How Often Should You (Actually) Wash Your Sheets?

Washing sheets regularly is an important part of home maintenance and personal hygiene. However, there is some debate over exactly how often you should wash your sheets to keep them fresh and clean. Here is an in-depth look at the factors to consider when deciding how frequently to wash bed sheets.

How Often Do Experts Recommend Washing Sheets?

Most experts agree you should wash your sheets at least once per week. Here are some general recommendations on washing frequency from authoritative sources:

  • The National Sleep Foundation recommends washing sheets weekly, or more often if needed.
  • The American Cleaning Institute advises washing sheets every 5-7 days for optimal cleanliness.
  • According to a survey by mattress review site Tuck, 65% of people wash their sheets weekly.
  • Consumer Reports suggests washing sheets every week or two for best results.

So the consensus falls somewhere around weekly for washing bed sheets, with 7-14 days being the ideal range according to most experts. However, the optimal washing frequency can vary based on factors like your climate, sweat levels, and presence of pets, allergies or illness.

Key Factors That Determine How Frequently You Should Wash Sheets

There are a number of considerations that can influence how often it is best to wash sheets:

Weather and Climate

Hot, humid climates or frequent night sweats mean more moisture, sweat and oils on your sheets, so washing them more often may be beneficial. Cooler, drier climates may allow for less frequent washing.

Presence of Pets

Pets can transfer smells, dirt and oils to your bedding through sleeping or playing on the bed. Wash sheets more frequently if pets are allowed on the bed.

Sweat and Body Oils

Excessive night sweats or body oils mean you should wash sheets more often. Oily skin types produce more oils that can cling to bedding.

Allergies and Asthma

Dust mites and other allergens can build up on sheets. Frequently washing sheets helps keep allergens at bay for those with allergies and asthma.


Wash sheets after any illness, as germs and viruses can linger on bedding. This includes colds, stomach bugs and other contagious conditions.

Skin Conditions

Fungal infections like athlete’s foot, jock itch or ringworm warrant more frequent sheet washing to prevent reinfection. Other skin issues like eczema may benefit from more frequent washing too.

Quality of Sheets

Higher thread count sheets, crisp percale sheets, and those made of natural fibers may be able to go slightly longer between washes than lower quality polyester sheets if needed.

Use of Bed

Sheets on beds used more frequently or by more than one person may need washing more often than a guest room bed used infrequently.

By considering these factors, you can fine-tune the ideal sheet washing routine for your unique needs and situation. Those with health conditions, pets or bedding issues may need to opt for an aggressive weekly wash, while those in cool, dry climates with no other influencing factors could potentially wait 2-3 weeks between washes.

Signs It’s Time to Wash Your Sheets

Rather than rely on a general rule of thumb, judge your sheet washing schedule by the signs it’s time for a refresh:

  • Sheets are noticeably dirty or stained
  • You can see or smell perspiration on sheets
  • Sheets feel stiff, rough or crunchy
  • Sheets have an unpleasant odor
  • Allergy symptoms worsen at night in bed
  • You toss and turn from feeling uncomfortable
  • You wake up itchy or with irritated skin

Pay attention to these cues from your bedding and your body to know when your sheets are due for a wash, regardless of how recently they were last cleaned.

Consequences of Not Washing Sheets Often Enough

Neglecting to wash sheets frequently enough can lead to some unpleasant consequences:

  • Buildup of sweat, oils and dead skin cells
  • Accumulation of pollen, dust mites and other allergens
  • Growth of bacteria, germs and fungi leading to illness
  • Unpleasant odors clinging to fabric
  • Skin irritation and conditions like acne
  • Difficulty sleeping comfortably due to dirty sheets

To prevent these undesirable effects, be diligent about washing sheets according to climate, health factors and visible signs they are due for cleaning.

Best Practices for Washing Bed Sheets

When it’s time for a sheet wash, follow these tips for best results:

  • Wash sheets separately from other laundry
  • Use hot water to sanitize and remove oils and allergens
  • Add a disinfectant cleaner or bleach alternative
  • Use an extra rinse cycle to remove detergent and residues
  • Avoid overloading the washing machine
  • Dry sheets completely on a medium or high heat setting
  • Change mattress pads and protectors seasonally
  • Wash pillow protectors regularly to keep pillows fresh

Proper washing and drying helps sheets feel fresh and last longer. Store cleanly washed sheets in an air-tight container or closet to prevent recontamination between washes.

Alternative Options for Keeping Sheets Cleaner Longer

If it’s not possible to wash sheets as often as is ideal, here are some other tips for keeping them fresher longer between washes:

  • Apply powder like baking soda before making bed to absorb oils
  • Spot clean visible stains to avoid spreading
  • Air sheets out in sunlight regularly to kill bacteria
  • Use wool dryer balls or dryer sheets to fight odors in the dryer
  • Freeze sheets overnight to kill dust mites (then wash)
  • Flip or rotate mattress to spread out wear and soils
  • Vacuum mattress regularly to remove dead skin cells and dust

However, these measures are not as effective as regular laundering. Wash sheets as frequently as possible for best results.

