Table of Contents
- Tea towels
- Cuddly toys
- Kitchen sponge
- Fabric lunch boxes
- Re-usable shopping bags
- Emery boards
- Dish cloths
- Hair straighteners
- Chopping board
- Wooden spoons
- Office mug
- Plastic water bottles
- Gym leggings
- New clothes
- Washing Machine
- Bath towels
- Is sheet washing a weekly habit or monthly chore?
- Changing sheets too regularly can have its drawbacks
- Don’t forget to wash the actual bedding, not just the covers
- Not washing your sheets — what’s the worst that can happen?
- Dust mites could be a problem
- Bed bugs are the tiny vampires of the bed
- So… how often should I actually wash my sheets?
- So, how often should you actually wash your sheets?
- What happens if you don’t wash your sheets that often?
- But what if you don’t have time to wash your sheets every week?
- Unwashed sheets accumulate a lot of unappetizing stuff.
- But what does all of this actually mean for your health?
- This is how often you should actually be changing your bed sheets, you dirtbags
- So, how often should you change your bed sheets?
- What happens if you don’t wash your bed sheets?
- Related stories recommended by this writer:
- Daily: Squeegee the shower walls and sweep the kitchen floors.
- Weekly: Change bedsheets, sanitize sponges, and throw away unused food.
- Monthly: Dust the blinds and clean out the inside of the washing machine.
- Every few months: Vacuum the mattress, descale the coffee machine, and clean the fireplace.
- Are Your Bedsheets Dirty? How Often Should You Wash Them?
- What’s so Important About Weekly Sheet Washing?
- Special Circumstances for More Frequent Washing
- Proper Sheet Washing: Are You Doing It Right?
- Lasting Fabrics and a More Healthful Home
- How often should you change your bedsheets, towels, pyjamas and underwear?
She continued:, “The towel becomes laced with bacteria. And then, later that day, you smear it all back on your face the next time you dry it, transferring Bactria to your pores encouraging pimples and causing irritation.”
So even if it means investing in an extra towel or two to swap over when you run your other ones through the wash, it’s well worth it to make sure they stay nice and clean. Also make sure to wash at a high temperature to kill bacteria!
Clean: Every day
We all know our tea towels aren’t squeaky clean after cooking, but a new study has found that they could actually cause food poisoning!
Researchers from the University of Mauritius looked at 100 towels that were used repeatedly for a month. Tea towels that were used for multiple jobs were more likely to have bacteria such as E.coli on them.
In fact, 49 per cent of the towels had bacterial growth and 36.7 per cent grew coliform bacteria, a group that includes E.coli.
The majority of E.coli bacteria are harmless but some variants can cause serious food poisoning. Tea towels from meat-eating households had significantly higher cases of Coliform bacteria and staphylococcus being found.
Dr Susheela Biranjia-Hurdoyal, lead author of the study, warns, “Humid towels and multipurpose usage of kitchen towels should be discouraged. Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen.”
You should aim to replace your tea towels every single day, or every time you cook. It could be a good idea to switch to using kitchen roll to dry your hands or clean up spills to minimise your risk of contamination. Food for thought indeed…
Clean: Once a week
Soft toys can act as a breeding ground for all sorts of bugs and bacteria. Although it might be tricky to prise the toy out of your child’s hands, if they take it everywhere they go it’s important to clean it once a week. Lots of soft toys can be put in the washing machine but check the label. If the toy is too fragile pop it in the freezer for a couple of hours, ideally overnight, to kill off any dust mites and bed bugs.
Credit: Christine Schneider/Getty
Clean: Every day and replace once a week
You might have thought your kitchen sponge can’t be that dirty if it’s used to clean all your pots and pans. However, after touching all those dirty kitchen counter-tops, crockery and chopping boards, as well as being left in dirty warm water, kitchen sponges can actually get pretty filthy. In fact, the very thing you use to wash up with is one of the dirtiest thing in your home!
According to Good Housekeeping expert Caroline Bloor, any cloths and sponges used to clean up in the kitchen should be thrown away and replaced every week. Not only that, they need a thorough clean rinse every day.
Most of us are probably guilty of letting our sponges live in the sink a little bit too long, but according to a study, sponges can contain up to 10 million bacteria per square inch. Just to put that in some context, that’s actually dirtier than your toilet…
Researchers also found that cleaning your sponge in ineffective is getting rid of bacteria, so the best way to make sure you’re not inviting unwanted diseases like food poisoning and cholera into your kitchen is to really replace your sponges once a week.
Credi: Rubberball/Mike Kemp/Getty
We’ve all got a favourite pair that we become attached to, but how often should we really be replacing our pants? According to lingerie expert Maria Ryan, General Manager at DORINA UK, it’s more often than most of us probably do…
Speaking to OK! Online, Maria said, “Women who wear more synthetic underwear (such as polyester, satin and lace), should change their pants every three to four months. They’re not as breathable as other materials such as cotton and silk.”
If you do stick to cotton underwear, she still recommends that you refresh your collection every six months, adding, “In general, every woman should consider replacing their underwear whenever they do a seasonal wardrobe make over, so around every six months.”
Fabric lunch boxes
Clean: After every use
A study has found that 73% of fabric lunchboxes contain harmful bacteria such as mould and enterococci. The research by e-cloth showed that lunchboxes are simply being brushed out for crumbs and excess food but not properly cleaned, which can lead to bacteria breeding that could cause itchy eyes, coughs, asthma or food poisoning.
When cleaning your little one’s pack up, ensure you wash your own hands first and then give the box a good wipe down with white wine vinegar to disinfect it. You can even sprinkle some bicarbonate of soda and then leave it overnight to remove any odours.
Re-usable shopping bags
Clean: Every few uses
Tote bags and canvas bags used for groceries rarely see the inside of the washing machine, unless they’ve got horrible spills on them. However, Science Is Us reports that 99% of shopping bags contain coliform, or faecal matter, and E.coli.
Considering the fact that we put raw fruit and veg in them, and also meat and fish, having all of that bacteria swishing around in there is pretty unsettling. So, next time you’ve got a load of laundry, toss your canvas bag in there!
Credit: Kristin Lee/Getty
Ditch: Every three months
We use them everyday for packed lunches and dinner leftovers, but these plastic containers aren’t meant to be with us all year round.
Apparently, Tupperware boxes harbour a lot of chemicals such as BPA, BPS and phthalates, according to Hassle.com. Luckily, they’re not too pricey to replace!
Ditch: Every three uses
Wooden or paper nail files are almost impossible to clean, and are meant to be thrown away frequently. Dr Andrew Wright told the Daily Mail that if an unclean board is used on a split or lifted nail, then an infection could occur. You should also avoid sharing them, as infections can spread between people.
