Cleaning

Are You Cleaning Your Sheets Often Enough?

Plus, 17 other things we may or may not be neglecting around the house.

October 27, 2020
Photo by Bobbi Lin

If you type “How often should you…” into Google, one of the first autofill suggestions is “How often should you wash your sheets?” You might think you know the answer to this question, but the recommended time between washes actually surprises a lot of people!

It got us thinking: How often should you clean other items around the house? Is there a recommended cleaning cadence for things like pillows and rugs? What about appliances like the stove and microwave?

It turns out that a lot of these objects should be cleaned more regularly than you might think, so we’re breaking down the optimal schedule for items in every room of your home.


Bedroom

Sheets

According to experts, you should probably be washing your sheets more often than you do. The National Sleep Foundation explains it’s best to wash your sheets on a weekly basis. If you can’t swing doing a full load that frequently, at least swap at your pillowcases for fresh ones.

Why so often? Because your bed collects lots of stuff while you sleep—sweat, skin cells, soil, food crumbs, makeup, dust mites… you get the picture.

Pillows

Sure, your pillowcases provide some protection for your bed pillows, but you should periodically wash these, too. Pillows can collect the same icky particles as your sheets, which is why the National Sleep Foundation suggests washing pillows every six months. However, note that foam pillows can’t be washed, so you may have to replace them when they get smelly.

Bed Blankets

The next logical question is, how often should you wash your comforter or duvet? Again, your blanket won’t get as dirty as your sheets, but it still needs regular washing. The National Sleep Foundation recommends tossing your comforter in the laundry two or three times a year—use the changing of seasons as a reminder!

If you use a duvet cover, it’s best to wash it once a month. Of course, if your blankets are a light color, you may need to wash them more frequently as they get grimy.

Mattress

Rounding out the list of bedroom essentials is your mattress. While you can’t simply throw it in the washer, you can (and should!) vacuum your mattress at least once a year. To remove lingering odors, try sprinkling a thin layer of baking soda over your mattress. Let it sit for a few minutes, then vacuum it up.


Bathroom

Towels

When was the last time you washed your bath towel? A week ago? Maybe more? It’s easy to forget to swap out towels, but experts recommend you wash them after three or four uses. If you shower every day, that means you should be grabbing a fresh towel at least once a week.

Showerheads

Here’s an interesting question: How often should you clean your showerhead? Sure, you probably clean the shower on a weekly basis, but most of us don’t take the time to deep clean the shower hardware.

Abe Gal, co-owner of Superior Home Cleaning, tells Angie’s List that you should clean it every one to three months, depending on how “hard” your water is. If your water contains high amounts of minerals, it will likely clog the showerhead sooner, forcing you to clean the head more often.

Shower Curtains

Raise your hand if you forget to clean your shower curtain until there’s a generous ring of soap scum around the bottom. According to Merry Maids, you should clean your shower curtain or liner once a month—or at the very least, every three months.

Toilet Brush

The toilet brush has to be one of the most shudder-inducing items in your home, right? Especially since once it’s down scrubbing the loo, it often sits in its own mucky water until it’s ready to be used again… big yikes. Since it doesn’t make economical or environmental sense to get a new toilet brush every time you clean the toilet, Melissa Maker of Clean My Space advises you wash the brush every time you use it, and never, ever put it back in the brush cup still wet (this is where the nastiest growth happens). “After cleaning the toilet, rest the brush between the bowl and the seat,” she says, then “spray it generously with a disinfectant, such as rubbing alcohol, and let it sit, dripping wet, for 10 minutes or so.” Finish by “rinsing the brush in the hottest water possible and allow it to drip-dry again, using the same method.”


Living Room

Rugs

Naturally, you’ll want to vacuum your rugs regularly to keep them clean—probably once or twice a week if you have pets. If you have carpeting in your home, consider investing in a professional cleaning at least once a year, more often if you have kids or pets.

Floors

You might think you’re in the clear if you have hardwood or tile floors, but we have bad news for you: Those should be cleaned frequently, too. Jason Tetro, a microbiologist and author of The Germ Code, tells NBC that you should wash or steam the floors every few weeks and even more frequently in the kitchen.

Throw pillows

Throw pillows, much like bed pillows, should be cleaned every six months. The covers can be washed more frequently, though, since they come into more frequent contact with more germs. Depending on how often you lay on them, or how delicate the fabric is, aim to wash throw pillow covers about once a month.

