Our latest survey delved into the bed-sheet hygiene of Britons, uncovering some rather unpleasant details about how often – or should that be how rarely? – some of us change our sheets.
The stand-out respondents of the survey were 18-25 year old single men, 55% of whom reportedly change their sheets on average every 3.1 months, a statistic that was unsurprisingly the most eye-catching of the report. At the other end of the cleanliness scale we found 62% of women aged 35-50 changed their sheets on average every week.
Being in a relationship, according to the results, clearly influenced the situation as bed-sheets were changed on average every 2.3 weeks with couples. However, the female side in the relationships was predominantly the driving force behind this, with 81% of women claiming bed-sheet changing duties. The state of bed-sheets may even be a deciding factor in whether a relationship actually happens in the first place, with 17% of single men admitting that a prospective partner had been ‘put off’ by their dirty bed-linen.
Our survey has hit the headlines across the world, with mentions in UK-based nationals such as the Daily Mail and the Metro, along with major US outlets like TIME and MSN, as well as many other publications worldwide. We were fascinated to see the different viewpoints that were raised about the survey findings, from house-mate horror stories right through to an opinion that washing machine phobic singletons were in fact eco-warriors. Here are some of our favourite comments so far:
"We have to wash our sheets???" - Fred Blaster – MSN.com
"I'm a single guy, and change mine every week, and like keeping the place clean and tidy. Also, I have a good job, and can do the washing up. Apply within." – Noj – Dailymail.co.uk
"OMG - I do it every week like clockwork. Eeeeeewww dudes.....eeeewwww......" – Yeah that was me – MSN.com
"I wash my sheets monthly, but I still don't understand washing towels." – Rainbro Dash – MSN.com
"After about six months, or when I start sticking to them, I usually sprinkle some talcum powder on my sheets to freshen them up. Works a treat." – RM – Dailymail.co.uk
"3 months? that often?" – David Coleman – Metro.co.uk
"Pigs" – John D – Yahoo Australia
Romantic ambitions aside, we were more alarmed by the potential health risks that unhygienic bed-sheets could cause, considering in particular two unwelcome night-time companions – dust mites and bed bugs.
The dust mite (sometimes known as the house dust mite) is a tiny parasite that lives on human skin cells and other organic waste. Dust mites can be found in various places around any human habitation, but as they prefer warm, dark environments with a regular supply of food, beds are an ideal habitat for dust mites. Therefore unwashed bed-sheets – as highlighted in our survey – represent a perfect place to thrive. The nightly warmth, moisture from body heat and frequently shed skin cells are the best possible combination of features for dust mites to survive.
Measuring around a quarter of a millimetre in length, it’s not possible to see dust mites with the naked eye in normal circumstances, but their potential effects belie their miniscule dimensions.
Allergies to dust mites themselves are common, with itchiness, skin inflammation, eye sensitivity (watering, redness) and sneezing among the allergic reactions that can occur when sleeping in a dust mite infested bed. The causes of these reactions can be the dust mites faeces – which contain digestive enzymes – or the exoskeletons of the dust mites themselves; neither particularly pleasant to think about when you climb into bed at night.
During a life span of around ten weeks, a female dust mite will produce some 2000 deposits of faeces and between 60 to 100 eggs – underlining what you could be exposed to if bed-sheets are left unwashed.
Bed bugs are another type of parasitic invader that live in the bed. Unlike dust mites, bed bugs can be easily seen with the naked eye, and adults grow to around 5mm in length. As the name suggests, bed bugs primarily live in beds as they tend to provide the optimum combination of habitat and food source, however bed bugs are also known to thrive in various types of furniture.
Like dust mites, bed bugs can cause a range of unpleasant allergic reactions. As well as respiratory problems, their blood-drinking nature also produces a number of skin complaints such as spots, rashes and blisters. Bedbugs feed by attaching themselves to their host – in this case a sleeping person – with a skin-piercing beak. Once the feeding is completed in the night the bloated bedbug will retreat to a space where it can remain undisturbed until it needs to feed again, around five to ten days later. In bed bug infestations a bed can contain hundreds of the parasites, with ‘victims’ suffering nightly bites.
Avoiding regular cleaning of bed-sheets helps create an undisturbed habitat for bed bugs, and positively encourages their presence. We wonder if those respondents in our survey who claimed they “didn’t see the need” to regularly wash their sheets would feel the same way if they knew what a veritable micro-zoo they were cultivating in their grubby beds!
Avoiding the risks
So, with dust mites and bed bugs you’ve got two rather clear reasons why you should maintain a regular cleaning routine with your bed-sheets, and that’s not even considering some of the more basic hygienic issues.
Bed bugs, and to a lesser extent dust mites, can live in the interior cavities of certain types of mattresses and bed bases. Pocket-sprung mattresses in particular, with their many hollow spaces within the interior, provide ample opportunity for bed bugs to make their homes.
Ergoflex memory foam mattresses are developed with a layered composition, minimising interior space within the mattress core. This instantly makes the Ergoflex mattress a less hospitable option for bed bugs and dust mites to exist. Added to that, each and every Ergoflex comes pre-treated with an anti-allergenic that offers further protection and creates a hygienic sleeping environment.
Whatever your mattress type, don’t fall into the trap of avoiding basic bed-sheet hygiene – or an unlucky love life may be the least of your worries…