woman folds clean towels

How often should I wash my linens?

Not washing your sheets, towels, blankets and pillows frequently enough could result in avoidable health issues
April 22, 2021

There’s something about fresh blooms and sunny days that urge many of us to spring clean. After you’ve organized all the closets, cleaned out the cabinets and scrubbed every nook and cranny, a refreshing shower and cat nap on the couch never felt so good. But when you do finally reach for your towel or snuggle into your blanket, do they smell as fresh as the rest of your house?

Keeping your linens clean is key for not only pleasant post-shower experiences—it also helps repel certain health issues.

“There could be a variety of health issues that arise if you don’t wash your linens often enough, but the greatest impact could be to your skin as well as allergies,” said Matt Hoffman, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M University College of Nursing. “In addition to dust and dirt, a variety of other microscopic particles and allergens can be found on our skin and clothes, all of which can then transfer to our home surfaces and linens. Over time, the buildup of these items in repeated contact with our skin can result in clogged pores, acne or even fungal rashes.”

Similarly, if you already have established allergies, not washing your linens enough will cause dust and other potential allergens to build up and cause or worsen allergy symptoms, such as a runny or congested nose.

To avoid these unpleasant ailments, we spoke with Hoffman to get some advice for keeping linens fresh and healthy. Here are his answers to our questions:

Should I use special detergent?

For the most part, detergent selection is largely preferential. However, I do recommend products that are 100 percent fragrance-free and dye-free for individuals or families with allergies or sensitive skin. Otherwise, if allergies and sensitive skin are not a concern, the choice of detergent can be based on a fragrance preference or the specifications of the items or fabrics being washed, as well as individual washing machines.

Is hot, warm or cold water best for washing linens?

When considering the right temperature to use when washing, it’s always important to wash items in accordance with the instructions on the label so as to not damage the fabric. In most cases, the use of detergent along with the extended water agitation during the washing cycle can be enough to effectively get rid of contaminants without having to resort to temperature extremes.

However, there may be times when hot temperatures are required. For example, if an individual or household is exposed to bed bugs or scabies, part of the eradication process requires clothes and bedding to be washed and then dried on high heat. This is just one part of the treatment process, so if you ever suspect some type of insect infestation, be sure to speak with your health care provider.

How often should I wash my linens?

Timeframes for when to wash linens vary depending on the frequency of use and the degree to which the items are soiled. In short, if you use it a lot, it will likely need to be washed more frequently. For example, items like bed sheets and pillows used on a daily basis should be cleaned at a minimum of once a week, or sooner if they become visibly soiled. Items such as bath towels or dish rags will have a greater chance at becoming extremely soiled, so they should be washed more frequently. When it comes to more decorative or delicate items like throw blankets or throw pillows, the same rules apply; however, if the throw blankets or pillows are made with a delicate fabric, machine washing may not be recommended, but would instead require hand washing.

What if someone in my home is sick. Should I wash linens more frequently?

In cases of sick or ill individuals at home, the handling of those items is as critical as the frequency of washing. Regardless of whether the sickness is the result of a bacteria or virus, at-home linen practices should be focused on limiting spread of contaminants to oneself and other clean areas.

Ideally, it’s best to wear disposable gloves when handling a sick person’s clothing items and assorted linens. If gloves are not readily available, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds, preferably with an antibacterial hand soap, after handling the linens.

Does laundry sanitizer do a better job killing germs than detergent alone?

Laundry sanitizer is a great investment for periodic use because it’s able to more effectively kill bacteria and viruses, without having to resort to a hot water temperature. One of the added bonuses of these products is that they will also have instruction options that allow for sanitizing or disinfecting as needed.

— Lindsey Hendrix

You may also like
Asian senior or elderly old lady woman patient use toilet
Protecting against falls in the bedroom, bathroom
man holds a bottle of sunscreen lotion
Ask a pharmacist: How to choose and use sunscreen
nursing student holds up a vaccination record card
College of Nursing collaborates on federally funded COVID-19 vaccine education efforts in rural communities
SUV parked on highway roadside
Study finds relationship between stranded motorist injuries, deaths and risk factors