Disgusting Truth About Thrift Store Clothing
The disgusting reason you need to wash your sheets more
How often do you wash your bed sheets?
That question popped up in a recent Men’s Health pitch meeting, and when one editor estimated that he threw his sheets in the wash “maybe once a month,” some colleagues mock-vomited in disgust.
After a quick poll around the office revealed that most people wash theirs every week or two, we wanted to find the definitive rule.
Not surprisingly, laundry and hygiene experts suggest you play it safe.
Mary Gagliardi, a researcher for Clorox who goes by the name “Dr. Laundry,” likens your sheets to clothes you wear for eight hours every night. If you think about it in those terms, she says, you should wash at least once a week.
“I don’t think there are too many other pieces of clothing that you’d want to wear 56 hours before you wash them,” Gagliardi says.
But just how dirty can your sheets really get?
Humans shed skin calls at a rate of 500 million per day, according to the American Chemical Society. So if you spend a third of your day sleeping, that means 166 million could end up in your bed every night.
(Related: Does the position you sleep in prove she no longer loves you?)
Now consider the bodily oils, sweat, and dirt that rub onto your sheets as you sleep—and with them, a host of bacteria and other microorganisms. The good news: Most of these bugs aren’t harmful, but they begin to multiply the longer you use your sheets.
If you give bacteria enough time to build up, your washing machine will have a tougher time removing them, says Sally Bloomfield, an honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Some of the other nasty germs you can easily pick up and spread to your sheets—like cold viruses, or fungi like athlete’s foot—can survive for many weeks without a host, says Bloomfield. That’s why she also recommends the wash-once-a-week rule.
Though Bloomfield suggests using 140-degree water, most washing machines don’t usually gauge temperature. So choose the hottest setting available, she says. The warmer the water, the more germs you’ll kill.
And use bleach, which disinfects better than just hot water and detergent. If your sheets are white, stick to chlorine bleach (often labeled as regular). Otherwise, use a solid oxygen bleach to ensure your colors don’t fade.
Video: This is the disgusting reason why you should start washing your sheets more often
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