If you have recently become sick you may have gone around your home trying to disinfect the environment where you may have spread airborne pathogens throughout the space. Germs and bacteria can be produced into the air through sneezing, coughing, and even talking, while they can also settle on surfaces after the aerosolized germs fall in the environment such as on counters, floors, and even on bed sheets. In an effort to protect the other occupants in your home or that share living spaces with you, cleaning and disinfecting these surfaces will be important – and most of us will be diligent when it comes to cleaning counters, floors, and commonly touched surfaces in a home (door knobs, light switches, etc.). However, when it comes to the disinfecting of bed sheets after kicking a cold or other illness out of your system, this is often a sure that is forgotten but important.

When you sleep in your bed at night or during the day as you suffer from a cold or other illness, the germs will get spread onto the surface of your sheets, comforter, and pillows as you come into contact with them. Additionally, sweating may be another issue you face on your bed sheets as you try to sweat out a fever resulting in sweaty, smelly sheets. What can you do to disinfect your sheets while also deodorizing them from sweaty odors?

In this article we are going to learn more about the best way to wash sheets after being sick, discuss why it is important to wash sheets after suffering from an illness, and what laundry products you should use to clean and deodorize your bed sheets.

Should I Change My Sheets if I’m Sick?

Battling the flu or a virus can be a dreadful task, with lots of tissues used, cough drops, medicine, and liquids consumed to try to kick the illness out of your system. The combination of soiled tissues that come into contact with the bed sheets, sweat that is leaked onto this material, and even aerosolized liquids produced from saliva that will land on the linens contaminating them overtime. All of these pathways of contamination on your bed while battling an illness will contribute to dirty, bacteria/virus-filled bed sheets. When it comes to viruses and bacteria that settle onto a surface after they have been emitted from an infected individual, the reality is that these pathogens will not live long on soft surfaces as they do on hard surfaces, but no matter what they will linger on the surface.

Cleaning the surfaces in your home during and after you have battled an illness is a common thing that most occupants will do diligently in an effort to reduce transmission risks to the other individuals in their home. However, should you change your sheets if you are sick as well? According to the CDC, linens need to be cleaned and disinfected after a person is sick, and they recommend that you wash the sheets in the warmest water setting to help kill the germs off the soft surface.

Can You Get Sick from Bed Sheets

Did you know that you spend a third of your life in bed? According to WebMD, they state this fact in reference to the large impact dirty bed sheets can have on your health, especially if you are sick and have contaminated bed linens. There are many forms of bacteria that can form and develop on bed sheets such as dead skin cells, sweat, and saliva that can be packed full of bacteria on a normal day, much less when an individual is sick. When it comes to whether or not your bed sheets can increase or lead to you or your partner getting sick, this will depend on if either party has been sick. If you have become sick and do not properly wash and disinfect your sheets during this time, then the chances are that your partner will have an increased risk of becoming sick from these infected bed sheets.

Therefore, the moment anyone in your household gets sick it is important to throw their sheets in the bed and continue washing them each and every day till the illness subsides.

How Long Do Germs Live on Bedding

The duration of time that a pathogen can live outside of the body can vary based on the specific pathogen that is released into the environment and which surface it lands on in this space. Aerosolized germs can be spewed from an infected individual and when they eventually settle onto the surfaces in this space, depending on the surface material the specific germ will stay active for a certain amount of time. According to Mayo Clinic, viruses generally remain active longer on stainless steel, plastic, and other hard surfaces than soft surfaces such as fabrics and linens.  

Most bacteria and viruses can survive on soft surfaces like linens for minutes and onward up to an hour depending on the conditions and the specific microbe emitted on these surfaces. For example; when the flu virus is distributed onto a tissue this virus will live on the tissue material for about 15 minutes, and a stomach bug can survive on fabrics for up to 4 hours. Thus, washing your bed sheets will be a necessary disinfection step that needs to be taken to try to mitigate the transmission of these germs in the home.

How to Wash Bedding After Being Sick

As we have discussed, when you become sick you will likely spend a lot of your time in your bed. A sick individual tends to expel a vast amount of bodily fluids through sneezing, coughing, and even through sweat production – especially when battling a fever. All of these liquids can contaminate the bed sheets and sweat in particular will seep into the bed sheets and even lead to strong odors stuck within the material of the bed linens. Therefore, not only will your bed sheets need to be completely disinfected including bed sheets, pillow, and down comforter, but they will also need to be deodorized of odors that form on the material when sick individuals sweat.

The cleaning products that are used to wash your infected bed sheets will be important, as you want specific products that are tailored to disinfect the bacteria and germs that are harbored within the material. As well as an odor-eliminating laundry additive that can work to actually break down the sweat odors rather than mask it with chemical fragrances.

What Temperature Do You Wash Sheets?

When it comes to washing your bed sheets, normally it is recommended that the average person washes these linens once every week. However, if you are struggling with a virus or other illnesses this washing procedure will need to be increased until the illness subsides. Loading the washing machine properly is a critical component to getting a thorough washing of the material, do not jam too much in the washing machine at one time – do separate loads to keep the space down. Also, follow the care label on the bed sheets to properly clean the material without damaging it in the washing machine.

One of the most important components to washing your sick bed sheets is having the washing machine settings set on the right temperature. When it comes to cleaning you sheets after being sick, you will want to set your washer to the hot water setting to allow for germs and bacteria to be killed with the extreme washing temperature. Depending on the washing machine, some have a sanitizing setting that will allow for the materials to undergo hot water temperatures and high spin cycle to try to expel germs off of the material in the washer.

Sanitizing Laundry Detergent

The process of disinfecting your home’s laundry, specifically bed sheets, can be done easily and cost-effectively without damaging fabrics. There are many companies today that offer sanitizing laundry detergent additives that can be placed in your wash load along your detergent to provide a disinfection solution to the material. Typically, quaternary disinfectants are what is used in these sanitizing laundry additives that will allow for the material to be eradicated of these germs and bacteria that may be present on the soft surface. As we discussed previously, these bed sheets should be washed using detergent and the sanitizing laundry additive in a hot water cycle for the most optimal results.

In addition to a sanitizing laundry detergent additive, an odor-neutralizing laundry additive may be another great addition to use in the washing machine with your sick bed linens. Sweat can be a side effect to a lot of viruses and illnesses, and as sweat develops and collects in your bed sheets it can leave you with a pungent odor on this material that can be hard to expel with the use of just laundry detergent. Thus, the creation of odor neutralizing laundry additives was developed such as the OdorKlenz Laundry Additive.

OdorKlenz Laundry Additive is constructed of a revolutionary earth mineral technology that works to eradicate the odors at the source without the use of chemicals, masking agents, or other harmful ingredients. This laundry additive for odors is effective against a broad spectrum of odors such as smoke, grease, body odor from sweat, mildew odors, fragrance removal, chemical smell from cleaners, urine, and other unwanted odors that can develop on your bed sheets. The simple application is as easy as ¼ to ½ cup added to your wash load, along with your detergent and the odor will be neutralized within the wash cycle.

Article Sources:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility (link)
  2. Mayo Clinic: Cold and Flu Viruses: How Long Can They Live Outside the Body? (link)
  3. WebMD: Health Hazards When You Don’t Wash Your Sheets (link)

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