Now more than ever, we’re aware of just how important it is to keep our home environments clean, hygienic and healthy. The best place to start? The bedroom.
For many of us, our bedroom is the most important place in our home – it’s a sanctuary, a space to relax, and the place where we begin and end each day. It’s also the place we go to rest and recover when we’re sick or tired out.
Considering the average person spends around one-third of their life in bed, it’s essential to make sure it’s a pleasant and healthy place to be. That means keeping your bed and bedding free of dirt, grime and germs.
Here are some of the best ways to create (and keep) a clean, healthy sleep environment in your home, with smart bedding choices and good cleaning habits.
Choosing the Right Bedding
Good hygiene doesn’t start with the washing machine; it actually starts way before that, with the type of bedding you choose to use in your home.
Not all bed sheets are created equal! Some fabrics are more likely to absorb sweat and gather dust, leading to unhygienic sleeping conditions. The best products out there are those designed with better cleanliness and comfort in mind.
Choose bedding and sheets made from materials that provide antibacterial and anti-fungal benefits, as well as good airflow. Antibacterial bedding that’s well-ventilated will give you more effective, longer-lasting protection against germs, plus it’s beneficial for those with allergies.
How Often Should You Wash your Bedding?
Washing your bedding is one of those household chores that can feel like a real hassle, and it’s not surprising that many of us tend to put it off a little longer, especially when our sheets “don’t look dirty”. But just because you can’t see the nasties, doesn’t mean they’re not there – and chances are you’re not cleaning your bedding quite as often as you should be.
Experts say that ideally you should be washing all your bed sheets – that’s your duvet cover, pillow cases and mattress cover – once a week. This might sound like a lot, but it’s necessary considering just how fast bacteria can grow and multiply in unwashed sheets.
A recent US-based study found that after just one week, sheets and pillow cases will contain between 3 and 5 million CFUs (colony-forming units) per square inch! That’s a lot of germs building up in a short period of time. The bacterial build-up in your bed is largely due to sweat, oil and skin cells (which attract dust mites) transferred from your body onto your sheets as you sleep.
The study showed slightly lower bacterial distribution on pillow cases than on bed sheets, but not by much. We do tend to wash our faces more often than our bodies, but products like moisturisers and makeup also build up quickly on pillow cases and encourage the growth of germs, right where we lay our heads at night. In fact, you might find that changing your pillow cases a little more often than once a week helps to control oily skin and breakouts.
If you’re prone to allergies or asthma, it’s also best to change your sheets more than once a week, to keep dust and dust mites to a minimum.
Top Tips for the Freshest Bed Sheets
The fabric care label on your bedding will give you specific instructions, but here are some general guidelines to make sure you get the best results with every wash.
- Keep the load light and don’t cram too many sheets into the washer together – these items need plenty of space to get properly clean.
- Wash your sheets separately from clothing and other items, which will tend to get tangled or balled up in them.
- Washing is important, but over-washing makes your fabrics wear out faster. Choose the right wash cycle for the soil level of the sheets. A gentle to normal cycle might be enough, unless you have stains and heavy soiling to deal with, in which case you’ll need a heavy duty wash.
- Darker coloured bedding typically does well with a cool water wash to keep it from fading. However, it’s recommended that you sanitise your sheets by washing them on a warm/ hot cycle, especially during cold and flu season. The hot water will be more effective at killing germs, and will also help to reduce allergens. White and light coloured sheets can usually be washed at any temperature.
- You can improve the effectiveness of your wash by pre-treating and spot-cleaning stains before your bedding goes in the machine.
- Always make sure your sheets are completely dry before putting them back on your bed. Drying them on the line is more eco-friendly and gives them a lovely fresh scent, plus the exposure to sunlight helps to kill off microorganisms.
- Depending on the weather conditions, you may need to pop your sheets in the dryer instead. Add a few woollen or rubber dryer balls to the machine to help the sheets dry evenly and come out fluffy and soft. (If you don’t have dryer balls, you can use tennis balls tied inside clean cotton socks.)
- After drying, run a hot iron over your pillow cases (and your sheets if you have the time), to get rid of any remaining bacteria.
You should replace your sheets once they start getting threadbare, discoloured and worn out (usually once every 2 to 3 years).
Pillows and Duvets: The Inside Story
We’ve talked about sheets and pillow cases, but what about the actual pillows and duvet inners?
Your pillows and duvet do get some protection from your sheets and pillowcases, so they don’t need cleaning as often. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe to neglect them. Dirt and oil particles build up over the weeks, causing discolouration and allowing bacteria to multiply. To prevent this, you should make time to wash your pillows every 3 months.
Most pillows are easily machine washable, but be sure to check the fabric care label first. Down feather pillows generally require dry cleaning, and memory foam pillows may need to be washed by hand.
Here’s how to get those pillows clean, fresh and fluffy:
- Before you wash, squeeze out as much excess air as you can from your pillows. This makes it easier to fit them in your washer.