So, chuck your file out every three uses, or buy a glass nail file as it’s not porous and can be washed easily using very hot water.
Ditch: Every week
Yes, not even your dish cloth, which gets routinely covered in antibacterial spray, is safe.
When you drop your cloth by the sink after every use, it gives bacteria the chance to breed very quickly. A study revealed that 89% of dishcloths contain E.coli, which can sometimes be deadly to small children and elderly people.
Ditch: Every four years
Maybe this will make you think twice before investing in some pricey tongs! GHD education manager Robert Kovacs told Mamamia that old straighteners can do even more damage to your hair.
“The condition of your hair may be affected. It can cause dry and split ends, and lack of shine,” he said. “Like all electrical tools, how long they last depends on how often you use them but we would suggest no longer than four years.”
Ditch: Every 12 months
They’re used so frequently for so many different types of food, including raw meat and fish, but hands up if you replace your chopping boards every year?! Us neither…
Apparently, wooden boards are the worst culprits for harbouring bacteria – studies have shown that they can host 200% more faecal bacteria than a toilet seat.
So, replace your boards once a year, especially if they’ve got food stains, deep crevices or cracks, which are lovely little hiding spots for nasty germs.
Ditch: Every five years
Wood isn’t the best material for keeping bacteria at bay, it seems! As it’s more porous than metal or plastic, there are more nooks and crannies for germs to get in, multiply and hide from frequent washing.
Like wooden boards, wooden spoons carry an E.coli risk – and need to be replaced immediately if they become cracked. Also, if any part of them turns dark or softer, it could mean that the wood is rotting. Gross!
Credit: Image Source/Getty
Ditch: Every five to seven uses
Dermatologist Whitney Bowe told Refinery29 that as soon as a razor’s been used a few times, it’s already been exposed to bacteria – especially if you keep it in the shower!
According to Whitney, “leaving it in the wet, dewy shower will cause the blade to rust much faster, and will also leave it open to being exposed to bacteria much more. Any tugging or nicking of the skin should tell you it’s time to toss it.”
That means that those nasty little red bumps are a sign that your razor could be covered in bacteria. Why? Whenever you shave, you’re making tiny cuts in your skin, which any bacteria lingering on your razor can enter and infect.
Of course, if your razor is rusty or just isn’t doing its job, it’s long overdue a toss in the bin! You can extend the life of your blade by rinsing it properly after every use, and storing it somewhere dry like your bathroom cupboard or a windowsill.
Clean: As often as possible and replace every six months
After a long day at work, there’s no better feeling than taking off your shoes and relaxing in a comfy pair of slippers. But have you ever thought about how long your favourite pair of slippers have been lying around the house?
According to a guide by Brightside, warm slippers are the perfect place to spread a nasty fungal infection. To avoid damaging your feet, those old slippers should be thrown away every six months… which we think is the perfect excuse to buy a comfy new pair!
We’re also all a bit guilty of forgetting to throw our slippers in the washing machine every now and again. But make sure you wash your slippers properly and as often as possible to help reduce the chance of an infection.
Clean: Every day
When you’re busy at work, washing your mug is probably the last thing on your mind. And let’s face it, we’re all a bit guilty of leaving our dirty mugs a little bit too long or just giving it a quick rinse before refilling it for the fifth time.
But not washing your mugs regularly can have seriously negative effects for your health. According to Charles Gerba, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona, around 90% of office mugs contain dangerous germs. But it gets worse. Charles also said 20% of those dirty mugs also contain faecal bacteria. Gross.
While this sounds really disgusting, bacteria doesn’t occur on personal items in the office because you’re around so many people. Charles added that office cleaning methods are also to blame, as communal sponges and brushes are not changed often enough. And with so many people using them, it’s only natural that these germs will spread quickly.
But to make your office mugs much safer, Charles recommended taking your mug home as often as you can, most likely every day, and give it a wash it in the dishwasher. If your kitchen doesn’t have a dishwasher, wash it in the office yourself with hot water soap and a clean paper towel.
Plastic water bottles
Clean: Couple of times then throw away
Reusing that plastic water bottle might be the easiest way to stay hydrated, but according to scientists you should bin them as they’re completely riddled with germs! Treadmillreviews told the Metro that drinking water from a bottle that’s already been used is as bad for you as licking your toilet. Nice.
The amount of bacteria found on the average reused water bottle can actually be higher than what’s on your loo, thanks to the lack of washing, sweat and build-up that’s created with every use – and they also found that 60% of the types of germs found on your bottles could actually make you ill.
A recent Canadian study also found that in a sample of water bottles used by school children, almost two-thirds had levels of bacteria over the limit for drinking water.
The scientists from this research believe it’s the little ridges found in water bottle that can help germs multiply, while regular use can lead to food poisoning-type illnesses. It’s even thought that regularly washing your water bottle can do more harm than good. If washed at a hot temperature, it can break down the chemicals in the plastic that then goes into your water.
Professor of pharmacology, Scott Belcher from the University of Cincinnati, told the Sun, “Heating will certainly increase the rate at which chemicals can migrate from the plastic”.
But we know it seems silly and expensive to keep buying bottles of water just to throw them away. Even though drinking from the same plastic bottle all the time can be harmful, reusing it a handful of times is nothing to worry about. If you want to keep using the same bottle, there are special reusable bottles you can buy that are dishwasher safe and keep away the germs.
Credit: Mohd Hafiez Mohd Razali / EyeEm/Getty
Clean: Every six months (if at all!)
Okay, so this may be extreme, but David Hieatt, founder of Hiut denim, says that the key to keeping your jeans in tip top condition is to avoid washing them for at least six months – to allow the colour of the denim to become bespoke to those who wear them.
“All the creases you make, creases that are unique to you. The way you sit, the way you keep your phone in your pocket… you rub off the indigo in certain places; it’s a colour thing rather than a fitting thing,” he explains.
David, who is also the founder of the ‘No Wash Club’, says “Some place them in the freezer to freshen them up while others leave them out to air. It’s worth the effort if you can put up with the smell.”
And David’s not alone in his no-washing advocacy – last year, the CEO of Levi’s revealed he’d never washed his year-old jeans, and while this seems like an awfully long time we must admit to being guilty of leaving jeans for longer than the rest of our wardrobe.
Microbiologists even say that there’s no harm in never washing your jeans from a health perspective. Apparently the main bacteria that goes on the material are skin micro-organisms, which aren’t usually hazardous unless you’re working in an environment that needs to be sterile, like a hospital.
