a woman washing her bed sheets in the washing machine

How to Wash Bed Sheets: The Complete Guide to Keeping Them Brand New

Last Updated: June 15, 2022

Washing your sheets once a week might seem like overkill — until you learn what’s lurking there. After sleeping on the same sheets for three weeks, they have more germs than your dog’s chew toy. Read on for tips to keep your sheets fresh ‘n’ clean.

Are the sheets on your bed right now the same ones from last week — maybe even the week before (and maybe even the week before that, too?) Hey, no shame here. This is a safe space, and besides, you’re not alone.

In a survey of 1000 Americans, the average person reported changing their bed sheets about once every three weeks. If you’re one of the many who don’t know why it’s important to wash your sheets regularly, don’t worry — you’re about to learn everything you need to know about why and how to wash sheets.

How often should you wash your sheets?

Blue calendar illustration

You should wash your sheets at least every two weeks, but once a week is ideal. Certain factors affect this frequency. If you sleep naked, allow your pets in bed with you (who doesn’t?), sweat a lot, or you’re prone to bouts of acne, you might need to change your sheets out more frequently. Showering before bed and wearing pajamas will extend the length of time you can go between washes.

What happens if I don’t wash my sheets regularly?

So many body fluids

The average person’s nocturnal fluid emissions add up to about a liter each night, including sweat, drool, blood from nosebleeds and period leakage, and other bodily fluids we won’t mention here. That’s a lot of body fluids soaking into your sheets.

Bring on the dust mites

In addition to your gross juices gunking up your sheets each night, your body is constantly shedding germs, bacteria, body oils, hair, and dead skin cells — which brings us to dust mites, those microscopic arachnids who feed on those dead skin cells and poop out highly allergenic droppings can trigger a host of issues, including allergies, asthma, and eczema flare-ups.

Bacteria galore

Bacteria colonies form in such large scales on your sheets that after one week of using the same pillowcase, it has over 17 thousand times as much bacteria as your toilet seat. After three weeks of sleeping on the same sheets, they have more germs than your dog’s chew toy.

Can you wash your sheets and blankets together?

Yes — but avoid washing soiled dish towels and underwear with your bedding. Towels and underwear are items that get especially dirty and need to be washed separately in hot water to remove bacteria. Washing sheets and blankets together is fine — just be sure you don’t overload your washer, or your bedding won’t get as clean and may end up damaged.

Avoid common mistakes

Check the care instructions on your sheets before you toss ‘em in the wash. Fabric care labels tell you what fibers your sheets are made of, what water temperature to use, if they’re dryer safe, and whether or not you can use bleach (which you should avoid anyway, even if the sheets allow it). Some fabrics need special care, like silks and linens, and that information will be specified on the label.

Some fabrics are more persnickity than others and require special care. Learn how to handwash your delicate items to keep them beautiful for longer.

What you’ll need to wash your bed sheets

How to wash your bed sheets like a pro

Using the wrong washer settings for your sheets can seriously do a number on them. Here’s a quick-and-not-so-dirty run-down of what temperature, cycle, and settings to use for different types of sheets.

Cotton sheets

Cotton sheets are soft and crisp, easy to care for, and keep you cool at night. Wash your cotton sheets in warm water on a normal cycle with natural detergent. Tumble-dry them on low heat to prevent shrinkage.

Silk and satin sheets

Ah, silk, the pinnacle of luxury! Wash your silk and satin sheets (and any silk or satin items, for that matter) in a silk-only load. Use cold water on a delicate cycle with a detergent specially formulated for silks. Air drying out in the open is preferred, but the air-dry setting on your dryer will do just fine. Silk dries quickly, so check your sheets frequently to avoid undue wear.

Linen sheets

Linen is durable, breathable, and gets softer with age. Wash your linens in warm water on a permanent press setting using your usual detergent. Linen may feel rough if it’s dried on high heat, so set your dryer on a medium setting, and remove your sheets while they’re still a little damp to reduce wrinkles.

Bamboo sheets

Bamboo is a sustainable fiber that’s hypo-allergenic, moisture-absorbing, and softer than cotton and linen. Wash these sheets with regular detergent in cool to warm water on a gentle wash cycle. Tumble-dry bamboo sheets on medium heat.

Worried cold water won’t get your sheets clean? We debunk the myths behind cold water washes for once and all.

How to dry your sheets

Air dry

Air drying is eco-friendly, gentle, and great for all sheet types. The air-dry setting on your dryer is a suitable alternative to line-drying if the weather is too crummy to hang your sheets outside. If you’ve got the space, try hanging your sheets indoors to air dry.

Use the dryer

Nothing really beats crawling into warm sheets fresh from the dryer. Most sheets are durable enough to handle the tumbling and heat from drying machines, but don’t leave them in for longer than necessary — excessive drying can lead to shrinking.

Dryer sheets are great, but have you heard of dryer balls?
Check out our guide to learn all about these eco-friendly laundry helpers.


Use what your mama (earth) gave you

Dry your sheets in the sunshine whenever the weather allows. The UV rays from sunlight kill harmful bacteria and make your sheets extra fresh — and the idyllic image of sheets billowing in the breeze is a reward in and of itself, no?

How long do sheets last?

Bed sheets degrade over time with everyday (everynight?) wear and tear. Most sheets will last about six to eight years, but with proper care, quality bed sheets may last as long as ten to twelve years. Once your sheets start showing visible signs of age — thinning, yellowing, or fading — it’s a good time to shop for a new set.

Looking for more cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered. From timely topics such as our handwashing and hand sanitizer breakdown to evergreen primers like our simple ways to reduce your plastic use at home, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to take on laundry, shop Grove Collaborative's laundry essentials for the tools to tackle the job.

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