- Wash on a gentle setting, using your usual detergent.
- Run the rinse cycle twice to get rid of any remaining detergent.
- Put clean pillows in the dryer on a no heat/ low heat cycle. Add dryer balls to help fluff them up as they dry.
- Check the pillows for any dampness, and run through the dryer again if necessary.
- Leave the pillows in a well-ventilated environment to make sure they have aired out and dried completely.
Try to wash your duvet every 3 months, or at the very least every 6 months. As with pillows, follow the care label guidelines, run an extra rinse cycle, and make sure the duvet is 100% dry before it goes back on your bed.
Note that larger duvets may not fit in your machine at home, so you might find it easier to get all your pillows and duvet inners washed at a local Laundromat every few months. This will save you the time and effort of doing it yourself, and give you professional results.
Depending on the quality of your pillows, you should replace them every 1 to 2 years. Your duvet should last you quite a bit longer – 5 to 10 years depending on the product quality and how well you look after it.
Over time your mattress will also accumulate moisture and dirt, making it musty and unhygienic. It’s recommended that you vacuum your mattress regularly, and do a proper deep clean at least every 6 months.
Here are some tips for effectively banishing germs, dirt and bad odours from your mattress:
- If you can, place your mattress out in the sun for a few hours on a warm, dry day. The UV rays help to kill off dust mites and bacteria, and the fresh air will deodorise it nicely. Just make sure you put the mattress in a completely dry area, and don’t leave it out overnight, when it will be exposed to dampness.
- Vacuum your mattress regularly, using the upholstery attachment. Start from the top of the mattress and work your way down. Repeat on both sides.
- Mattress stains can be spot-treated with baking soda, white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.
- Sprinkle a box of baking soda over your mattress, and use a clean scrubbing brush to rub it in evenly. (You can add a few drops of a natural essential oil for a fresh, clean scent.) Leave the baking soda on the mattress for at least an hour, then vacuum off the excess. Repeat on both sides.
- Flip or rotate your mattress every 3 months, to prevent sagging and excess wear.
With regular cleaning and good care, a quality mattress can last as long as 7 to 10 years before it needs to be replaced.
Beyond Bedding: Tips for a Better Bedroom
We’ve covered all the basic advice for keeping your bedding clean – and you really can’t beat the feeling of sinking into a set of crisp, clean sheets at the end of the day. But what about the rest of your bedroom? Good hygiene means caring properly for other parts of your bed and the environment it’s in.
- When cleaning, dust your bedroom before you strip your bed. This means any dust and debris you stir up will go into the wash with your bedding, instead of ending up in your mattress or pillows.
- Open your bedroom windows regularly, to let stuffy air out and invite fresh air in.
- Keep clutter in your bedroom to a minimum.
- Remove your shoes before entering your bedroom, so you don’t track in unwanted dirt or outside contaminants.
- Wipe down your bedframe and headboard once a week to remove dust and dirt.
- If you have an upholstered headboard, vacuum it using the upholstery attachment, and spot-clean stains or watermarks using a mild soap. (The type of detergent you use will depend on whether your headboard is made from leather, suede, polyester or another material. Check the care instructions beforehand.)
- Wipe away any condensation that collects on your bedroom windows, and treat any damp or mould in the room immediately. Investing in a dehumidifier can help to control unwanted moisture.
- Clean and vacuum your bedroom floors regularly. If the floors are carpeted, have them professionally steam cleaned at least once every 12 months.
- If you’re pressed for time and can’t clean your whole bedroom every week, focus on cleaning “high-touch” surfaces (door handles, bedside tables, light switches). You can leave a little more time between the bigger tasks like vacuuming and dusting.
- We know you love your furry friends, but keep their contact with your bedding to a minimum. Pets should be encouraged to sleep in their own designated bedding, rather than in the bed with you. This will prevent the accumulation of pet dander, dirt and unpleasant bugs like fleas.
- Making your bed in the mornings keeps things neat and sets the right tone for your day ahead – but it also keeps body heat and moisture trapped under the sheets. To keep your bed nice and fresh, throw back your bed covers for 20 minutes in the mornings while you’re busy getting dressed. This will air out the sheets and mattress, and allow moisture to evaporate.
- Breakfast in bed is a fun treat for special occasions, but don’t make a habit of drinking or eating in your bed. This is way more likely to lead to a build-up of crumbs, dirt, spills and stains.
- If a member of your household gets sick, be sure to wash their bedding and towels separately from the rest, to avoid the spread of infection.
- Before bed, take a quick shower and wash your face to clean away dirt and grime your skin may have been exposed to during the day. Remove all makeup and avoid putting on greasy lotions or oils before bedtime.
- Wear clean, fresh pyjamas to bed and wash them regularly.
Taking good care of your sleep environment will help you to enjoy a better night’s rest with clean, comfortable bedding.