According to jeans designer Donna Ida, washing jeans after every five wears is enough to preserve their colour and fibres. “Wash on the cold setting – that’s cold as in zero, not 30c”, she says.
Clean: Every two wears
If you thought it was okay to reuse your gym leggings a few times before putting them in the wash, then we’re afraid we have some bad news.
According to experts, two wears is the maximum you can allow yourself until you have to succumb to the washing machine. Josh Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mt. Sinai Hospital, told Cosmopolitan that because leggings are so close to your skin, the oil and sweat produced during your workout makes it the perfect scenario for bacteria to thrive.
This means that not washing your gym leggings frequently could result in rashes, fungal infections and even vaginal yeast infections. Okay, okay, washing liquid at the ready!
However, the pros at Sweaty Betty added to the title that although they get dirty pretty fast, there’s no need to wash your leggings at any higher than a 30 degree setting – better for your purse and the environment!
Clean: Before you wear!
They’re straight out of the shop, so they must be clean, right? Wrong, according to Lana Hogue, a clothing manufacturing expert who says you should be washing any outfit you bring home from the stores before it gets its first wear – and it’s not just because people have tried them on before you.
She explained to Elle, “You should absolutely wash clothes before you wear them. Especially anything that is right next to the skin or that you will sweat on. Almost every yarn or dyed fabric requires chemicals to make them, but unfortunately these can have nasty side effects when they come in contact with your skin.
“Most of the chemicals used in dyeing fabric and putting finishes on yarns that allow them to be processed through spinning equipment are known irritants’ – so remember, off the rack doesn’t mean ready to wear!”
Clean: Every two-three wears
Good news for those of us with piles of laundry as high as the sky – our bras don’t need to be washed after every wear.
Of course, if you’ve had a particularly sweaty afternoon then you might want to wash the odd bra after just one wear, but on average you don’t need to wash them every day. This also keeps the shape nice, too, as over washing can quickly damage the elastic.
Kelly Dunmore, lingerie expert for Rigby & Peller, says, “The crease in your bust and the area under your arms are hot, sweaty environments. Cleaning after every two wears, possibly three, is ideal”.
Credit: Martin Poole/Getty
Clean: Twice a month
It’s news to us, but apparently washing machines aren’t self-cleaning! Who knew?! According to a survey by Glotech Repairs, as many as 1 in 5 of us Brits have never washed our washing machine, but we could be putting ourselves at risk of dangerous bacteria build-up, including E.coli.
Nearly 19% of respondents said they had never cleaned their machine while 50% said they did it every few months or less. It turns out we should be doing it more than once a month if we have a large family or use the machine regularly at a low temperature such as 30 or 40 degrees.
If you’re feeling lazy you can pop a dishwasher tablet into your drum (obviously without clothes) to give it a spruce. It also stops limescale build up. Or if you want to be more environmentally friendly, then you can use an old toothbrush, hot water and vinegar to clean the detergent drawer, inside the rubber seal on the door and in the drum itself.
Credit: Image Source/Getty
Clean: Every wear
Come on, own up – have you ever recycled a pair of tights for a second-day wear? If you answered yes, here’s why you shouldn’t do it again! According to research, because tights are made from non-breathable material, they’re an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, putting you at risk of urinary tracts infections and yeast infections.
Dr Radhika Rible of UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles told Everyday Health that tights can also increase foot sweating and contribute to fungal infections like athlete’s foot – eek! Time to do a tights wash, we think…
Clean: Every two wears
A recent study found that many of us wear the same set of pyjamas for up to two weeks or more, and as we sweat a lot in our sleep, not washing your pjs regularly can lead to a nasty amount of bacteria.
“Sleeping with a hot water bottle in winter and thick pyjamas will only make you sweat more” says Kelly, lingerie expert for Rigby & Peller. We also lose dead skin cells in bed, and these can be left on your pyjamas – gross! To keep the grime at bay, wash your nightwear after every two wears, or at the very least, once a week.
Credit: Yunio Baro Gomez / EyeEm/Getty
Ditch: Every month
This may seem a tad extreme (especially when we consider how long our own toothbrush might have been sitting in our toothbrush holder at home) but according to Dr Amer Saeed, clinical director of Garden Square Dental in West London, many people hang on to their toothbrushes way longer than the recommended 30 days.
“They usually wait until the bristles start to splay – which means the brush is less capable of removing plaque and may damage the gums. But dental experts recommend manual and electric brushes should be changed once a month if you suffer with bleeding gums and after three months in any case.
“Although you may not be able to see any damage – a combination of wear and tear and poor brush maintenance can cause a huge build up of bacteria which can lead to contamination of the gums and possible infection.”
To give your toothbrush a daily clean after it’s done its job on your teeth, run it under warm water and a bit of mouthwash.
Clean: Once a week
According to research from Henry Hoover, our bath towels need to be washed every week – and that’s only if you’re drying them correctly every day. It’s also worth noting that you should only use half the amount of detergent when washing, as too much soap makes towels less fluffy. The research also suggests washing in warm water and skipping the fabric softener too.
Clean: Once a week
Another once a week cleaning job, it’s pretty obvious why we should be paying the loos in our home a bit of attention when it comes to getting rid of germs! Use disinfectant spray and a cloth for the outside of the toilet and a cleanser for inside, which you should leave for 10 minutes before scrubbing with a toilet brush.
Clean: Once a week
We bet you never considered that your purse needed a wash, especially once a week, but according to Hoover tests have shown that purses and wallets sometimes carry E.coli and other nasty germs (well, it’s no wonder when you consider how often it’s handled). Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you throw your new purse in the washing machine and ruin it, alcohol-free baby wipes can be used on leather and you can hand wash cotton materials.
Credit: Bronek Kaminski/Getty
Clean: Every day
Scientists in America discovered 7,000 types of bacteria on 51 phone samples and although most are harmless, some are not. Laura Bowater explained to Mail Online why you should clean your phone everyday with an antibacterial wipe, “When you use your phone it heats up, providing the perfect conditions for bacteria to multiply.”
Are you going to be adjusting your cleaning routine after these finding? Head over to our Facebook page to join the conversation…
A colleague once told me she washed her bed sheets every week and I had a small moment of existential crisis.
How often do I wash my sheets? Definitely not weekly. Is it fortnightly? Monthly? Am I a filth wizard?
I started running through excuses in my head: I don’t have a dryer and in winter in Hobart it takes years for things to dry. I have a small washing machine and I need to prioritise clothes washing. I’m being environmentally friendly by using less water.
