How often do you wash your sheets?

My wife loves sleeping between clean sheets. Me? Not so much.

Clean sheets are crisp, like a new shirt. I hate wearing new shirts and will always wash them three or four times before I wear them.

By extension, I like sheets that are soft and snuggly and, for me, that comes only after sheets have been on our bed for a week or two. And if it’s any longer, I won’t complain.

This was until recently.

My wife and I were discussing my lack of distinction when it came to cleaning the house, and so she showed me a photo. It was a bed bug, and it’s a most unsavoury little thing.

Did you know that they are crawling over your body at night, sucking your blood?

Bedbugs aren’t attracted to dirty sheets or repelled by clean ones. They seek out places that are warm and often these are our beds. Now, I know bed bugs are not all that common in Australia, but she was making a point. And they are, according to news reports, becoming increasingly common here.

I didn’t complain when she next suggested it was time to wash our bedding.

Some time later, when my paranoia had worn off and the sheets were just getting snuggly again, she showed me a photo of a dust mite. These little things are different to bed bugs. They don’t live off our blood, but instead dine on the millions and millions of skin flakes we shed daily, especially in bed.

My paranoia returned.

As I stripped the bed, she advised me: “Make sure you wash them in water as hot as the label says.”

I did.

“And when you finish, you could iron the sheets.”

I didn’t.

Ironing sheets is, for me, as futile as ironing jocks, handkerchiefs and T-shirts, and if you ever see me doing it you’ve got my permission to have me committed.

“Do you know you could have up to 10 million dust mites in your bed now?” she asked.

“Do you know that once you’ve had a pillow for two years, up to 10 per cent of its weight could be comprised of dead dust mites and their faecal matter?”

“You need to lighten your night time reading,” I replied. “Besides, dryers aren’t environmentally friendly.

“Hang them out,” she said. “Dust mites don’t like sunlight.”

She had an answer for everything

My only comeback was to cite a recent survey out of the US that said most people go about 25 days between washing bed linen.

I conducted my own family survey and 25 days was about normal, although all the females in my family said they wished they had the energy to insist on it more often.

I also have a sibling who admits to letting the family dog sleep on her bed at night. This goes beyond dust mites and bed bugs and introduces ringworm, a fungal infection that looks bad, is often itchy and is extremely contagious.

So, with dust mites, bed bugs, ringworm, pets and people, beds can get rather crowded. It doesn’t stop there.

Did you know that laboratory tests have found that a pillowcase unwashed for a week can hold 17,000 times more colonies of bacteria than a toilet seat?

Dirty pillowcases can carry flu germs and assorted substances that feed acne.

It was becoming clear that arguments supporting clean bedding vastly outweighed my penchant for dirty sheets, but I did have one minor victory.

Research suggested that it was not a good idea to make the bed every morning, so that it looked clean and tidy during the day when the only thing likely to see it was the family cat looking for somewhere to sleep.

No, you’re better off throwing everything off the bed and letting sheets and blankets get some air and dry out from a night of you sweating.

To be honest, this was the only supporting research I could find for myself.

My wife even reminded me of the vacuum cleaner salesman who gave us a demonstration years ago by vacuuming our mattress and then showing us how much gunk he’d sucked up. It was so staggering I dismissed it immediately as some marketing trick. 

But it isn’t. We share our bed with unmentionable things, wives aside, and I for one am changing my ways.

Do you have a penchant for clean sheets? Or for more ‘lived-in’ sheets? Did you know you were sharing your bed with so many critters?

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Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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