Published on December 12, 2018

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Photography by Jessica Antola

Your bed is meant to be your sanctuary, but microscopically, it might accidentally become a haven for dust mites too. Thanks to dead skin cells, oils from your hair and face, and sweat and saliva, there is a lot being left behind on your bed linens and especially your pillowcases.

It’s reported by AAFA that an average adult sheds up to 1.5 grams of skin in a day, which is enough to feed one million dust mites. One million! So if you leave your pillowcases unwashed for days or weeks, that can become an immeasurable number of unwelcomed little critters. Beyond just dust mites, that built-up cocktail of skin cells, oils, and saliva can wreak complete and total havoc on your skin, from irritated bumps to swollen eyes to acne.

It’s likely you might not be washing your sheets, and most definitely your pillowcases, enough. In a recent study, the average person changes their sheets roughly every 24 days, and their pillowcases 24.6 days. In that same study, participants even said that it could take up to 35 days before they’d consider their unwashed bedding “gross.” I’m no mathematician but 24.6 days with unwashed pillowcases, after shedding 1.5 grams of skin a day, adds up to an insane feast for these bedridden dust mites.

So how often should you wash your pillowcases to keep them truly clean? Often, actually.

According to Boll & Branch cofounder Missy Tannen, you should be washing your pillowcases once a week—at least—but maybe more depending upon your sleeping position. “Stomach sleepers have more direct contact of their face with their pillowcases than back sleepers,” says Tannen. “So if you are a stomach sleeper, or are prone to breakouts, you might try changing your pillowcases every three days or as needed.”

Don’t wash your belongings every few days? That’s okay. Instead, have pillowcase backups and simply change your main sleeping pillow’s case, or pillows, every few days. A pro tip is flipping your pillow sides after every night, so you sleep on a fresh side. Formulate a game plan, whether you flip it to a fresh side in the morning or at night as you’re lying down so you get the freshest beauty sleep.

Also, consider grabbing a pillow protector. There are a plethora of options on Amazon. It’s an extra layer of protection between the pillow, your skin, and burrowed dust mites (sorry for that visual). “Using a pillow protector will help keep your pillowcases fresher for longer—but be sure to wash your pillow protectors every few weeks as well,” says Tannen.

Speaking of washing, once you throw those pillowcases in the washing machine, you’re done, right? Eh, not quite—consider the type of laundry detergent you’re using too. Although a scented detergent can make your sheets smell fantastic, it can lead to some added skin irritation. “I personally use detergent that is fragrance-free and made without dyes,” says Tannen. “Also, I don’t recommend using fabric softener as that can cause buildup in the fabric and contribute to skin irritation.” Beyond scents, make sure your detergent is formaldehyde-free, too, to reduce your risk of irritation and reactions, says Dr. Carl Thornfeldt, founder of skincare brand Epionce. If possible, he also recommends using the rinse cycle twice to assure laundry detergents are thoroughly washed out.

While we’ve got you, what material is your pillowcase? Cotton and linen can hold onto dead skin cells even more than material like silk or bamboo. Dr. Thornfeldt loves silk or at least a silk-blend pillowcase, as it wicks away moisture and produces less stress on your skin surface due to the softness and slipperiness. Slip makes comfortable, beautiful silk pillowcases, and Ettitude makes sustainable bamboo pillowcases that are hypoallergenic.

Here’s to better sleep and cleaner sheets in 2019.

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