I decided I needed to know if my lethargic approach to washing the sheets is genius time management or just basic slobbiness, so I hunted down some people who know things about bugs in bedding, organising and cleaning to see what they think.
ABC Life in your inbox
Get our newsletter for the best of ABC Life each week
Is sheet washing a weekly habit or monthly chore?
Do you really need to change your bed linen more than once a year?(Unsplash: Jessica Castro)
Susanne Thiebe is a professional organiser in Sydney who helps clients who are feeling overwhelmed to better sort out their homes and time. She says the majority of the people she works with wash their bed linen every week out of habit, not need.
“Australians seem to change their sheets weekly,” she says.
“I find my clients don’t even question it. They just do it because their mum did it.”
Hobart-based professional cleaner Amanda Graham says the few clients of hers who ask for their sheets to be changed get it done fortnightly.
“That seems to be what people want, when they’re paying for it,” she says.
Ms Graham says she did a quick poll of her friends to gauge their bed-changing habits and says it ranges from weekly for her friends in Cairns, out to six weeks for friends in cooler climates.
“I’m going to say the average is about three and a half weeks,” she says.
So it looks like I’m not the only one slacking off in the laundry department. There does seem to be a decent amount of variation when it comes to Australians and washing sheets.
Changing sheets too regularly can have its drawbacks
How often do you wash your bed sheets? It’s either not often enough, or too often, depending on who you ask.(ABC Open: LizD)
Ms Thiebe says washing bed linen out of habit rather than need can lead to people actually forming even grosser habits by accident.
“A lot of people like the washing, but they don’t like putting the sheets on and they don’t like putting them away,” she says.
Ms Thiebe says it’s best to plan a day when you not only have time to strip and wash the doona covers and sheets, but also have time to dry them and put new sheets on.
Don’t forget to wash the actual bedding, not just the covers
Washing bed sheets is one thing, but getting them dry can be a whole other level of difficult, especially in the colder states over winter.(ABC Open: Kevin Parsons)
Ms Graham says while most people are pretty good with cleaning the sheets, they’ll often forget to clean or change what lies underneath.
“Have you ever noticed if you go to an Airbnb place or something like that … how filthy the mattress protector or underlay is?” she says.
“I would say most places I’ve stayed, the underlay or mattress protector is filthy. It makes me feel gross.”
Ms Graham recommends mattress protectors, underlays, doonas and pillows be washed at least every six months, if you’re able to dry them properly afterwards.
Not washing your sheets — what’s the worst that can happen?
A 2018 study in the UK by a laundry company found 3.8 per cent of Brits washed their sheets once a year. Yep, just once in 12 months.
You can only imagine the smell that would emanate from annually cleaned bedding, but is it actually bad for you?
Maybe. Never-cleaned bedding might grow mould and even contain fungi spores that could promote things like tinea or ringworm to take a hold on you.
Dust mites could be a problem
Unwashed bedding can also become home to creatures.
Stephen Doggett is a hospital scientist and head of medical entomology in NSW Health Pathology. He knows a lot about the creepy-crawlies that like to bunk up with us in bed.
“The potential insects; the main one would be dust mites,” Mr Doggett says.
Dust mites are the most common critters found in beds. They eat the bits of us we leave behind — skin cells, sweat, seminal fluids — and if you don’t wash your bedding often, there’s more food for the dust mites and so more dust mites.
“We’re pretty sloppy, humid creatures,” Mr Doggett says.
Dust mites are bad news for people who are allergic to them, particularly those with asthma, so washing your bedding weekly and vacuuming regularly will help keep the mites at bay.
Bed bugs are the tiny vampires of the bed
Bed bugs aren’t as common as dust mites, but they can be a real pain in the bum and back and sides and anywhere else on you that they bite.
They eat what’s inside us. The bugs bite humans to suck our blood, leaving their victims with itching, rashes, or in very rare, extreme cases, anaphylactic shock.
“Bed bugs are not pleasant creatures,” Mr Doggett says.
“They bite you in the night, they’ll defecate the blood on the mattress and the sheets get all these black spots.”
Bed bugs are found all over the globe and are most common in areas with high density of humans, and places where lots of people come and go — hotels, airports, backpackers, for instance.
“It derives from the Middle Ages in England when people were sleeping and got bitten in the middle of the night, and they thought it was a ghost or spirit. The term bug actually meant ghost or spirit of the dead.”
Don’t strip your sheets off the bed unless you have time to put new ones on again.(Unsplash: Volha Flaxeco)
Bed bug infestations can be very hard to get rid of. The bugs often actually live in the walls near a bed, and this means one infected residence in an apartment block can quickly turn into an infested complex as they move between flats through the walls.
“They’re very expensive to control and a lot of people just don’t have the fiscal resources to pay for control,” Mr Doggett says.
Regularly changing your sheets and airing your mattress is a good way to keep an eye out for bed bugs, but cleaning alone might not get rid of them.
If you find yourself with bed bugs, you may need to call a pest controller in to help get rid of them.
If you have a furry friend that sleeps in the bed with you, you might also have to keep an eye out for fleas in your bed.
Fleas can’t live in a bed itself for long. They live on hairy animals — usually a dog or cat.
They aren’t a big problem in Australia these days, with flea treatments being quite effective at keeping the jumpers away.
So… how often should I actually wash my sheets?
Washing sheets and airing bedding helps keep creepy-crawlies away.(: Stux)
Frustratingly, it seems there’s no one correct answer to how often you should wash your sheets.
It all depends on your personal health conditions, what you get up to in that bed (wink wink), where you live, the season, and if Fido’s got fleas and so on and so on.
The main tips I’m taking away from all this icky boudoir talk is to think about what really needs washing to avoid mindlessly washing for no reason and ending up with piles of laundry on my couch and never making the bed again.
It’s not laziness. It’s for cleanliness.
If it’s been a *while* since you washed your sheets (or, honestly, you can’t even remember the last time you swapped them out), you’re in good company. On average, Americans say they wash their sheets every 24 days, according to a recent Mattress Advisor survey. However, they only considered bedding legitimately gross after over a month had passed.
Since you’re nose-blind to your own body odors, you likely don’t notice the funk in your sheets as much as someone else might, says Laura Goodman, M.S., a senior scientist for P&G Fabric Care. But, whether or not they’re smelly, unwashed sheets can lead to some health issues over time, like irritated skin, acne, and allergic reactions to dust mites.
So, how long is too long to go without a fresh set? Here, your guide to how often you need to wash your sheets, why you’re best off sticking to the schedule, and how to cope if you’re already dreading laundry day.
So, how often should you actually wash your sheets?
