The recent ruckus over a woman admitting she doesn't wash her PJs makes you think: What about other daily-use home linens and clothes? We get it — pajamas should be washed after 2-3 wears. But should we also be changing our sheets and towels more often? Cheryl Nelson, a lifestyle and preparedness expert, laundry connoisseur, and founder of PrepareWithCher.com, has some eye-opening information to share about just how frequently you *should* be washing the fabrics that touch your body every day.
Everyone's laundry and linen-changing schedules vary. After all, if you don't have access to a washer and dryer (or you load it wrong), you may not even think about trying to rotate your towels several times a week. After all, as Nick Miller from New Girl would say: "No, I don't wash the towel; the towel washes me." If you can't go to the laundromat every week, you probably don't want dirty linens piled up until you do. Or if you're just a super busy parent who doesn't allow "street clothes" into bed, you might also think it's sanitary to stretch changing sheets or towels until they visibly need washing.
According to Nelson, though, some things need to be washed more often. And if it touches your skin, you're probably not washing it enough.
How often should you change your towels?
How often you change your towels is the most dependent on your laundry situation and how often you shower in general. If you don't have laundry facilities in or near your home, you might only change your towels on laundry day or once before. To a certain extent, that makes sense. After all, having a heap of damp towels lying around isn't sanitary. Nor will it smell very good. However, Nelson cautions that towels should actually be changed very regularly.
"Towels should be changed at least every three days," says Nelson. "Please allow towels to completely dry after each use before reusing. Towels quickly accumulate dead skin cells and moisture from your shower and become a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and yeast."
Can't get to laundry every week? Nelson warns you to ensure your towels are completely dry before adding them to the hamper. This will help hinder bacterial growth, and you should be able to avoid any mustiness until laundry day. Of course, some towels require even more frequent changing and laundering.
"If you are using towels at the gym, where you may become particularly sweaty, please wash them after each use," Nelson urges, adding, "Hand towels and washcloths should be washed every one to three days. Hand towels get used a lot and are often reused before they have a chance to dry out. Bacteria can grow quickly because of this, so don't let your hand towels sit out too long."
Uhhh, raise your hand if you leave your hand towel hanging by the sink for weeks at a time. Whoops.
How often should you change your sheets?
Sheets are often left on the bed for much longer than sanitary in almost every home. But if you really think about what you do in bed and how sweaty you might be at night, you'll realize that changing them sooner is for the best.
"A good rule of thumb is to change sheets once a week," says Nelson. "Pillowcases, however, may need to be changed more often, depending on if there are drool or make-up stains. If sheets or pillowcases become soiled, please change them immediately."
Pillowcases may seem like the least disgusting part of your sheet set. After all, you wash your face before bed each night, and a little drool never hurt anyone. Nelson disagrees, though. She seriously wants you to change those pillowcases.
"Be mindful of your pillowcase," she warns. "If you drool while you sleep, you'll need to change your pillowcase more often. Bacteria can build up on pillowcases and lead to acne and other skin issues."
Are there exceptions to these rules?
Yes, naturally! But... not how you think. The following situations require you to change and wash your sheets and towels more frequently:
- Your period
Again, if you've soiled a sheet or a towel, don't wait until the "right day" in your laundry cycle to change those linens — replace them immediately.
Is there a best way to wash sheets and linens?
With all home and personal care procedures, there are always "best practices." A mama's gotta do what a mama's gotta do. Keeping like items together and following the care instructions on a linen's tag will go a long way in keeping your things clean, safe, and in good condition.
"Wash towels with other towels and wash sheets with other sheets," says Nelson. "Always follow the instructions on the garment, sheet, and towel labels. Wash using the item's recommended water temperature, wash cycle, and dryer temperature (if permitted to put in the dryer)."
What about those PJs you've been wearing for nights on end? "Silk PJs are delicate and should be hand-washed. Flannel PJs should be washed inside-out," explains Nelson.
"Hot water will kill the most germs, so if your item allows hot water, don't skimp on that," she elaborates, adding, "My favorite laundry detergent to use for towels, sheets, and PJs is Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean Odor Blasters. This detergent has built-in ingredients to ensure your garments, sheets, and towels are not only clean but also odor-free."
How often should you replace your sheets and towels?
Linens are expensive, so the idea of completely replacing them and buying new ones is overwhelming for many. It also seems wasteful. Still, this is one of those things you'll have to file under "necessary evils." As for when it's best to replace your sheets, luxury linen retailer Parachute offers some interesting insight.
"If you use a sheet set every day of the year, you'll need to replace it after about two years," Parachute says on their site. "However, luxury cotton sheets, like percale and sateen, can offer another year or so of use. And with linen, you'll get three to five years — sometimes more. If you switch your sheets out every other week or use an insulating set in the winter and cooling bedding in the summer, you can expect the fabric to last twice as long."
Towels? They have similar recommendations: every two years. Remember that you can always reuse old towels for household chores; it's just best to keep 'em off your body once they start to wear out. Signs your towels are wearing out include:
- It takes several passes to get your body dry.
- They begin to stink after just one use.
- There are holes or frayed edges.
The moral of the story: Treat your linens like your favorite clothes, and they'll last as long as that coveted concert tee. But for your skin's sake, make sure you care for and replace them regularly.