International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene

Home Hygiene & Health

The Leading Source of Scientific, Professional & Consumer Information
International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene

Home Hygiene & Health

The Leading Source of Scientific, Professional & Consumer Information

September 7th: The grubby truth about how often we wash the bed sheets

A UK YouGov survey of people’s habits shows that only one third say they change sheets once a week, whilst 37% of 18-24 year-olds change sheets just once a month, and only 16% were weekly washers. One in ten confessed they didn’t bother to throw their linen in the washing machine more than once a month.

Asked when they considered unwashed sheets to become unhygienic, half said between 2 and 3 weeks. As to when they became ‘disgusting’, women said 5 weeks on average, while men said 6. The older we get the more fussy we get. Among the over-60s, 42% laundered sheets weekly, and only 14% left bedding more than 3 weeks without a wash.

An IFH review of the scientific data indicates that clothing and household linens can spread infections, although the risks are probably less than those associated with poor hand hygiene and poor food hygiene. Nevertheless, laundry hygiene is an important component of the family’s hygiene routine, particularly in a large household group, who all share the same washing machine.  Germs spread from dirty to clean items in the wash cycle, which can spread infections from one family member to another.  Contamination levels increase with wear or usage time, and the more contaminated, the greater the risk that laundering, particularly at low temperatures will fail to make the wash load hygienically clean.  Also, skin cells and sweat which build up on sheets attract dust mites which, though harmless, produce droppings that contain allergens that can trigger asthma, rhinitis and itching eyes. 

There’s no specific data, but once a week is probably a good approach, especially if there are children or babies at home. There are people who don’t wash their sheets for months who will never get ill, but it’s like wearing a seatbelt – it may be you next.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2745649/The-grubby-truth-wash-sheets-One-ten-don-t-change-bed-linen-month.html#ixzz3CYOcrtJj
The IFH report can be found at: http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/review/effectiveness-laundering-processes-used-domestic-home-settings-2013

A fact advice sheet on laundry hygiene can be found at: http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/factsheet/clothing-household-linens-laundry-and-home-hygiene