As a general rule, you should wash your sheets every one to two weeks, says Goodman. That being said, if you or your sleeping partner get sweaty, have sex, snooze in the nude, or share your bed with pets, you’re dirtying up your sleep space more than you would if you were, say, sleeping alone in your PJs. If any of the above sounds familiar, you should aim to wash your sheets once a week.
Another note: If you’re prone to acne, you might want to toss in your pillow cases even more often (think: two to three times a week), per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Ditto if you tend to fall asleep without removing your make-up, wash your hair only a few times a week, or lather on heavy moisturizer before bed, says Goodman.
What happens if you don’t wash your sheets that often?
First, there’s the ick factor: Every hour, you shed about 200 million dead skin cells (that’s upwards of 1.4 billion per night, times two if you’re sleeping with a partner). And, in your bedding, tiny, eight-legged dust mites feast on your dead skin cells. While these critters don’t carry any disease, their body parts (and poop) are one of the most common triggers for year-round allergies, per the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American (AAFA). If you don’t regularly clean your sheets, you might find yourself sneezing with a runny nose or, in extreme cases, even wheezing or having a hard time breathing, says Goodman.
Beyond pesky dust mites, you’re also spending lots of quality time with whatever you’ve picked up or put on throughout the day, including dirt, make-up, lotion, and environmental pollutants, to name a few, says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Add to that your own sweat, body oils, and sexual fluids, plus pet dander, and you’ve got some pretty nasty sheets.
As all of these substances comes in close contact with your skin as you sleep, a wide range of problems can ensue—from skin irritation to acne to possibly even infections (though we’re talking worst-case scenario here), says Dr. Zeichner. If you have dry or sensitive skin, eczema, or rosacea, you’re at most risk because your skin barrier (the top layer of your skin) is already weakened, he says.
Even worse? Microorganisms like bacteria and fungi tend to thrive in moist environments—including your dirty pillowcase, says Dr. Zeichner.
But what if you don’t have time to wash your sheets every week?
Life’s busy, especially if your washing machine and dryer are a drive away. The easiest solution is to stock up. Keep three sets of sheets for your bed and cycle them out every one to two weeks, suggests Goodman. (May we suggest a set of our favorite linen, cooling, or silk sheets?)
✔️ For best results, always follow care label instructions before washing your sheets.
When you do have time to wash your sheets, make sure to follow the care label for any specific washing and drying instructions (typically, polyester blends are best washed in warm water, while cotton can tolerate hot water), notes Goodman. If possible, opt for the hottest washing temperature setting in order to kill dust mites, per the AAFA. And, of course, remember to separate your sheets by color—dark colors or reds can dull or bleed onto lighter colors, a recipe for tie-dye sheets if you’re not careful.
And while you might be tempted to dump in the whole jug of detergent if your sheets are super dirty, don’t overdo it. Using more detergent than your load calls for could mean detergent molecules themselves become lodged in your sheets, which can, unfortunately, further irritate your skin, says Dr. Zeichner.
Now, as you strip your mattress, lug around your hamper, and re-make your bed, just remember: Nothing beats the simple luxury that is sliding into crisp and clean sheets!
Like what you just read? You’ll love our magazine! Go here to subscribe. Don’t miss a thing by downloading Apple News here and following Prevention. Oh, and we’re on Instagram too.
Lauren Krouse Lauren Krouse is a freelance writer and researcher based in North Carolina and a graduate of the MFA in Creative Nonfiction program at UNC-Wilmington.
When it comes to life’s most plaguing questions, forget “To be or not to be?” and give “How often should I wash my sheets?” its rightful time in the spotlight. A number of elements factor into the answer, from how much you move in your sleep to your level of clothing when you hop between the sheets. Still, there is a sheet-washing frequency experts generally recommend. Here, a microbiologist and dermatologist explain how often to wash your sheets for a host of (kind of foul) reasons.
Unwashed sheets accumulate a lot of unappetizing stuff.
Exhibit A: dead skin cells. Humans shed between 30,000 and 40,000 skin cells every day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Congratulations because that’s impressive, but also, you spend hours of your life in bed. Guess where a lot of those dead skin cells are hanging out?
Where skin cells lead, dust mites will follow. These microscopic critters feast on your dead skin cells, according to the Mayo Clinic. Unwashed sheets (and your bed in general) are basically like an all-you-can-eat buffet to these mites.
Then there’s the amount of moisture you can leak all over your sheets as you sleep. We’re talking sweat, drool, oils from your skin, and any fluids from sexual extracurriculars.
If you sleep naked, you may even be adding tiny bits of dried fecal matter to the mix, microbiologist Michael Schmidt, Ph.D., a professor and vice chairman of microbiology and immunology at The Medical University of South Carolina, tells SELF. So, if you don’t wash your sheets for an extended period of time, it’s kind of like you’re sleeping in a cesspool of your own making.
That is, of course, unless you share a bed with someone else. If you do, you’re dealing with all of their bodily fluids and dead skin cells, too. If you have a pet that sleeps in bed with you, they could be contaminating your sheets as well.
But what does all of this actually mean for your health?
Possibly nothing. We’re not saying that sleeping on super dirty sheets is condemning you to any ill health effects. But it’s also possible for it to mess with your health, primarily that of your skin.
If you don’t wash your sheets often enough, all the bacteria they amass can disrupt your skin’s ecosystem, Whitney Bowe, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin, and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center, tells SELF. This important balance of microorganisms is also known as your skin microbiome.
For some people, skin microbiome changes can lead to acne, Dr. Bowe explains. This disturbance may even inflame issues such as eczema if your skin is really sensitive, Dr. Bowe says. (Having eczema means the top layer of your skin can’t protect you from irritants, bacteria, and allergens as well as it should.)
Then there’s the dust mite factor. Since dust mites are common allergens, having them in your bed can provoke allergy symptoms like a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, and general discomfort that makes it hard to get good rest at night.
One other thing: If you sleep naked on dirty sheets and are constantly moving your pillow from between your legs to under your head, you’re theoretically running the risk that your mouth or eyes could come into contact with bits of stool. If you’re healthy, this thought is more disturbing than anything else. But if you happen to have a compromised immune system, like if you’ve come down with the flu, that could technically leave you more vulnerable to illnesses that spread through bacteria in feces, like pink eye.
This is how often you should actually be changing your bed sheets, you dirtbags
When you first moved into your room, you probably envisaged a paradise: a well decorated, spotless and fresh bedroom you’d be proud to show off, and one where you have plenty of time to change your bed sheets.
But, be honest, a few months down the line and the only time you take the sheets off your bed is to make a toga for sports night, and you can’t remember the last time they had a good wash. Despite being horrifically stained, the same sheets have been on your bed for weeks, and you have no intention of changing that.
