily cleaning and disinfecting of “high-touch areas”. That includes doorknobs, light switches, tables, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks, and chairs – but what about your bed sheets?

Why do we need to change our sheets?

“There are a lot of things that can get in your sheets,” says Dr. Robb Akridge, Co-Founder of Clarisonic and Skin Expert, PhD in Microbiology specialising in Immunology and Infectious Diseases. “First, you need to understand that everyone has tiny mites all over their bodies and these mites feed off dead skin. (You can’t see them, but they are there.) For our skin to be healthy, we need these mites on the body. When these mites — commonly known as dust mites — excrete feces, it is the fecal matter that then causes irritation, inflammation and other allergy responses. When we shower, we wash off the feces, which is often why we can minimise irritation. When you sleep, you often shed skin and mites into your sheets, and remember, dead skin is food for these dust mites which are transferred from your skin to the sheets. If you don’t change your sheets, you create a breeding ground of mites (and they breed very rapidly), and the more mites, the more feces. The more feces, the more likely you will have irritation, especially if you are more sensitive to this.”

But that’s not all, as you could also have fungi growing within your sheets. “For example, if you have athlete’s foot, the fungi can live in your sheets and can be passed on to someone who you are sharing a bed with,” Akridge says.

What type of sheets are best?

“It is important to use sheets that are breathable,” Akridge says. “Cotton is really the best. Also, if you have any skin infections, acne or mite allergies, you should stick to white cotton sheets. That way you can clean them with super-hot water and bleach. You obviously cannot use bleach if your sheets are coloured, so this is something to consider when purchasing. Bleach and extremely hot water will help to get rid of the mites and kill microbes in the sheets.” To deal with dust mites, you need to use water that is at least 55 degrees Celcius and the highest heat setting on your dryer.

Get yourself a mattress cover if you don’t already have one. They are designed to keep your mattress safe from mites and prevent their feces from going into the mattress. “You can get an allergy mattress cover and allergy pillowcase covers,” Akridge says. “Your mattress and pillows have ample area for dust mites to expand and multiply, and therefore, over the years, if you don’t have a protective cover, it can easily become the source of irritation and other allergy-related symptoms.”

What if my pet sleeps in my bed with me?

Then you need to make sure you’re washing your sheets more often. “We see lots of skin rashes and conditions due to pets,” says Board Certified dermatologist Dr Dhaval G. Bhanusali.  “It’s better to do at least once or twice a week to minimise the chance of negative effects.”

So how often do you need to change your sheets?

Many sources suggest changing your bedsheets weekly even under normal circumstances, and the CDC has not made any specific recommendations about doing it more frequently due to the new coronavirus. However, paying attention to bedding is important because germs can collect there. So, if it soothes you to change your sheets more frequently, go right ahead.

“Overall, the amount of times you change your sheets really depends on your lifestyle, personal habits and living conditions,” Akridge says. “For example, if you are active or if you are someone who perspires a lot when you are sleeping, then you should change your sheets at least once a week. Also, if you have acne, then you may want to change your sheets more often.” To be on the safe side, aim to wash your sheets once a week, but try not to stretch it past two weeks.