There is nothing quite as comforting as a well-made bed with stiff, clean sheets to welcome you in at the end of a long day. Even though we might not be able to fully appreciate every minute of it, we spend a really large amount of time in bed (a third of our life) and while much of that time is clocked up to sleep, we also use that bed time to snuggle in from a storm, recover from illness or injury, read, watch movies, cuddle loved ones, have sex, and every now and then eat some toast or ice cream.
That's a lot of exposure time for your sheets to get soiled, especially when you factor in the large amount of sweat, dead skin, hair oil, and dirt that will naturally transfer off your skin every night (plus the occasional deposits of sand, crumbs and baby oil). Because of that, you want to be changing your sheets over for clean ones as often as possible. Even though juggling the mattress to fit the new sheets on is a battle you'd rather not face too frequently and despite the washing, drying and folding process being a tedious one you should be aiming to change your sheets once a week.
Let's be honest here, I know some of you wait until the gritties get so bad they stop you from sleeping before you do anything about it (like vacuum it up), but know this, all that dirt, dust, skin, and hair attracts bugs, super gross human eating bugs, and accumulated grime can lead to respiratory issues including asthma, frequent coughs and colds, increased allergies and skin irritations. Some research tests even indicate clean sheets and made bed can help you sleep better which adds up to a whole lot of incentive to stick your sheets in the wash.
What happens if you don't change your sheets often?
Dead skin is part of an eco-system for bugs and mites. They will happily take up residence in your dark, sturdy mattress or bedframe in large numbers and feast while you are sleeping.
Some people have allergies to dust mites, and some mites can even use the human body as their home, breeding ground and toilet, causing skin irritation, redness, and rashes (let's just not think about it too much).
Before you say that you shower before bed, it doesn't matter. You don't need to be especially dirty to accumulate dead cells and nasties, it's just the length of time in the one location, as well as the body naturally discarding dead follicles and purging waste while you're resting.
When to change your sheets
Once a week!
Changing your sheets the same day every week helps get you into a routine and set up a structure you can stick to. If you just leave it to whenever you remember, chances are it will get forgotten long enough to cause problems to your health and comfort. Your weekly change and wash will feel normal in no time.
Wash your pillow slips and quilt cover at the same time so it gets changed once a week as well, especially if you have pets who sleep on the bed. The quilt (aka, doona, comforter, duvet) will only need to be washed once or twice a year unless something gets spilled on it.
How to wash your sheet sets
To help retain the colour and pattern strength turn your sheets inside out and roll them together into a ball.
Wash in hot water to kill germs, dust mites and bacteria, which will be a setting of around 60 degrees Celsius. Some washing detergents come with anti-bacterial, but whatever you prefer is up to you.
To boost the cleaning power of your detergent you can add half a cup of baking soda to aid wash performance and kill odours, however, only do this if you plan to line dry your sheets (preferred option) as left-over baking soda can break down cotton in the drier. If you trust your machines' ability to thoroughly rinse then you will probably remove any residue before your machine dry.
1,000-thread count sheets feel like you are sleeping on a cloud. Yum! If you have high thread count sheets don't use hot water for your wash. Luxury sheets have thinner cotton threads that are more likely to break if exposed to high temperatures.
Unlike regular sheets, luxury sheets are best suited to machine dry rather than line dry, use a cool setting.
Things to avoid
Overloading your machine. A really full load reduces the ability to thoroughly rinse clean. You can opt to run an additional rinse cycle to help here if you know your load is a large one.
Chlorine bleach or detergents. Bleach breaks down the threads and they will not be as strong. If you want to whiten white sheets add a quarter cup of lemon juice when you start the wash.
If you get busy and skip a week it's not that big a deal, but you won't want to leave it for more than a fortnight without a change, although for those who suffer from allergies or hay fever then changing your sheets over every week is essential for feeling fresh and healthy and keeping the sneezes at bay.
One way to help motivate you is to invest in more than one set of quality sheets for both summer and winter weight. That way when you change your sheets you have new ones going on that are just as comfortable and enjoyable as the ones going in the wash. If you only have one quality set of sheets it can be demotivating to change them because you want to stay comfortable during the night.
So clean up your bed habits to get a great night's sleep and wake up fresh and bright in the morning.