How typically must you change your pillowcase? The germs and allergy specialists weigh closely.


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If it has never occurred to you to ask yourself, “huh, how often should you change your pillowcase?” We can’t really blame you. You would probably much rather associate your pillow cases – and the pillows themselves – with comfort and sleep than with laundry. Unfortunately, if you don’t swap your pillow cases often enough, you risk unknowingly sullying your pillow’s potential to be a key part of your bedtime oasis. Below, we’ve spoken to experts about how often you should wash your pillow cases (and the pillows themselves).

So what exactly is hiding on your pillowcase?

According to American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), we humans lose between 30,000 and 40,000 skin cells every day. When you spend at least seven hours (hopefully) sleeping, you lose a lot of these skin cells right on your sheets and pillows. On top of that, the sweat, oil from your skin (especially if you don’t wash your face before bed), and good old-fashioned slime will also end up on your pillowcases. You might even end up with allergens (like pollen) in your bed through your hair, if you don’t shower at night. And let’s not forget your partner and / or pet’s skin cells, sweat, oil, and slime, if you share a bed with them.

All of these cells and bodily fluids can cause the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. This is unlikely to have a major impact on your health, but it can lead to skin irritation, rashes, and possibly even infections. Thomas A. Russo, MD, professor and chief of infectious diseases at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo, told SELF that while fabrics like pillowcases and bed sheets can potentially be contaminated, they are generally not ideal places for the growth and spread of most microorganisms. effectively.

Highly contagious skin infections like staph or ringworm can theoretically be spread between two people through bed linen, says Dr. Russo. But it is very difficult to know if something has spread this way or has been transmitted simply by skin-to-skin contact if two people live together and are intimately close.

Even though the risk of spreading infectious bugs through your sheets is low, the microbes that regularly accumulate on your pillowcase can disrupt your skin’s delicate microbial balance called the microbiome, which can cause rashes if you have acne-prone skin, SOI before. reported. If you have eczema, it can potentially lead to a flare-up.

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Now let’s talk about dust mites.

Dust mites, which are too small to be seen without a microscope, are tiny creatures that live in house dust and feast on dead human skin cells. They thrive in warm, humid environments and especially like to live in bedding, where they take advantage of an endless supply of parched skin cells. Delicious.

These critters are NBD if you are not allergic to them. If you are, they can be a big deal. “Dust mites are by far the most common indoor allergen”, certified allergist-immunologist Ryan steele, DO, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Yale School of Medicine and program director of the Yale Allergy & Immunology Contact Dermatitis Program, tells SELF. “Dust mites are something we think of as affecting the airways and causing nasal congestion and watery eyes, but they can also be itchy skin and make eczema worse. “

There is no real way to get rid of or prevent dust mites, Denisa E. Ferastraoaru, MD, assistant professor of medicine in allergy and immunology and attending physician at Einstein / Montefiore and Jacobi medical centers, tells SELF. Allergists therefore advise patients who are allergic to dust mites to obtain allergy covers for their pillows (as well as their mattresses and duvets). “The covers basically keep the mites inside the pillow / bed so we can’t breathe them in,” says Dr Ferastraoaru. If you can put a dust mite cover on new pillows before using them for the first time, you can also prevent dust mites in the first place.

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So how often should you change your pillowcase?

The easiest and most effective way to prevent potential skin problems? Wash or change your pillow cases and anti-allergy covers regularly. Dr. Steele suggests doing this once a week and, if you do wash, using the hottest setting possible to kill germs and allergens. If you’re a big slobber or have a habit of going to bed with makeup on, you may want to wash or change your pillowcases more often.

On that note, washing your face every night and showering before bed (especially if you sweat a lot or have seasonal allergies) will help keep your pillowcases cleaner for longer.

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What about real pillows?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends washing pillows (if you can) every six months with hot water and a mild detergent. That’s right, many pillows can be washed! And it turns out… you should do this! As a general rule, down / feather pillows and down pillows can be washed in the washing machine on the gentle cycle; while most foam pillows should not be machine washed. Some pillows may do better when dry cleaned. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific pillow.

When it comes to replacing your pillows, the National Sleep Foundation suggests replacing pillows with new ones that aren’t full of dust mites and sweat every one to two years.

Now, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, and if buying new pillows every year seems like a big expense, you’re not wrong. By using allergy covers and washing your pillow cases, covers and pillows as regularly as possible, you will keep them in good condition for longer and save time before dust, mold and / or lack of fluff. don’t get between you and a peaceful night’s sleep. Because that’s what it is, after all.

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