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Updated: 13 May 2022

How often should you wash your bedding?

Sleeping in clean sheets can greatly improve your sleep and overall health, and knowing how to clean and take care of your bedding can actually make it last longer.
Family playing on a bed

The Sleep Foundation estimates the average person will spend 49 – more than 60 hours per week in bed. Unfortunately, your comfy sleep setup could become a hub for dirt, dust mites, dead skin cells and sweat without regular cleaning.

The feeling of sliding into freshly washed sheets is nice enough as it is, and its made even better knowing that it's good for your health too. Research from The Sleep Foundation suggests sleeping in clean sheets can help reduce allergy symptoms and skin breakouts.

Annoyingly, washing instructions for bedding aren't always straightforward. And not many people know that duvets, pillows, mattress and toppers can often be cleaned at home, and don't always require a trip to the dry cleaners. 

Read on to find out how to clean each part of your bedding to keep you sleeping soundly.

Still having problems sleeping? Your mattress may be the reason. Head to our round up of the best mattresses to see our top picks.

How often should you wash your bed sheets, pillow cases and duvet covers?

As a general rule, most people should be washing their bedding covers once per week – that's bed sheets, pillow cases and duvet covers – at 60 degrees for most fabrics. 

If you have silk sheets, wash them 30 degrees and use a mild detergent.

However, you may need to clean your sheets more frequently depending on how you use your bed. 

For those who are sensitive to allergens or have asthma, washing your bedding more than once per week at 60 degrees or hotter may help alleviate your symptoms. 

Alternatively, Allergy UK suggests that, if you have a dust mite allergy, you can invest in allergen barrier covers for your bedding to minimise your contact with dust mites.

The London Fire Brigade also warns that a build-up of residue from emollients or skin creams on bedding can increase flammability, especially if you spend extended periods in bed due to impaired mobility. 

If you don't wash your duvet cover as often as you should because of the hassle involved in putting it back on, watch our video on the best way to put on a duvet cover

How to keep your bedding clean between washes

While it's important to clean your bedding regularly, laundering it too much can wear it out much sooner, and leave you having to buy new sheets more frequently than you need to.

A study by North London Waste Authority (NLWA) found that a quarter of people have pets sleep in their bed, while a fifth eat in bed on a regular basis – 8% of these doing so every day. 13% also admitted to smoking in bed, and 1 in 10 people reported actually brushing their teeth in bed.

Of course, all of these activities risk staining or dirtying your sheets. So it's worth making the effort to haul yourself out of bed if you don't want to sleep in sheets that are coated in crumbs and flecked with toothpaste. Limit the time pets spend in or on your bed – or banish your pets from your bedroom altogether, if you can bear to! The London Fire Brigade also warns that you should never smoke in bed

Other ways to keep your sheets cleaner before the next big wash include:

  • removing makeup thoroughly before getting into bed: your skin will also thank you for this
  • showering or bathing before going to bed, if that fits with your daily routine. Some people also find this helps them fall asleep more quickly
  • avoiding making your bed as soon as you get up. You won't want to leave them in a sorry-looking heap if you take work video calls from your bedroom, but peel back the sheets for a few hours to air them. 

How often should you wash your duvet?

Knowing how and how often to wash your duvet will depend on what filling it has and the size of your washing machine. It's a tedious task, but you should aim to wash your duvet about once or twice per year to keep it fresh.

You can always take it to the dry cleaners if you're concerned about damaging it, but many duvets can be cleaned at home to save the extra expense. 

You should be able to find the washing instructions for your duvet on the care label, so always check this before you start. 

Only machine wash your duvet if there's adequate space inside the barrel, though: the duvet shouldn't completely fill the barrel.

For smaller, isolated stains, you'll have more success pre-treating these by hand with detergent or a stain remover. To wash the entire duvet, see our advice below:

  • For hollowfibre, synthetic or microfibre-filled duvets: Machine-wash on a gentle setting (at about 30-40 degrees), follow with an extra rinse cycle to remove all soap suds, tumble dry on a low/air-dry setting or hang in a well ventilated area (or outside) until completely dry
  • For wool duvets: Machine wash on a gentle setting (at no more than 30 degrees), finish with a gentle spin cycle to remove all soap suds, do not tumble dry, hang in a well ventilated area (or outside) until completely dry
  • For feather, down or silk duvets: Take to the dry cleaners to be professionally laundered

How often should you clean your mattress?