The question is though – how much of an absolute dirtbag does this actually make you? Is there a true answer to how often you should be changing your bed sheets? And what happens if you don’t? Here are the answers.
So, how often should you change your bed sheets?
It’s a general rule you should be cleaning and changing your sheets at least once every two weeks, but really it should be every single week.
According to Good Housekeeping, your sheets should be changed every fortnight, and once a week if you know you sweat a lot in the night.
Keep those sheets fresh
A YouGov survey showed the British public is divided on sheet washing. Some are weekly washers, some two-weekers and others are quite frankly disgusting, because they wash their sheets even less – some leave them for up to two months.
The survey found 33 per cent wash them weekly, 35 per cent do every two weeks and the rest wash them less often. That’s apart from a tiny three per cent who say they change their sheets more often than once a week – they obviously have too much time on their hands.
Over a third of 18 to 24-year-olds admitted to washing their sheets less than they should do, making this age group officially the filthiest of them all.
What happens if you don’t wash your bed sheets?
Laundry expert Mary Marlowe Leverette says not cleaning your sheets enough can lead to infections and dirt build up.
She told ATTN: “During sleep, we continue to perspire, and body oils and soil are released. It is possible to find saliva, urine, genital fluids, and faecal matter in the fibres.
“Athlete’s foot and other fungi can be transferred from fabrics. Infrequent cleaning of sheets and pillowcases allows the fluids to seep into the pillows and mattresses, and those are much more difficult to clean than tossing sheets in the washer.”
No matter how tragic you might think your love life is, you are never truly sleeping alone at night. You could be sharing your bed with bed bugs, dust mites, mould, lice, fungus, ants, e.coli and MRSA – which are all pretty gross. Not much of a bed turn on there.
There are millions of dust mites living in everyone’s beds, and these eat your dead skin cells and make your mattress heavier over time.
Leaving your sheets on your bed allows all the dead skin cells and sweat that comes off your body in the night to build up. This attracts more dust mites. Plus, some people sweat more than a litre every single night – grim!!
Do the bed sheets smell that bad?
We asked students how often they really are changing their bed sheets.
So the final answer is pretty clear, wash your sheets AT LEAST every two weeks – unless you enjoy living amongst bugs, filth, sweat and poo.
Related stories recommended by this writer:
• It’s impossible to have good sex in a bad bedroom
• What your bed sheets say about you
• We can tell exactly how much sex you’re having from the items in your bedroom
Daily: Squeegee the shower walls and sweep the kitchen floors.
Wojciech Skora /
The internet is a strange and wonderful place. Scary and frustrating, sure, but also strange and wonderful. For instance, if you want to know where to get a good deal on your favorite new lipstick, the internet will tell you (Hint: It’s Ulta. The answer is always Ulta). If you want to know the name of the actor who plays Kevin on This Is Us, the internet will tell you (Answer: Justin Hartley aka Hottie McHottypants). If you want to know how to get permanent marker off your new couch, the internet will tell you (something about liquid dish soap, white vinegar, water, and prayers).
It was on one of these strange, but necessary, searches that I came across a list of guidelines for how often you should clean everything. Thinking that it might offer some helpful suggestions or reassure me that I wasn’t completely failing at domesticity, I clicked on the link. Big mistake. As they say, ignorance is bliss, and I was pretty damn blissful in my bubble of filth and disorder. Because according to that chart, I’m not just falling behind in the housework department, I’m failing at everything.
I felt like crap about myself for a hot minute before I realized that these standards must only apply to the childless or people who de-stress with a little rage cleaning from time to time. I know they’re out there, I’ve read about them, and I have nothing but mad props. But, sweet baby Jesus in a Moby Wrap, I am not one of those people.
You know what they say, cleaning with kids is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. And personally, I prefer to binge-eat my Oreos with a wine chaser. But I digress.
In any event, I’m not a slob. I despise clutter. And I keep a somewhat tidy house. But there is no way in hell I’m ever going to be able to keep up with these standards — and I’d be willing to bet that most people can’t.
Let’s walk through this house cleaning bullshit, shall we?
Squeegee shower walls? I’m sorry, what? I don’t even own a squeegee, and even if I did, I can guarantee you I would not be spending 1 second of the 2.3 minutes I have to shower squeegeeing the shower walls. My kids are just going to smear them with colored soap and bubble bath anyway.
And sweep the kitchen floors daily? Nope. That’s what pets are for.
Weekly: Change bedsheets, sanitize sponges, and throw away unused food.
Change bedsheets once a week? What is this crazy talk? Does anyone actually change their sheets once a week? I’m lucky if I remember to change my sheets once a month; my kids’ sheets get changed after a case of the stomach flu. Have you ever tried to change the bedding on a bunk bed? It’s a special kind of hell, really. Who has time for all of that tugging and folding and tucking? Not to mention the fact that whenever I do get my act together and wash the sheets, without fail, that night I will drag myself to bed only to realize that my sheets are still a sodden heap in the washing machine.
Monthly: Dust the blinds and clean out the inside of the washing machine.
Excuse me, while I laugh my ass off.
Every few months: Vacuum the mattress, descale the coffee machine, and clean the fireplace.
Look, if I can’t remember to change the bedsheets more than once a month, how the hell am I going to remember to vacuum the mattress? Not. Gonna. Happen. Same thing with descaling the coffee machine. I don’t even know what the fuck “descaling” means.
I am succeeding at one of the items on the list, however. Our fireplace is clean AF because we don’t even have a fireplace, which leaves me more time to do internet searches on Justin Hartley.
Are Your Bedsheets Dirty? How Often Should You Wash Them?
You spend approximately one third of your day wrapped up in your bedsheets. What’s out of sight is typically left out of mind, and there’s a plethora of microscopic lifeforms plaguing your sheets when they are left unwashed. Just some of these include:
- Fungal spores
- Animal dander
- Bodily excrement ranging from sweat to the unthinkable
- Skin cells
When you break it down to such an infinitesimal level, it’s kind of gross! You may already be aware of this and wash your sheets every other day. Or, you may neglect this seemingly unimportant household task and only wash your sheets once a month… or less!
Just how often should bedsheets be washed? Are you overdoing it, or is there more you could be doing to keep your restoration hours hygienic? Washing them once a week has been found to be the best practice.
What’s so Important About Weekly Sheet Washing?
Let’s reiterate… there are hordes of bacterium that congregate on your sheets. In the simplest terms possible, you should wash your sheets every week to remove them. Ick factor aside, doing so can improve your health and increase the air quality in your home.