Considerations for Different Climates and Regions

The optimal sheet washing frequency can vary based on your local climate:

Hot and Humid Climates

Areas like the Southeastern U.S. that are hot and humid likely require more frequent sheet washing. The moisture and sweat leads to faster buildup of oils and microbes. Wash at least weekly or more often if sheets feel or smell dirty.

Cold and Dry Climates

Cold, arid areas like the Western U.S. may allow for washing every 2-3 weeks since less sweat and humidity reduces odors and buildup. Still wash at least every 10-14 days.

Hard Water Areas

Regions with hard water may require an extra rinse cycle and less detergent to prevent mineral residue buildup on sheets. Vinegar can also help cut through hard water deposits.

Soft Water Areas

Areas with very soft water can use less detergent for washing sheets to avoid inadequate rinsing. Detergent buildup can lead to skin irritation.

No matter your climate, wash sheets more often as needed when health or lifestyle factors demand it.

Special Considerations for Different Household Members

The sheet washing needs can also vary between members of the same household:


Kids’ sheets may need washed more than adult sheets since children tend to sweat more at night. Also wash kids sheets after any illness to prevent spread of infection.


due to hormonal changes, teens also sweat more at night. The emergence of acne may also warrant more frequent sheet washing during puberty.

Elderly Adults

Aging skin and incontinence issues mean seniors’ sheets should be washed at least weekly, or whenever soiling occurs.

Pregnant Women

Hormonal changes and night sweats during pregnancy can increase the need for washing sheets. This helps prevent irritation from excess sweat and oils.


Wash sheets weekly or more if pets sleep on the bed to remove dander, oils and fur. Use enzyme cleaners to help destroy pet odors and organic debris.

Consider each family member’s unique situation and adjust washing schedules accordingly for health and hygiene.

Effect of Water Temperature on Washing Sheets

Water temperature is an important consideration when laundering sheets:

Hot Water

Washing in hot water (130°F/54°C or above) provides the deepest cleaning of sheets. Hot water removes more body oils, microbes, and allergens. It also kills dust mites and their allergens.

Warm Water

Warm water (80-110°F/27-43°C) can sufficiently clean lightly soiled sheets. Warm water saves energy but may require more washing to remove heavier soiling.

Cold Water

Washing sheets in cold water (68°F/20°C and under) conserves the most energy. However, it is less effective at removing oils and dirt from sheets. Not ideal for heavily soiled linens.

When possible, washing sheets on a hot water setting provides superior sanitization and cleaning. However, warm water can also effectively clean sheets in most cases, balancing cleaning power with efficiency.

Impact of Drying on Hygiene and Odor

Proper drying is also key for sheet hygiene and freshness:

Line or Air Drying

Line drying sheets in the sun has a sanitizing effect from UV rays that kill bacteria. However, moisture left behind can allow mold if drying is incomplete.

Machine Drying

Machine drying on a medium or high heat completely dries sheets, killing dust mites and avoiding possible mold issues. Use dryer balls or sheets to prevent static.

Low Heat Drying

Delicate or low heat drying can leave sheets slightly damp. Let sheets finish air drying completely to avoid mildew smells.

For best results, machine dry sheets on a medium or high setting until fully dry. This helps sheets remain hygienic and odor-free between washes.

Creative Sheet Washing Solutions for Special Circumstances

Certain situations may call for creativity when it comes to keeping sheets clean:

  • Busy schedules – Try doing laundry late at night or early morning when machines are more likely to be free.
  • Shared machines – Coordinate schedules with roommates. Set phone reminders to transfer loads promptly.
  • Camping – Pack a biodegradable cleaner and scrub sheets by hand then air dry thoroughly.
  • Power outages – Wash sheets by hand until power returns. Or sponge clean stains and air sheets in sunlight.
  • Well water issues – Add borax to help soften hard well water when washing sheets. Vinegar helps too.
  • Skin conditions – Opt for laundry soaps marked “free and clear” if standard detergents aggravate skin issues.
  • Environmental concerns – Line dry, wash in cold water, limit detergent use, and shake instead of dryer sheets.

With some adaptability and problem-solving, sheets can stay clean even in less than ideal washing circumstances.

Best Sheet Washing Practices for Common Problems

Target your washing routine to combat specific issues:

Sheets Smell Bad – Wash weekly, sanitize cycles, vinegar rinse, dry fully. Replace rundown sheets.

Musty Sheets – Wash with bleach or enzyme cleaner. Dry fully. Replace mattress if moldy.

Dust Mite Allergies – Frequent hot water washes. Replace old sheets. Protect mattress and pillows.

Skin Irritation – Switch to fragrance-free detergent. Limit irritants on skin before bed.

Night Sweats – Increase washing frequency. Choose moisture wicking sheets. Lower AC at night. See a doctor.

Analyze any sheet issues you face and adjust your laundry habits accordingly to improve the situation.

