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

HOUSEWORK isn’t at the top of most people’s ‘fun’ activity list.

However, mundane tasks such as changing the bed sheets and scrubbing out the fridge are necessary.

Dirty towels and sheets can leave you exposed to germs and bacteria

Not only does it ensure they stay clean, it can also protect our health, helping to avoid the chances of bacteria and other germs building up and potentially making us ill.

But are you staying on top of your household hygiene? Are you really washing your towels enough? Is your mattress getting the clean it needs?

These experts reveal how often you should be switching up your bedding, cleaning out your kitchen and washing certain household fabrics, to minimise 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 dead skin cells, body oils, sweat and general dirt all accumulating in your pillows, duvet and mattress, as well as your bed sheets.

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

“And while dust mites are found in most homes, regularly cleaning your bedding is definitely recommended to keep these in check.” 

Pillowcases = weekly or more

If you’re in bed for seven to eight hours a night, then your head and face is resting on your pillowcase for more than 50 hours a week!

“This causes sweat and general dirt to accumulate on your pillowcase from the natural oils and cleaning products that come off our body and face, which can discolour linen or aggravate skin conditions,” says Georgia Metcalfe, founder of luxury bedroom specialist French Bedroom

She adds that those who go to bed with make-up on or have oily hair should clean their pillowcases more often because this can make them dirtier and in some cases lead to breakouts

She said: “Particularly in winter, we tend to wear heavier moisturising creams which can sink into linen leaving stains.”

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

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

“As the cover sits on top of the bed, dust and dirt will accumulate from day-to-day use.”

Plus, she adds that in colder months we often clutch onto our covers to stay warm which can cause more bacteria, dirt and grime to transfer from our body, onto the cover.

“If a top sheet is used then the duvet cover may last longer without a clean,” adds Georgia. 

She also warns that not washing bed linen can result in poorer quality sleep from allergens.

Bed sheets = once a week. More often if you have pets.

“Your bed sheets should be washed once a week, although if you allow pets on your bed, you’re also contending with animal fur, dander and any dirt they bring in, so it’s recommended to change to fresh sheets every three to four days,” says Thomas.

With bed sheets, Thomas recommends using the hottest wash setting that the product label lists – cotton can be cleaned on a hot wash (60 degrees), whereas some other materials like polyester can only be washed in warm water.

“If you have sensitive skin, make sure to use non-bio detergent, which is less likely to irritate your skin. 

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

Duvets = every three to six months 

“In order to decrease the build up of bacteria and potential allergens, duvets should be washed every three to six months,” says Thomas.

“Synthetic fibre duvets should be washed in a large washing machine as per the care label instructions.

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

Pillows = every four to six months 

Although pillows should be washed every four to six months, as per the care label instructions, Thomas says bacteria will build up regardless, 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 houses between 100,000 and 10 million dust mites – microscopic creatures that cause skin rashes, irritation and can potentially worsen allergy symptoms. 

“It’s therefore vital to ensure you’re cleaning your mattress every six months,” warns Thomas.

Suffer badly from asthma or allergies? Clean your mattress once a month instead. 

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

“Then simply air your mattress for a few hours to let the fabric breathe,” says Thomas.

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

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

Mattress topper = every three months 

“While mattress toppers don’t come into direct contact with your skin, they still require regular cleaning to avoid the build-up of dead skin cells, body oils and sweat,’ says Thomas.

“You should wash your topper once every three months, in line with the changing of the seasons to ensure it stays clean, fresh and continues to effectively protect your mattress.” 


Cleaning the kitchen = daily 

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

“Kitchens are a breeding ground for bacteria and as they are also food preparation areas, keeping on top of the cleaning is vital to avoid spreading germs or contaminating food.” Ideally, get into the habit of wiping down kitchen surfaces daily, especially if you have been cooking with raw meat or poultry. 

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

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

Wiping out the fridge = once a week. Deep clean every three months

We need to keep the fridge clean so that food kept inside doesn’t become contaminated. 

“Aim to remove expired food weekly then do a quick wipe clean of any visible spills with an antibacterial cleaner and clean cloth. 

“The best time to do this is before going to the shop for a restock,” says Laura.

“Once every three months I give my fridge a deep clean, removing everything from the fridge, washing all of the shelves with soapy water and wiping all of the surfaces inside it. 

“A dirty fridge can cause mould and harmful bacteria to breed like salmonella and e.coli, so it’s definitely worth keeping on top of.”

Laura suggests using fridge containers for fresh fruit, vegetables, salad and dairy foods as these can be easily rinsed out individually.

“I also pop a sheet of folded kitchen roll under the milk bottle rather than having to keep cleaning the shelf every time there is a spill,” adds Laura. 

Dish Towels = every few days

“Dish towels are used for many purposes, from drying up dishes and wiping your hands, to getting something out of the oven and cleaning up messes. 

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

“If you keep multiple clean dish towels in your kitchen, this means you can always have one on hand in case you need it.”

Blankets = every three months 

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

She recommends putting your blankets in the dryer between washes on high for ten to 15 minutes to eradicate any bugs that might be making a home in your blankets.

Cushion Covers = every two months 

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

“Make sure to zip or button back up your cushion covers before washing to ensure they aren’t damaged or tangled in the washing machine.”

Towels and face cloths = every three uses

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

“The optimum time to wash your towels and face cloths is every three uses. 

“If you shower daily, this means you should be washing your towels twice a week. 

“After washing, make sure to dry your towels completely to prevent mould or bacteria build-up.”

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