How often should you wash your sheets? Forgetting to change bedding could make you ILL

Washing your sheets regularly enough is not just a matter of appearance, but it could also stop you getting ill.

It is estimated that the average person will spend a third of their life in bed, so ensuring it is a hygienic environment is very important.

However, many Brits don’t change their sheets often enough.

A recent survey discovered that 36 per cent of people only switched their linen every two to three weeks, while 14 per cent did so even less often.

But doing the laundry infrequently could place you more at risk of illness.

This is because bacteria and fungus can easily spread amongst unwashed sheets, according to a scientist.

If sheets aren’t washed enough, unwelcome life can fester within the folds and wrinkles of our bed linen, according to Philip Tierno, a microbiologist at New York University.

He told Business Insider that sheets should be washed at least once a week because within just seven days the build up of your own microbial life, as well as foreign microbes, can become “significant”.

These include fungi and bacteria that come from your sweat, skin cells, vaginal and anal excretions and sputum.

Additionally, animal dander, pollen, soil, lint and faeces can also accumulate in your sheets.

Recent research showed that feather and synthetic pillows between 1.5 and two decades old can contain up to 17 different species of fungus.

What’s more, the body deposits roughly half a pint of sweat and fluid every night. 

"If you touched dog poo in the street, you'd want to wash your hands," Tierno told Business Insider.

"Consider that analogous to your bedding.”

Some of the unwanted life that can build up in your bed are dust mites, and a typical mattress was found by Ohio State University to contain between 100,000 and 10 million.

They can increase your risk of getting a cold, as well as suffering from allergies, eczema, hay fever and asthma.

"Even if you don't have allergies per se, you can have an allergic response," Tierno said of unwashed bedding. 

This is because you are likely to breathe in the microbes on your sheets which are near your mouth or nose, and this can cause sniffing and sneezing.

In addition to bed sheets, mattresses can harbour bacteria.

A Sleep Council study showed that older mattresses can contain higher instances of staphylococcus, enterococcus, norovirus and MRSA which could lead to serious infections.

These are four ways to keep your mattress protected, according to Fishpools.

- Flip a mattress, as recommended by the manufacturer, to ensure it maintains its shape and support.

- Try folding the sheets half way down the bed – so it can air – helping to dry out the moisture that dust mites thrive on.

- Vacuum your mattress once a month using the brush attachment paying particular attention to the edges and crevices.

- Replace your mattress every seven years.