Couch cushions

When you think about it, couches are kind of just giant throw pillows that we sit on… all the time… But according to couch manufacturer, Burrow, the only weekly maintenance your couch needs is a vacuum under the cushions, which can coincide with usual vacuum schedule. For fabric, a few times a year you can either break out your trusty steam cleaner, or dilute lukewarm water with a mild soap or detergent, and use a white cloth to rub the area with the solution. Rinse the cushions using a second white cloth with clean lukewarm water; then allow the area to air-dry completely. Leather couches are more tricky to clean (but trap far less dirt and bacteria), and really only need to be dusted or gently blotted after a spill.


Kitchen

Sponges

Moving into the kitchen, here’s something that might surprise you: You should be sanitizing your kitchen sponges every single day, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. These cleaning tools are a hotspot for bacteria, but you can zap germs by popping your damp sponge in the microwave for a minute.

Microwave

We all know how tough it is to clean a microwave that’s caked with food. That’s why experts recommend you deep clean the microwave on a monthly basis, taking out the turntable and scrubbing the whole thing inside and out.

Oven

Another appliance that often gets neglected is the oven. Chances are your oven has a self-cleaning option, so use it! A good rule of thumb is to run the self-clean cycle twice a year to keep your stove in top shape, but consult with your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s optimal cleaning schedule.

Dishwasher

Did you know you need to clean your dishwasher? Well, you definitely do—and fairly regularly, at that. Merry Maids recommends you clean this appliance once a month to prevent mold and fungus from growing.

The easy, hands-off way to clean the dishwasher? Simply run a cycle with a cup of vinegar in the top rack.


Other

Car

Finally, another frequently-Googled question is how often should you wash your car. Giving your ride a good scrub down will help remove dirt, salt, dead bugs, and other contaminants that can ruin the finish, and according to Meineke, you should aim to wash your car every two weeks or so. However, you may need to wash more frequently if you park your car outside or live in an area where the roads are salted during the winter.

Air Conditioning and Fan Filters

If you’ve been avoiding looking inside your AC unit (or at this time of year, your white-noise-producing bedtime fan), now might be the time to tackle it, and then follow up with a steady cleaning schedule. The filter acquires a lot of dust and grime, but fear not! You don’t even have to replace the filter, according to the technical manager at C&C HVAC, all you need to do is give it a wash once a month. Keep in mind you should wash it more often if you use it more than 12 hours a day. A gentle scrubbing with dish liquid and hot water does the trick; just make sure you let it fully dry before putting it back in the unit, to stave off mold.

Okay, 'fess up: How often are you washing your sheets? Let us know below (no judgment).

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63 Comments

chaitea4ME March 5, 2021
Today I'm just reading about cleaning instead of actually cleaning. It's almost the same thing, right?
 
[email protected] March 4, 2021
I agree with Irene. Sheets once a week,towel se very other day. Washcloths or face towels daily. It is good hygiene after all. My mother worked a full work week in the 50’s & the only difference was the towels which changed out twice a week. In college, we were given fresh bedsheets every two weeks in the dorm but I discovered the men’s dorm it was weekly!
 
Kendall March 4, 2021
I'm not saying anything is wrong with this information but I work 6 (long hours) days a week and while I wash my towels weekly, my sheets can go 2+ weeks without washing, I make it a habit to always shower before going to bed always leave my outside shoes at the door and wash my hand frequently. Be judgmental if you wish but I rarely if ever get sick ☺
 
Nanda G. March 4, 2021
The self-clean feature of the oven can often hurt its electrical system. Many in the repair business would strongly advise against what this author prescribes above. Just clean it yourself twice a year unless you know your specific model is reliable for that. I had a very well-reviewed range and the repair bill was not pretty after using the self-clean feature.
 
AlwaysLookin March 5, 2021
Was it an Electric or Gas Range? Thx
 
Chantel A. March 13, 2021
Agreed! I broke my gas oven twice using the self-cleaning feature. The repairman recommended cleaning it myself.
 
Margaret L. March 4, 2021
How often towels need to be washed depends a lot on where a person lives. In high-humidity areas or bathrooms without a window or exhaust fan, towels don't dry and quickly get smelly and mildewed. One use may be plenty. In dry areas, it's less of a concern and towels can happily go longer, even a week, since they are presumably only used on clean bodies.
 