Of course, unexpected things can and do come up. If you just can’t find the time in your schedule to wash your sheets on any given week, the maximum time frame you should allow in-between washings is two weeks. Not only do you remove bacteria and dead skin cells, you even get rid of parasites and mites that feed off you and your loved ones while you rest.
Special Circumstances for More Frequent Washing
Keep in mind that we all face unique life circumstances. In most cases, washing your sheets weekly is acceptable practice. However, there are circumstances that my merit more frequent attention. If you suffer with things like asthma or skin conditions, for example, you may want to wash your sheets more frequently. Speak with your doctor to get a better idea of the measures you should be taking.
Proper Sheet Washing: Are You Doing It Right?
Just as proper form is important during exercise, proper washing techniques are imperative to ensure you maximize the durability of your bedsheets. We have already established that you should be washing them weekly to ensure you are adequately removing dirt, bacteria, and stains. Here are a few other key pointers to keep in mind to make sure you’re not spending your time in vain:
- Wash bed sheets apart from other laundry items to reduce wrinkling and color bleaching.
- Avoid over-drying your sheets to keep materials strong. When dealing with cotton sheets, it’s best to allow them to air dry while they’re still damp.
- Understand the material type your sheets are comprised of.
Throwing your sheets in the washer and calling your weekly sheet-washing obligation complete isn’t enough. You risk wearing out your sheets and having to buy new ones far sooner than you should have to.
Before you read further, take a look at the tag on your sheets and determine what type of fabric they’re made of. Then, read on to determine the proper protocol you should be following.
Cotton Sheets- Sturdy and Durable
Generally speaking, cotton sheets are sturdy and durable. Thus, they offer a high degree of freedom in washing technique. You can typically machine wash using any water temperature. If you’re ill, it can be a good idea to go with hot water since bacteria can be difficult to eradicate even when submerged. In fact, some strains actually thrive in wet conditions.
- Wash lighter colors in cold water to avoid bleaching the material.
- If you can switch the water temperature in your machine mid-cycle, it can be effective to use cold water during the rinse cycle for dark-colored sheets.
- Air dry whenever possible.
Linen Sheets- Gentler Touch Required
If your sheets are made of linen, you’ll want to take a gentler approach. You should never use hot water as this can lead to weakening of the fabric that creates rips and tears. They respond best to a slightly more detailed approach to laundering:
- Hand wash in lukewarm water.
- If hand washing isn’t possible, machine wash in cold or lukewarm water on delicate cycle.
- Air dry.
- If you can’t air dry, machine dry on low heat.
- Fold as soon as possible to reduce wrinkling.
Flannel Sheets- Go-To During Cold Weather
Flannel is a very soft and cushiony fabric, and it’s perfect for the winter months due to its heat-retaining properties. While it offers much-needed comfort during extreme weather conditions, it also requires you to give back when it comes time to wash:
- Pre-treat using ½ cup of vinegar to keep the material from puckering.
- To avoid puckering and rips, don’t combine flannel sheets with other laundry items.
- Machine wash using cool or lukewarm water.
- Wash on delicate cycle.
- You should preferably air dry flannel sheets. However, they can be machine dried on low heat, low tumble setting.
Silk Sheets- Highly Delicate
Silk is among the most delicate of fabrics. Thus, it requires special care when cleaning. Failure to follow the right regimen will lead to a weakening of its structural integrity, thus reducing strength and damaging texture. Since silk repels allergens, it can be an excellent choice for use by those who suffer with allergies.
- Hand wash for the first five washes.
- Always use lukewarm water.
- Always use gentle detergent. Check for products made specifically for use with silk bedding.
- Air dry since high temperatures can shrink and snag the fabric as well as cause white streaks.
- If you can’t air dry, only use low heat.
Silk Sheet- Hand Washing vs. Machine Washing Tips
Since silk is so delicate, let’s elaborate a little bit on machine vs hand washing. This material is very easy to damage, not to mention it’s pricey. It can be costly if you make a senseless cleaning mistake that can be easily avoided.
- Only use one spin cycle.
- Always use delicate setting.
- If your machine has a setting for silk, use it.
- Allow full absorption in lukewarm cleaning water with gentle detergent.
- Don’t allow material to soak for long periods of time.
- Don’t wring material to dry. It’s better to twist them in a large towel to prevent tears and wrinkles.
Lasting Fabrics and a More Healthful Home
We like to think we do what we can to maintain our homes. Now that you have a better idea of how often bed sheets should be washed, you can be even more effective in achieving. Not only are you doing your part in reducing harmful bacteria and allergens, but you are also saving money in maintaining your bedsheets and increasing their overall durability.
The biggest takeaway here is to do what you can to wash your sheets weekly, and don’t wait more than two weeks to give them a proper cleaning. The following pointers can increase your effectiveness:
- Look for the right laundry detergent compatible with the type of material you’re washing.
- Don’t stop at bedsheets. You also need to clean your pillow cases, blankets, mattress protector, bed skirts and fitted sheets on a weekly basis.
- Use specialized cleaning sprays based on material type.
- When drying, maintain a clean area. Wet clothes are much more susceptible to contamination, so never do your drying in high-trafficked areas.
The ability to get a proper night’s rest is important to your health, and it can make your days more productive. By properly cleaning your bedsheets, you’re on your way to a happier, healthier life.
You sweat in them, dribble on them and do *you know what* in them but the average person only washes their sheets every two weeks (at most!).
If you’re in this camp or *gasps*, go longer than a fortnight before popping your bed sheets in the washing machine, you might want to heed this expert advice.
“The average person washes their bed sheets once every two weeks, but in the summer months, twice a month is not enough to keep allergens at bay,” said Sealy UK’s Chief Sleep Officer, Neil Robinson.
“In hayfever season, consider washing your sheets once a week to keep sheets free of pollen, as well as dust and other particles that might make symptoms worse.”
As well as allergens, your sheets accumulate a tonne of dead skin cells lead, which dust mites feed on, plus dried fecal matter if you sleep naked. Gross.
According to the experts, popping them in the wash weekly isn’t quite enough; it’s vital to select the optimum temperature, too.
The genius hacks for beating hay fever that every sufferer needs to know
The genius hacks for beating hay fever that every sufferer needs to know
- 19 Jun 2019
- Bianca London
“A hot wash will also help,” adds Neil. “In a study, scientists found that washing items at hotter temperatures was more effective at removing traces of tree pollen, so when you wash your sheets, make sure it’s at a temperature of 40C or above – ideally at least 60C.”
