Ew! What Really Happens When You Forget to Change Your Sheets

woman changing bed sheets

I have a confession to make. I'm really, really lazy about changing my and my kids' bed sheets. While I'm not exactly proud of my lax approach to clean sheets, I didn't really think of it as a health concern until I read a recent report that found that unwashed sheets can have more bacteria than a toilet. Can I get a big "ewww" on that?


I wasn't always so bad about changing bed sheets. When I was growing up, my mother had a strict rule that sheets were always changed once a week, no exceptions. In theory, I always meant to have the same rule, but then my kids got potty trained and we stopped having nighttime accidents. Now the sheets stay dry and my son sleeps in a loft bed that makes changing the sheets a feat that requires both acrobatic and cardio stamina. And that weekly change rule has been replaced by a "did someone barf? Yep? Time to change 'em" philosophy. 

I'm not proud of this.

But I didn't really think of this as gross as much as lazy until I read the findings of the recent "Bacteria in Your Bed" study from Amerisleep that found that sheets, especially pillowcases, are total germ factories. According to their researchers, after one week of use, the average pillowcase has 17,442 times MORE bacteria per square inch than a toilet seat. After four weeks of use, your pillowcase has 39 times more bacteria than your pet's food bowl. 

Yeah, I'm so not okay with putting my face on something dirtier than a dog dish. 

More from CafeMom: 12 Moms Confess Their Craziest Cleaning Shortcuts

And if you're wondering what kind of bacteria are hanging out on your nice soft pillow, the answer is a little scary. Based on swabs taken by study volunteers, 41 percent of the bacteria found are a kind known as gram-negative rods. According to the Center for Disease Control, gram-negative rods can be antibiotic resistant and cause a variety of infections.

Be right back -- going to start a load of sheets RIGHT NOW.

The bottom line seems to be that my mom was right. To prevent really nasty buildup of bacteria, sheets should be washed at least once a week. You should wash MORE often than that if you regularly fall asleep with makeup on or after working up a sweat. And if your kid is fighting a cold or the flu? Change those sheets ASAP to prevent reinfection. 

Sounds like it's time for me to teach a certain 8-year-old in my house how to strip and make his own bed!


Image via iStock.com/diego_cervo

Read More >