There's no rule for how frequently a mattress should be cleaned, as this will largely depend on the environment, and how it's being used. If you spend more time in your bed working, eating or otherwise relaxing, you will need to clean yours more often.

However, a good guideline to follow is to clean and refresh it every six months, and flip as often as the mattress care instructions state. 

For allergy-sufferers, look out for the signs of an allergic reaction (runny nose, itchy eyes, dry throat) as these may signal it's time to clean your mattress.

For a step-by-step on keeping your mattress feeling fresh and brand new, head to our guide on how to clean a mattress.

How often should you wash your mattress topper or protector?

Mattress topper on a mattress

Mattress toppers and protectors catch a lot of the sweat, dust and other build-up on your mattress, so it's important to wash them semi-regularly: once every 2 to 3 months should suffice.

Mattress toppers and protectors serve slightly different functions, so their cleaning needs differ somewhat. 

Before you start laundering, always check the label for the manufacturers care instructions and follow these if you're unsure.

  • For mattress protectors: Most will be machine-washable with your other bedding (between 40-60 degrees), tumble dry on a low, gentle setting or air dry in a well ventilated area (or outside) until completely dry
  • For mattress toppers: Gently remove the topper and place on a flat surface, spray stains with a 1:1 water to distilled white vinegar mixture and blot with a paper towel, sprinkle the topper with baking soda and leave to rest for several hours (8 or more is ideal) before vacuuming up with the handheld attachment, allow to fully air dry and repeat steps if necessary

To top up the freshness of your topper or protector between deeper cleans, you can blot most stains with water or a mixture of equal parts water and distilled white vinegar. 

Bear in mind that the latter of these will leave a strong smell, so deodorise this by sprinkling baking soda on your topper or protector and leaving to sit before vacuuming up.

How to dry your bedding

The ideal method of drying your bedding is to air dry it outdoors, and with the summer weather round the corner, you should be able to do so very soon. Drying bedding in UV light (i.e. sunlight) will also help kill any micro-organisms living on your sheets.

If you have limited or no outdoor space, there are other drying options you can try. The most important thing is to make sure all parts of your bedding are completely dry before remaking your bed, as dampness and moisture can lead to nasty bacterial build-up and mould.

Your bedsheets will probably be machine-dryable, though check the care label in case they aren't. Synthetic, hollowfibre or microfibre duvets can be dried in the tumble dryer if they fit, but be sure to use a cool or air-dry setting. 

Avoid tumble drying wool, silk, feather or down duvets as this will likely clump or ruin the filling.  

A great hack for ensuring your bedding stays fluffy is to invest in tumble dryer balls and add them to your drying cycle. Alternatively, placing a tennis ball inside a sock and adding this to your dryer will achieve similar results. 

If you are forced to dry your bedding indoors, aim to hang it in a well-ventilated area, ideally with open windows and good airflow. 

Draping sheets over bannisters, using a heated clothes dryer, or keeping a dehumidifier nearby all work well too. 

If you need to hang your bedding over a door, try to avoid using cupboard or wardrobe doors as this could result in mould in the closet space (which is a pain to clean).

Some advice may recommend drying sheets on the radiator, but don't do this. It could be a fire hazard or result in mould build-up. 

If it's time to replace your bedding, head to our best mattress toppersbest pillows and best duvets to to see our top picks for the best night's sleep

If you've spilt something on your bed that has also gone onto your carpet, find out how to clean a carpet before stains take hold. 

Should you buy a new mattress?

Investing in mattress toppers and protectors can lengthen the lifespan of your mattress, but if yours is truly getting tatty, lumpy or saggy, it may be better for your sleep and health to buy a new one.

We've tested hundreds of mattresses so you can find the right one for you. Head to our mattress reviews to see the full results and our top picks.

Found a mattress you love but don't want to pay full price? Find yourself a bargain with help from our round up of the best monthly mattress deals.