Determining the Correct Sheet Washing Schedule

There is no definitive rule on exactly how often you must wash sheets that applies to all people in all situations. However, these guiding principles can help you develop the ideal washing schedule:

  • Start by washing sheets at least every 7-14 days as a general baseline.
  • Adjust frequency based on climate, with hot humid regions needing more washes.
  • Wash more often if you sleep with pets or have allergies, asthma or illness.
  • Increase washing for oily skin types, teens, children and pregnant women.
  • Rely on your senses – wash when sheets smell bad or feel dirty.
  • Be willing to experiment to find your optimal sheet cleaning cycle.
  • Remember that too much washing can damage sheets while too little allows buildup of irritants.
  • Consider your water type, machine availability and drying space when scheduling.

With some vigilance about your sheets and your habits, you can dial in an effective sheet washing regimen that works for your situation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Washing Bed Sheets

How often should you wash sheets in summer?

Hot summer weather leads to more night sweats, so wash sheets at least weekly or more in summer. Every 3-5 days is ideal in hot, humid climates.

How often should you wash sheets in winter?

Cooler, drier winter air means you may only need to wash every 10-14 days. But don’t exceed 2 weeks between sheet washes even in winter.

How often should you wash sheets with pets?

Wash pet sheets at least once a week. Pet dander, hair and oils accumulate quickly. Use enzyme cleaners to help destroy allergens from pets.

How often should you wash sheets with allergies?

Those with dust mite allergies or asthma benefit from washing linen at least once a week, or even more frequently. Frequent hot water washes limit allergen buildup.

How often should you wash sheets with eczema?

For eczema, wash sheets once or twice a week in hot water, and avoid scented detergents. Soaps and dead skin cells on sheets can irritate sensitive skin.

How often should you wash sheets with acne?

Weekly washing is ideal if you are acne-prone. The oils, creams and dead skin cells on your sheets can clog pores and lead to breakouts.

How often should you wash hotel sheets?

Hotels should wash all sheets and linens after each guest stay. If you stay multiple nights, sheets should be washed every 3 days at a minimum.

The Bottom Line

Most experts agree you should wash sheets at least weekly for basic hygiene and to limit buildup of sweat, oils and dead skin cells. However, certain factors and conditions can necessitate washing sheets more often than once per week. Pay attention to any visible soil or odors, and make adjustments according to climate, health issues, or the presence of pets in the bed. With some vigilance, you can find the right sheet washing schedule to keep bedding as fresh and clean as possible.

How Often Should You (Actually) Wash Your Sheets?

Washing sheets regularly is a key part of keeping your bed fresh, sanitary and comfortable. But how often should you actually wash your sheets to keep them clean? The ideal frequency to wash bed sheets can vary based on several factors.

Climate, health conditions, quality of sheets, and presence of pets in bed can all impact how quickly sheets accumulate dirt, sweat and oils. Finding the right washing routine for your personal habits and situation will help you rest easy knowing your sheets are clean.

This article provides tips on establishing an effective sheet washing schedule. We explore guidelines from experts, signs it’s time for a wash, pros and cons of different water temperatures, and best practices for washing and drying. Read on to learn how often you should be washing sheets to keep your bed in its best condition.

Guidelines on Washing Frequency from the Experts

Most experts agree on some general guidelines and best practices when it comes to how often to wash sheets:

Wash sheets at least once per week – This is the standard minimum recommendation from sources like consumer advocacy groups and makers of cleaning products. Washing sheets each week helps control odor, oils, dead skin cells, and other debris that accumulate.

Increase washing frequency in hot and humid climates – Hot and muggy conditions cause more night sweats, leading to faster buildup of sweat and body oils on sheets. Washing 2-3 times per week may be best in hot and humid environments.

Wash sheets after any illness – Whether it’s a stomach bug, cold, flu or other contagious condition, sheets should be washed after someone has been sick in bed to prevent spread of germs and viruses.

Consider individual health factors – Those with allergies or conditions like eczema may need to wash more than once per week if symptoms worsen at night. The same goes for those with excessive night sweats.

Wash sheets used by multiple people more often – Sheets on beds used by more than one person tend to need washing more frequently than a guest room bed used infrequently. The combined accumulation of sweat, skin oils and bacteria means more regular washing.

Check labels for washing guidance – Look for manufacturer’s care label on sheets for any special washing instructions. But still wash at least weekly even if the label says machine washable.

These standard tips provide a good starting point for a basic sheet washing routine. From there, gauge your personal situation and adjust to optimize cleanliness and hygiene.

Signs Your Sheets Need Washing

Rather than rely on a calendar to know when to wash sheets, pay attention to signs from the sheets themselves that it’s time for a cleaning:

  • Visible dirt or stains – Once sheets become visibly dirty, it’s definitely time to wash them. Look out for stains from sweat, body oils, lotions, makeup, food and other sources.
  • Sheets feel stiff or rough – When natural buildup of oils, dead skin cells and particulates leads to roughness or crunchy sheets, it’s a clear indicator they need a wash.
  • Sheets have an odor – One of the surest signs it’s time to wash is when you notice an unpleasant or unusual smell coming from sheets. Even if they look clean, wash them.
  • You wake up itchy – Allergens like dust mites or fibers from roughened up sheets can lead