5 Ways Your Dirty Bed Sheets Could Harm Your Health

Don’t wait for an odor before tossing them in the wash.

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Nobody likes tugging that fitted sheet off the bed and hauling it to the washing machine (not to mention the folding of said sheets after the wash.). You’ve probably heard you should wash those sheets every week, but a 2017 survey of over a thousand Americans found that less than half actually do that. So what’s the big deal?

Even if you can’t see grime or stains, the short answer is this: Yes, your sheets are pretty nasty. All those dead skin cells, oils, germs, and bodily fluids collect on your sheets and pillowcases, and bacteria multiplies fast. Besides making for a less-than-appealing sleep spot, dirty bed sheets can affect your everyday health. Here are five ways your anti-laundry stance could make you sick or affect your skin.

  • Acne on the face and back: All that bacteria can clog pores and lead to breakouts. If you regularly use recommended skin care practices but still see acne flare ups, your dirty bed sheets (particularly pillowcases) could be to blame.

  • Allergies: Many common allergens hang out in bed sheets, especially dust mites and pet dander. The average person sheds about 1.5 grams of dead skin a day, and that’s enough to feed a million dust mites, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Charming stuff, right? (Find more tips for reducing allergy triggers at home here.)

  • Eczema: Allergens and irritants can trigger dry, itchy skin for people with eczema. When you do wash your sheets, make sure to follow these laundry rules for eczema to avoid rubbing your skin the wrong way.

  • Asthma: Like eczema, asthma can be triggered by allergies to dust mites and pet dander. Dirty bed linens could cause difficulty breathing throughout the day, as well as trouble sleeping due to labored breathing and coughing. Who knew dust could cause so many problems? (Learn more common asthma triggers here.)

  • Cold and flu (and other infections): The CDC recommends not sharing items used by sick loved ones, including their towels and bedding. After the sniffles have passed, bed sheets and other laundry should take a spin in the laundry machine to avoid spreading cold and flu germs to the rest of the household. FYI, this is especially important if you share a bed with a partner or your kiddos.

Yes, laundering your bedding is a major pain, but the benefits are worth it. If nothing else, you’ll get to treat yourself by crawling into a fresh, spotless bed at the end of the day. While you’re at it, try this laundry-day workout to sneak in some fitness.