5 Gross Consequences of Not Washing Your Sheets Weekly

This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure page.

Pinterest Hidden Image
Woman demonstrates washing your sheets by removing them from her bedPin

Thinking you about not washing your sheets this week? While it might seem like a minor detail, the science behind clean sheets reveals that regular washing is not just a matter of aesthetics, it’s a health imperative. Here are five compelling reasons you should wash your sheets every week, plus answers to your most common sheet-washing questions.

1. Bacterial Infection Complications

Bacteria are everywhere, but they really like to gather in dirty bed sheets. Research shows that unwashed sheets can be a playground for different germs and bacteria, some of which can make you sick. 

For instance, Staphylococcus aureus and its variant, MRSA on dirty sheets can turn a minor cut into a painful infection which can lead to sepsis. That’s why it’s so important to wash your sheets weekly. And if your immune system is weak due to age or being on immunosuppressants like I am, you’re at an even higher risk and might need to wash your sheets even more often.

2. Allergies and Asthma Symptoms

Dust mites are tiny creatures related to spiders that eat the dead skin cells we shed. These little guys are one of the main reasons those of us with indoor allergies wind up sneezing or waking with itchy eyes and asthma attacks if we skip washing our sheets. But dust mites aren’t the only problem.

Bed sheets also collect other stuff that makes asthma and allergies worse, like pollen from plants and pet dander. One study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed that washing your sheets in hot water every week can really cut down on the number of dust mites and other allergens. So, if you’re an allergy sufferer, too, make a point to wash your sheets weekly and look for sheets that can stand hot water washing. (See the FAQs below for tips if your sheets can’t handle the heat.)

3. Skin Irritation and Fungus

Clean sheets are crucial for healthy skin. When you sleep, your body naturally produces oils which, along with sweat, get absorbed by your sheets. This grimy layer on pillowcases and sheets is a perfect place for bacteria to grow. If you’re prone to acne, these bacteria can clog your pores, too. My kids both learned as teens that washing sheets weekly, and sometimes changing pillowcases during the week, kept acne breakouts under control.

For those with eczema, the buildup of oils and bacteria can irritate your skin and make your condition worse. And let’s not forget about yeast and fungal infections. The warm, damp environment created by body sweat is like a welcome party for fungi and leads to conditions like skin rashes, ringworm or even jock itch. Washing your sheets weekly helps remove these oils and protect your skin.

4. The Odor Lingers on You

Bad smells from unwashed sheets don’t just make your bed unpleasant; they can take over your bedroom, seep into other areas of your home, and linger on your hair and skin all day. Over time, this smell will permeate your pillows, bedspread, and even your mattress. You know how everything around a teenager “smells like teen spirit”? It’s because those body oils on their sheets cling to their skin and hair. Washing your sheets every week can go a long way in keeping both your home and yourself smelling clean.

5. Your Sleep Quality Will Suffer

The smells and irritants from unwashed sheets don’t just bother your nose and skin; they can actually affect your brain. The limbic system, which controls emotions and memory, is closely connected to your sense of smell. When your sheets stink, your limbic system can trigger feelings of discomfort or even stress, making it hard to relax and fall asleep. So, for a better night’s sleep, make sure to wash your sheets every week. It’s a simple habit that can improve both your sleep and your overall mood.

FAQs about Washing Your Sheets

This blog exists to help you. I encourage readers to ask questions in the comment section. When many people have the same question, I update the post to include the answer and increase the article’s helpfulness. If you have a question not answered in the article or FAQs below, please leave it in the comments and you’ll be helping others, too.

1. How often should I wash my sheets?

The general recommendation is to wash your sheets once a week to remove bacteria, allergens, and odors. There may be times when more frequent washing is called for, like when someone has been sick or is experiencing allergy symptoms, or if the sheets become soaked from excessive sweat or other bodily fluids. On the other hand, if you routinely bathe or shower before bed you may be able to go longer before needing to wash your sheets.

2. Should I wash sheets in hot or cold water?

Always check the care instructions before washing your sheets. Some fabrics may require cold or warm water to prevent damage. If the care label advises against hot water washing, opt for a detergent designed to kill bacteria, use bleach in the wash cycle if the fabric can handle it, or line-dry your linens in sunlight, which has disinfecting properties.

3. What detergent should I use to wash sheets?

A high-quality laundry detergent that’s suitable for your type of sheets is best. Some detergents kill bacteria even in cold water. If you have a high-efficiency washer, use a detergent designed for the low-water conditions of HE machines.

4. Can I use fabric softener on my sheets?

While fabric softener makes sheets feel softer, it can also leave a residue that attracts more dirt and bacteria. This residue can also trap odors and leave a fragrance that can cause allergic reactions and sneezing. Use it sparingly or opt for natural alternatives like vinegar.

5. Should I iron my sheets?

Ironing can kill any remaining bacteria after washing, but it’s unnecessary for most people. If you like the crisp feel of ironed sheets, go for it! Avoid starching your sheets before ironing, though, or they’ll feel crispy and rough on your skin.

6. Can I wash sheets with other clothes?

Washing your sheets separate from other laundry is best so they have enough space to move freely in the washer, which results in better cleaning. Washing your sheets with heavier clothing can damage them, especially if that clothing has zippers or other embellishments that can snag or tear your sheets.

Have any pointers to share to make washing your sheets every week less of a hassle? Share in the comments and help each other out!

Subscribe to the Latest How-Tos

Ready to love your home again?

Comment Policy

Comments are moderated and may take up to 72 hours to appear. Submission of a comment constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Service.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Barbara Radcliffe says:

    Thank you for this Katie! I wash my sheets every two weeks for the most part. After reading this, I’m going to wash weekly!

    I have a second set of clean sheets in the linen closet that I keep in rotation so while one set is in the washer, I can put a clean set on the bed. They are clean, but not as extra spiffy as a freshly washed set. Do you have any tips for keeping them fresh smelling in while in the linen closet?