Joan S. March 4, 2021
Looks like a housekeeping maintenance schedule is in order.

 
LionToes March 4, 2021
Sheets and pillowcases once a week for sure! There is nothing more sublime then slipping into a bed made with freshly laundered (and ironed!) sheets and pillowcases. Just thinking about it has me sighing...
 
DaveS March 4, 2021
Lucky for me, I already wash my sheets once a week!
 
pattreid March 4, 2021
OK, can you dumb this down for those of us who are not clean freaks? I was raised to do all cleaning/laundry and other tasks every week.
At my advanced age, I'm still healthy altho' my sheets get washed when I get around to it. I've been rebelling from Saturdays ever since my childhood discipline experience.
 
Tina D. March 4, 2021
I love these comments!! I never ever re-use a towel. One use and they get washed. Lemon, unsweetened Kool Aid is a great cleanser for the dishwasher, by the way.
 
LionToes March 4, 2021
Wow! Really?! Lemon unsweetened kool aid to clean the dishwasher? That’s a first for me. As is, sadly I now know, actually running the dishwasher to “clean” the dishwasher!
 
Charlene V. March 4, 2021
I’ve heard you can also use Tang (the powdered orange drink).
 
Margaret L. March 4, 2021
I wonder what Kool-Aid and Tang do for the dishwasher? What else (baking soda? vinegar?) could accomplish the same thing?
 
Charlene V. March 4, 2021
I believe they both contain citric acid, which provides the cleaning/scrubbing. It still seems strange to me that a dishwasher or washing machine needs to be cleaned! If they don’t stay clean on their own, how are they getting your dishes or clothes clean?
 
Margaret L. March 4, 2021
According to my manufacturer's material, standing water is the problem in washers, especially front-loaders. It breeds mold and mildew. I run mine empty with bleach about monthly. I think dishwashers are the same. Deep in the drain, there is standing water, which over time makes slime.
 
janet March 5, 2021
Eww
 
Tina D. March 4, 2021
My sheets are changed/washed every week. I never use the same set back to back. It takes about 8 weeks for me to make a complete rotation of sheet sets. Blankets/comforter every two weeks.
 
Gaye E. February 10, 2020
Beds stripped and sheets washed EVERY WEEK. Towels every 3 days. Mattress cover every 2 months. Blankets every couple of months. Quilts cleaned 3 times a year. Will be using vinegar on top rack of dishwasher on a regular basis now that i know to do that. Kitchen floors mopped/cleaned every week (or more if any spills). Rugs vacuumed every week. Rugs professionally cleaned once a year. And, for those who are wondering, i shower every day. ;-)
 
Captcha March 5, 2019
Over the holidays i watched marie kondo and did some version of making my home “homier.” Also used a book called “home comforts” by cheryl mendelson. Imho, both great books.

Im trying to making my house a little less plastic too. Parabens and phlaletes (sp?) lessening when i can. After marie kondo on Netflix, i was on their algorithms and happened to watch a documentary where this man tried to find out exactly which chemicals were in his daughter’s new flame retardant pajama pants. Anyhoo, all this opened my eyes to the endocrine disruption world. (I just had no clue whatsoever before!)
Im slowly starting to use only cotton cloths to clean (along with green cleaners and water) and then I’ll dry everything with cotton as well. Still wash everything as normal schedules but trying to get rid of the microfiber plastics and sponges. Cotton seems to be doing ok.
 
[email protected] March 4, 2021
For more ways to reduce plastic, check out www.fakeplasticfish.com. Tons of great ideas for avoiding the use of plastic. If you have young children, 100% avoidance is pretty difficult, but every little bit of change helps!
 
Marlo March 7, 2021
Another vote for Home Comforts—an excellent book. I’m also cutting back on plastics and also paper towels. I used to use paper towels to clean each part of the bathroom separately so as not to transfer germs, but that’s a lot of paper when you’re using 1 sheet for the faucet handles, 1 for the spout, etc. I finally bought a bulk package of inexpensive, all-purpose white towels to do the job. With these I can still use a fresh one for every surface, then I gather them all up and wash them on the sanitize cycle with bleach.

