is it bad not to wash your bed sheets?
Sleep Safety

What Happens If You Don’t Wash Bed Sheets for Months or A Year?

Last Updated on February 11, 2024 by Louise Carter

People spend an average of 49-60 hours a week in bed, inevitably getting their bed sheets dirty.

You may feel that your bed sheets are clean enough or only wash them once a month when they smell. This may seem harmless enough, but it can have severe health implications. 

Unwashed bed sheets smell and cause skin conditions like acne, rashes, eczema, and infected wounds. Dirty bed sheets contain dirt, body oils, sweat, dead skin cells, skin care products, and dust mites.

The implications of not washing bed sheets for 1 year will affect you, even if you have good hygiene. You should wash your sheets every 7-10 days or more often if you have an active lifestyle/job.

Is it Bad Not To Wash Your Bed Sheets?

Failing to wash bed sheets for a couple of weeks is unlikely to be an issue, but leaving the same dirty sheets on your bed for months is a different matter.

Unclean bed sheets can lead to skin conditions, infections, poor hygiene, and infestations. Also, many substances build up in the fibers when you don’t wash bed sheets, including the following:

  • Dirt.
  • Body oils.
  • Sweat.
  • Dead skin cells.
  • Skincare products.
  • Dust mites.

According to Sleep Health, the average person with a healthy sleep schedule spends 49-60 or more hours in bed every week. This means that we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping.

We shed thousands of skin cells daily, not to mention the oils, sweat, and dirt our bodies can bring to bed. It’s easy to understand how quickly unwashed sheets can become unhygienic.

how long can you go without washing bed sheets?

Will Unwashed Bed Sheets Hurt My Skin?

If you sleep in a dirty bed night after night, you risk developing skin issues like acne.

No matter how well you clean your skin and hair, you won’t stay clean if you get into a dirty bed. Over time, this will impact your health and can escalate to rashes and eczema.

Even minor cuts and gashes can become infected. According to PLOS Medicine, sanitation is of fundamental importance for maintaining good health.

How Long Can You Go Without Washing Bed Sheets?

According to The Neurodiagnostic Journal, quality sleep is fundamental to maintaining good health. What if you don’t wash your bed sheets for years?

If you’re a clean person who showers daily and has a sedentary or indoor lifestyle, your bed sheets will stay clean longer.

This is in contrast to someone who works outdoors and showers less often. Also, if you have pets and let them sleep in your bed, you must clean your sheets more frequently.

Here are some rules to follow:

  • Never go no more than 7-10 days without washing your bed sheets.
  • If you don’t sleep in your bed each night, you might be able to wash your sheets once every two weeks without them becoming overly dirty.
  • If you have pets, wait no longer than 1 week. Washing your sheets every 4 days would be better, especially if they go outside often.

Aside from bedding, wash the following:

  • Wash your pillowcases at least once a week.
  • Clean your duvet covers a minimum of once every 2-4 weeks.
  • To ensure optimal cleanliness, clean your comforters and blankets once every 2-3 months.
  • While many mattresses and pillows aren’t washable, steam cleaning them once every 4-6 months is an excellent way to maintain hygiene and eliminate dust mites.

According to Allergy, dust mites are a serious risk factor for asthmatics.

What Happens if You Haven’t Washed Bed Sheets in a Year?

Perhaps you haven’t washed your bed sheets for an entire year.

Well, your bed will smell terrible, impacting your smell even if you shower regularly. The odor would also affect the rest of your house, making it unpleasant for you and anyone who visits.

This smell would be due to your natural body oils and sweat seeping into the sheets when you sleep, especially if the room is warm.

Any skincare, haircare, and makeup products will transfer to your sheets and pillowcases.

In addition, the average human loses nearly 5000 skin cells daily, and up to one-third of those will end up on your bed sheets.

As sweat, oils, skin, and body products build up in your bed, your sheets will begin to absorb other bodily fluids.

Saliva, nasal mucus, arousal fluids, and even fecal residue can be found in sheets that have been unwashed for a significant amount of time.

The presence of allergens presents a risk to people with respiratory conditions. Likewise, significant bacterial presence can cause infections in open wounds, even if small.

not washing sheets for months

Can You Get Bed Bugs from Not Washing Your Sheets?

Failing to wash your sheets won’t cause your home to become infested with bed bugs. Whether your home is clean or dirty is of little interest to these parasitic insects.

Bed bugs are drawn to the blood of a human host, not dirt, so they thrive wherever they have easy access to blood.

Bed bugs are most likely to be brought to your home by:

  • Animals.
  • Boxes.
  • Luggage.
  • Clothing.
  • Visitors.

Cleaning infested items may eliminate bed bugs, especially at high temperatures. According to Virginia Tech, bed bugs can’t usually survive in temperatures exceeding 114-155 degrees Fahrenheit.

Can You Get Lice From Not Washing Your Sheets?

There’s no evidence that dirty sheets can cause you to have body lice or head lice. However, dirty sheets allow body lice to live in your home.

Head lice can only live for prolonged periods on the human body. If hair lice or their eggs get onto your bed sheets, they’ll get into your hair. However, they can’t live on your sheets indefinitely.

As with bed bugs, body lice must be brought into the home. Once they’ve found their way onto your clothes or sheets, body lice can live and multiply.

The best way to safely remove body lice from sheets, clothes, or soft furnishings is to clean them thoroughly, preferably at temperatures above 114 degrees Fahrenheit.

Interestingly, it’s common for bed sheets to smell after they’ve been washed.