How Often Should You (Actually) Wash Your Sheets?

a neatly folded stack of sheets

Sveta Aksenova / Twenty20

We spend about one-third of our day — and life — in bed sleeping or trying to sleep. That's plenty of time for sweat, body soil, flaking skin and the dust mites that feed on that skin, and other debris like pet hair and snacking crumbs to accumulate on sheets. Regular washing is not only hygienic but also helps your sheets last longer. So, how often should you wash your sheets?

When You Should Wash Your Sheets

Because sheets have so much direct contact with your skin, they should, ideally, be washed weekly. However, your bedtime habits may allow you to stretch the time between washings to 10 days or two weeks; but never go longer than two weeks with unwashed sheets. Wearing pajamas or bathing before bedtime will reduce the amount of soil on your sheets.

If you eat in bed, sleep with your pet, or perspire heavily, the sheets should be washed at least once a week. If you have allergies and wake up with a stuffy nose, the cause can be the dust mites that feed on dead skin cells.

Try washing your sheets two times a week if you can't breathe. For those with acne, pillowcases should be changed daily to help prevent inflammation and the transfer of bacteria.

If there is a household illness, such as a virus, cold, or flu, or if your household has a head lice or bed bug infestation, sheets should be changed and washed daily.

How to Wash Sheets

 Detergent  Heavy-duty laundry detergent
 Water Temperature  Warm or hot
 Cycle Type  Normal
 Drying Cycle Type  Medium to low heat
 Special Treatments  Pretreat stains
 Iron Settings  Optional, varies by fabric type

Before you wash a set of sheets for the first time, look for the fabric care label that lists the fiber content and washing instructions. This information is particularly important for satin sheetsbamboo sheets, or linen bedding, which may have different washing instructions than the steps below for sheets made from cotton, blends, or microfiber.

  • Pretreat Stains. If there are stains like blood, urine, or cosmetics, pretreat the area with an enzyme-based stain remover.
  • Select Washer Settings. Use a regular, full-length wash cycle for sheets. Wash cotton sheets in warm or hot water to remove allergens and kill dust mites. Use cool or warm water for microfiber and cotton/polyester blend sheets.
  • Use a Heavy-Duty Laundry Detergent. A heavy-duty laundry detergent that contains enzymes that will break apart oil molecules will leave your sheets clean and odor-free.
  • Select Dryer Settings. To minimize wrinkles, use a low or medium heat setting in an automatic dryer. High heat is more damaging to fibers and the elasticity of fitted sheets. When possible, air-dry your sheets outdoors. The sun is a natural disinfectant and brightener. To remove wrinkles and soften the fibers, tumble in the dryer for three to four minutes.

Additional Sheet Washing Tips

  • While you can wash sheets and towels together, you still should sort the sheets by color and type of fabric to prevent dye transfer.
  • Don't overstuff your machine with sheets. They need room to move freely so the detergent can reach and penetrate every fiber for optimal cleaning.
  • Presoak sheets for one hour in two gallons of water with 1 cup of distilled white vinegar added before washing normally to brighten them. Or, presoak in a solution of water and oxygen bleach to brighten colored sheets.
  • If your sheets smell stale after storing them in a linen closet, they weren't totally clean when you put them away. Rewash with a heavy-duty detergent.
  • Avoid the heavy use of fabric softeners and dryer sheets, which can reduce the absorbency of the natural fibers and cause bedsheets to become sticky. Instead, add distilled white vinegar to the final rinse cycle to remove residues that stiffen sheets, and add wool dryer balls to the dryer to fluff and soften fibers.
  • Folding fitted sheets, in particular, can be challenging, but there's an easy trick that will allow them to stack neatly in your linen closet. First, fit all of the rounded corners smoothly inside of each other to create a rectangle. Next, fold your rectangle into a neat square.
  • Keep a full set of sheets together by placing them inside one of the pillowcases.
  • Iron cotton or linen sheets when they are slightly damp using a low heat setting.
  • Can sheets be washed by hand?

    If you don't have access to a washing machine, sheets can be washed in the bathtub.

  • Can sheets be washed with other laundry?

    Sheets and towels that are the same color and type of fabric can be washed together. Since a set of queen or king sheets is large, wash them with additional laundry only if you have a large-capacity machine.

  • Can sheets be washed with colored laundry?

    It is always best to sort laundry by color and type of fabric. If you are washing white sheets, only wash with white clothes.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Aminoff MJ, et al. We spend about one-third of our life either sleeping or attempting to do so. Handbook of Clinical Neurology, vol. 98, 2011, doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-52006-7.00047-2.

  2. How Often to Wash Your Sheets.

  3. Home Environmental Interventions for House Dust MiteThe Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

  4. Acne Information. The Society for Pediatric Dermatology.