From your towels to mattress and sheets – how often you must clean key items or risk getting sick

HOUSEWORK isn’t high on most people’s list of “fun” activities.

However, mundane chores like changing bedding and clearing out the fridge are required.

Dirty towels and sheets can expose you to germs and bacteria


Dirty towels and sheets can expose you to germs and bacteriaPhoto credit: Getty

Not only does it keep them clean, it can also protect our health by helping to avoid the likelihood of bacteria and other germs building up and potentially making us sick.

But are you keeping an eye on your household hygiene? Do you really wash your towels enough? Is your mattress getting as clean as it needs to be?

These experts reveal how often you should change your linens, clean out your kitchen and wash certain household items to minimize your risk of illness and allergies…


A hotly debated topic: How often do you really need to change your sheets?

Thomas Høegh Reisenhus, sleep specialist at TEMPUR, says the average adult loses 285ml of fluid each night and sheds 454g of dead skin over the course of a year.

He says: “Think of dead skin cells, body oils, sweat and general dirt all of which build up in your pillows, duvets and mattresses, as well as in your sheets.

“Unclean bedding can also be a breeding ground for dust mites, which can cause rashes and irritation and potentially worsen allergy symptoms.

“And while dust mites are found in most homes, it’s definitely recommended that you clean your linens regularly to keep them at bay.”

Pillowcases = weekly or more

If you lie in bed seven to eight hours a night, that means your head and face are resting on your pillowcase for more than 50 hours a week!

“This causes sweat and general dirt from the natural oils and cleansers that come off our bodies and faces to collect on your pillowcase, which can stain linens or worsen skin conditions,” says Georgia Metcalfe, founder of the luxury bedroom specialist French bedroom.

She adds that those who go to bed with makeup on or have greasy hair should clean their pillowcases more frequently, as this can make them dirtier and, in some cases, lead to breakouts.

She said, “Especially in winter, we tend to wear heavier moisturizers that can soak into laundry and stain.”

Linens = weekly (if you don’t use a top sheet)

Georgia recommends washing your duvet cover once a week to get rid of dust mites.

“Because the cover sits on top of the bed, dust and dirt build up from everyday use.”

Plus, she adds, during the colder months we often cling to our blankets to stay warm, which can result in more bacteria, dirt, and grime being transferred from our bodies to the blanket.

“Using a top sheet allows the duvet cover to last longer without cleaning,” adds Georgia.

She also warns that not washing your bedding can lead to poorer sleep quality due to allergens.

Linen = once a week. More common if you have pets.

“Your bedding should be washed once a week, although if you allow pets in your bed you’ll also have to contend with animal fur, dander and any dirt they bring with them, so it’s recommended that you do a fresh one every three to four days changing bedding,” says Thomas.

For bed sheets, Thomas recommends using the warmest wash setting indicated on the product label – cotton can be cleaned with a hot wash (60 degrees), while some other materials such as polyester can only be washed in warm water.

“If you have sensitive skin, be sure to use non-organic detergents, which are less likely to irritate your skin.

“Alternatively, consider rinsing the sheets twice to remove detergent residue. Tumble dry low or hang your sheets to dry,” he adds.

Duvets = every three to six months

“To reduce the build-up of bacteria and potential allergens, comforters should be washed every three to six months,” says Thomas.

“Synthetic duvets should be washed in a large washing machine according to the care label instructions.

“Feather and down-filled comforters need to be dry cleaned, so it can be worth keeping a clean spare so you don’t have the stress of taking the dirty comforter to the dry cleaners and picking it up the same day,” he adds.

Pillow = every four to six months

Although pillows should be washed every four to six months, according to care label instructions, Thomas says bacteria will still build up, so it’s important to replace your pillow every three years.

Mattress = every six months

“In addition to bodily fluids and dead skin cells, on average, a mattress is home to between 100,000 and 10 million dust mites — microscopic creatures that can cause rashes and irritation and potentially worsen allergy symptoms.

“That’s why it’s important to clean your mattress every six months,” warns Thomas.

Do you suffer severely from asthma or allergies? Clean your mattress once a month instead.

“Traditional innerspring mattresses can be cleaned by stripping the bed, vacuuming the surface of the mattress to remove dust and dead skin before removing any spills or stains with a stain remover.

“Then just air your mattress for a few hours so the fabric can breathe,” says Thomas.

Georgia adds that after vacuuming, baking soda can be applied to the mattress, left for a few hours, and then vacuumed again.

Memory foam mattresses can be spot cleaned with a damp (not wet) cloth or sponge, but it’s best to read the label for specific care instructions.

Mattress topper = every three months

“Although mattress pads don’t come in direct contact with your skin, they still need to be cleaned regularly to prevent the build-up of dead skin cells, body oils and sweat,” says Thomas.

“You should wash your topper once every three months according to the changing seasons to ensure it stays clean and fresh while continuing to protect your mattress effectively.”


Cleaning of the kitchen = daily

“The kitchen is arguably the most important room in our home to clean,” says Instagram cleaning specialist Laura Mountford.

“Kitchens are breeding grounds for bacteria and as they are also food prep areas it is important to keep an eye on cleaning to avoid spreading germs or contaminating food.” Ideally, make a habit of cleaning kitchen surfaces daily wipe, especially if you have cooked with raw meat or poultry.

“I also clean my kitchen sink daily as this is probably one of the most common areas of the house for bacteria to grow.

“All you need is dish soap, hot water and a sponge to keep it clean and germs at bay.”

Wipe out the fridge = once a week. Clean thoroughly every three months

We must keep the refrigerator clean so that the food stored in it does not get contaminated.

“Try to clean up expired food on a weekly basis, then quickly wipe up any visible spills with an antibacterial detergent and a clean cloth.

“The best time to do this is before you go to the store to shop,” says Laura.

“Every three months I give my fridge a deep clean, taking everything out of the fridge, washing all the shelves with soapy water and wiping down all the surfaces inside.

“A dirty fridge can allow mold and harmful bacteria like salmonella and E.coli to multiply, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.”

Laura recommends using refrigerator containers for fresh fruit, vegetables, salad and dairy products as these can be easily rinsed out one at a time.

“Also, instead of having to clean the shelf every time there’s a spill, I put a folded paper towel under the milk bottle,” adds Laura.

Tea towels = every few days

“Tea towels are used for many purposes, drying dishes and wiping hands, getting something out of the oven and clearing out messes.

“This makes them a breeding ground for germs and bacteria,” says Emily Barron, cleaning expert at Rezigo. Wash them at least once a week, but ideally every few days.

“Keeping several clean tea towels in your kitchen means you’ll always have one on hand when you need it.”

Cover = every three months

Emily says, “Whether you keep throws or rugs on your couch or bed, if they are used regularly, they should be cleaned every three months on a cold cycle with a gentle detergent.”

She recommends putting your blankets in the dryer for 10 to 15 minutes between washes to get rid of any bugs that might nest in your blankets.

Pillowcases = every two months

“Couch covers and pillowcases should be washed on a cold gentle cycle every two months, or every month if you have a busy household with small children or pets,” says Emily.

“Make sure you secure your pillowcases with zippers or buttons before washing to ensure they don’t get damaged or tangled in the washing machine.”

Towels and washcloths = every three uses

Emily explains that there always “seems to be a debate about how many times to use a towel before washing it.”

“The optimal time to wash your towels and washcloths is every three uses.

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“If you shower daily, that means you should wash your towels twice a week.

“Dry your towels completely after washing to prevent mold or bacteria from building up.” From your towels to mattress and sheets – how often you must clean key items or risk getting sick

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