I don’t mind an extra load of laundry since I always have a lot—we’re one-use towel folks. So as not to waste water and energy, I replaced all of my huge, thick bath towels with thinner ones from IKEA. They are still nice, but don’t need as much water and take less time to dry, whether I use the dryer or a clothesline :)
 
linda February 7, 2019
I grew up washing the family's sheets and towels once a week. So I've always followed suit, less Mom's Ghost come up behind me to mutter, "Time to do the wash and be glad it doesn't entail beating them on the rocks, down by the riverside." When company comes, the sheets and towels get washed when they leave--unless they're with us for longer and then the Mom's Ghost applies.
 
Colin February 7, 2019
Lest*
 
linda February 7, 2019
Thanks! "...lest..." 😉
 
janet March 5, 2021
I love it when folks are thankful and not defensive when corrected. Wish I was better at that myself
 
Colin June 13, 2018
I ask my maid to change my sheets daily. My white sheets are able to withstand a hot water wash with bleach without shrinking. I usually help her with this task, including the ironing if I have time to spare. I may consider getting an industrial ironing machine to put in the basement of one of our buildings as she asked for one of these for Christmas.
 
LionToes March 4, 2021
Daily sheet change, really?Not a tad excessive? Even in a hotel, if given the option, i opt for less frequent turnover/change out of bed sheets. Thinking of the environment, of course. Also, thinking pajamas (boxers?) between you and the sheets could extend their use to a few days instead of daily. Obviously none of my business! But applaud the love of freshly laundered.
 
tastysweet April 28, 2018
Y sheets get washed always once a week. Every Sunday.
 
Irene April 27, 2018
I personally don't want to sleep in skin cells, sweat, dandruff, dust mites and their poo, for longer than I have to. For those who say that there's no difference whether you wash your sheets daily or at all, you couldn't be more wrong. Dust mites are attracted to human skills and are a major cause of allergies. Sheets once a week, towels every other day (they can get a mildewy odor), pillows and blankets quarterly, and change out the comforter at every season. Enough to stay clean but not be OCD about it.
 
None N. April 27, 2018
More opinions. You cite no objective facts except dust mite allergy. Unless you're allergic to mites that's irrelevant.
 
Irene April 28, 2018
I hope the Mayo Clinic’s info will show that my statements aren’t opinions: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dust-mites/symptoms-causes/syc-20352173
 
Diane April 27, 2018
I don't get the part about cleaning the dishwasher with a cup of vinegar in the top rack. What am I missing?
 
Colin June 13, 2018
You place 1 cup's worth of vinegar (in a vessel, such as a one-cup measuring cup) on the top rack, and run the machine. It'll spread out the vinegar over the cycle. For extra clean, toss baking soda around the inside of the machine as well before doing this. The same way you toss cocaine down a toilet when the cops are at your door.
 
Dana B. January 31, 2019
do you do this when dishwasher is empty or full with dirty dishes?
 
Gaye E. February 10, 2020
HA HA!
 
AlwaysLookin March 4, 2021
That's actually NOT a good idea and may VOID your Warranty. The stuff to use isn't expensive.
 
janet March 5, 2021
I think it's because as the dishwasher adds water to the cup it will gradually disperse & clean??
 
janet March 5, 2021
I cant see how the vinegar would hurt the dishes, so..why waste a cycle?
 
AlwaysLookin March 5, 2021
For the non-believers ... from Bob Villa: While vinegar may not destroy your dishwasher, it's not an effective alternative to dishwasher cleaners. The acidic liquid might also react with some parts of the appliance and can, over time, cause rubber gaskets and hoses to deteriorate. This would also pertain to using Kool-aid or Tang.
 
Christine M. April 26, 2018
My mom taught me all that stuff and now that I’m a working mom with two kids - the sheets get washed maybe every 2 weeks and towels when I remember to do them. Since if the premise is you use your towel to dry off once you are “clean” than why do we need to wash them so frequently. Kitchens, bathrooms and my laundry machine (which was not on the list gets a monthly cleaning) but the others get cleaned weekly.
 
Margaret B. April 26, 2018
For millions of year humanoids did not know of germs and accordingly did not wash themselves, their clothes, or their bed linen. Germs have their own germs and our immune system relies on that. So, clean sheet are a pleasure, but nothing will happen if you even don't ever clean them till they wear out.
 
Ashley B. May 9, 2018
It definitely has an affect on your skin. I get less breakouts the more I wash my pillowcases.