To ensure you keep your sheets and pillow cases super clean, allergen-free and in peak condition, Jo Ross, General Manager of Design at Sheridan, has curated the ultimate guide.
- Reduce wear and tear by rotating your sheets for a fresh set every week.
- It’s recommended using a eucalyptus-based detergent on your linen as they are more gentle than other detergents.
- If using a top loader washing machine, wait until the detergent is fully diluted in the water before putting sheets in the machine. Undiluted detergents can cause staining on the fabric.
- Do not use bleach and optical brighteners. They’re too harsh on linen and will damage the fibres of the material.
- A warm, gentle machine wash (40 degrees) is the best way to clean your linen.
- Don’t overfill your washing machine – allow enough space for plenty of water to rinse through the sheeting.
- Always wash on a full cycle with a full rinse. This prevents any chemicals building up on the fibres.
- Do not tumble dry on a hot setting and avoid overloading the dryer – allow enough space in the dryer for the sheeting to circulate. Linen is designed to become softer with every wash.
- Ensure your linen is completely dry before placing in your linen cupboard.
- Wash your pillows in warm water to prevent the build-up of allergens more effectively.
- Place your pillows in direct sunlight and allow them to air. The sun is a natural antibacterial agent which will keep your pillows hygienic and fresh, assisting to kill any germs in between laundering your products.
- Place a pillow protector on your pillows to ensure they last longer and will keep your pillows stain free and fresh.
- Wash your pillow protectors regularly to keep your pillows clean and hygienic to sleep on.
- Replace your pillows every 18 months to two years to ensure they stay fresh and clean.
How often should you change your bedsheets, towels, pyjamas and underwear?
They are the items we use every day – in fact, we couldn’t do without them.
The dishcloths we clean our dishes with – then the tea towels we use to dry them.
Sheets on our beds and the duvets and pillows which keep us comfy at night, as well as the pyjamas which make us extra snug.
We all need a towel after showering and a toothbrush to keep our pearly whites, well, white.
And undies – unless you are Joey from Friends, of course.
But all these life staples can harbour some real nasties.
The question is: how often do they all need to be changed?
A recent YouGov poll says more than a third of us only wash our bedsheets once a fortnight. “Beds can become reservoirs of human cells, bacteria and bodily excretions. Humans shed half an ounce of skin each week – and a lot of that will be in the bed,” says Dr Ackerley. Warm, moist environments are also ideal breeding grounds for dust mites, with the average bed containing 10 million of them! Their faeces can trigger allergic reactions.
How often: Each morning, pull back the duvet and open the window to release moisture and humidity. Change your sheets each week.
How to clean: Wash at 60C to kill mites.
Duvets and pillows
A staggering 45 per cent of us have never washed their pillows and duvets – despite the fact a third of the weight of a two year old pillow is made up of dead skin and dust mite faeces. According to Johnson Cleaners: “Duvets can harbour live and dead dust mites, skin scales and fungus, which can lead to allergies such as rhinitis and infections such as conjunctivitis.”
How often: Duvets should be washed every few months – or at least twice a year, says Sara Wadsworth from The Fine Bedding Company, and replaced every five years, pillows more frequently – every two to three years,
How to clean: If the duvet has synthetic filling, wash at 60C to kill off dust mites. Feather fillings need professional dry cleaning twice a year.
More than a quarter of men and seven per cent of women wear briefs for two days before washing them, according to a Kelkoo survey. But used pants contains microbes that can cause urinary tract infections, pneumonia and blood infections, as well as E-coli and thrush .
How often: After every single wear – no exceptions, says Dr Lisa Ackerley visiting Professor of Environmental Health, University of Salford . “And replace them every year.”
How to clean them: Machine wash at 30-40C using a detergent with an AOB (activated oxygen bleach) product, says Professor Sally Bloomfield, Consultant in Hygiene and Infectious Disease Prevention, and at 60C if a family member is ill. Or add an anti-bacterial product such as Napisan or Dettol’s Anti-bacterial Laundry Cleanser.
The average 18 to 30-year-old man wears the same pyjamas for 13 nights and young women 17 nights before washing them, according to a recent survey. “Pyjamas are worn right next to the skin – and we shed skin cells, filled with micro-organisms, at a vast rate,” says Prof Bloomfield. “These organisms are usually harmless but if they get into the wrong place they can cause problems.” For example, E-coli bacteria transferring from the bowel to the urinary tract can cause cystitis.
How often: Every two wears – or at least once a week.
How to clean: Machine wash in the same way as underwear, says Professor Bloomfield.
Nine out of 10 UK dishcloths tested in a Dettol study were heavily contaminated with bacteria. More than half harboured E.coli while a quarter featured an organism called Pseudomonas spp. which can cause minor skin and eye infections and potentially life-threatening illness. The average used dishcloth harbours four billion living germs, contains six times as much bacteria as toilet handles and is hailed as the “bug superhighway of the kitchen” according to the Hygiene Council.
All change! Rinse thoroughly and air-dry after every use. Don’t drape over bacteria-ridden kitchen taps or leave in the kitchen sink. Replace monthly.
Scrub! Each night, rinse with an anti-bacterial laundry cleanser or wash at 60C or more. Air or tumble dry.
These are one of the leading causes of cross contamination. “Cloth towels could quickly and easily become contaminated at significant levels, including microorganisms that can lead to food-borne illnesses,” Science Daily reported. “Other researchers found that salmonella grows on cloths – even after they were washed.”
How often: Change every day – and don’t dry your hands on them!
How to clean: Launder at 60C or above, separately to regular towels.
Bath towels absorb dead skin cells and natural bacteria from our bodies and warm, damp conditions mean this bacteria thrives. Sharing towels can spread bacteria and viruses such as Staphylococcus aureus (which can cause skin infections), cold sores and Athlete’s Foot.
How often: Bath towels should be washed after every three uses, insists Philip Tierno, New York based microbiologist.
How to clean: Wash with sheets at a high temperature, 60C or more, and an anti bacterial product.
“The average toothbrush contains around 10 million germs – from bacteria to the flu virus,” says Dr Uchenna Okoye, clinical director of London Smiling Dental Group . “Even potentially fatal viruses, such as Hepatitis C, have been found on the humble brush, so sharing brushes is a big no no.”
How often: Toothbrush heads need to be changed every three months – or after illness. But they also need to be cleaned regularly and stored separately, ideally in a closed cabinet. If out in the open, make sure they’re far away from the loo!
How to clean: After every use, rinse bristles thoroughly then shake dry, stand upright and allow to air dry. Once a month,
pop manual or electric toothbrush heads in the dishwasher, soak for five minutes in boiling water or use brush cleaning products like Brushtox.