Not surprising but very unhygienic: Single men rarely change their sheets

I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised to hear that young single men rarely change their sheets, but in case you were wondering just how rarely, a new survey provides quantitative detail: 55 percent of single men ages 18 to 25 wash their linens once every three months on average, according to the survey conducted by British mattress company Ergoflex.

That compares to the other extreme: 62 percent of women ages 35 to 50 change their sheets once a week.

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Another obvious finding: Young men in relationships were more likely to change their sheets—on average once every two weeks. But women in relationships reported that they were usually the ones to strip the pungent-smelling linens and throw them into the wash.

One would think that single men would be motivated to change their sheets more often, because 17 percent of them admitted that a prospective partner had been “put off” by their stinky bed-linen and refused to sleep over.

Perhaps more single guys would be inspired to wash their sheets if they were aware of the health ramifications of not washing them.

Germ expert Elizabeth Scott, a microbiologist and co-director of the Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health, said dirty sheets can be an easy way to spread infections. “The biggest risks are associated with the pathogens that humans shed into their environment when they are sick or when they are ‘silent carriers’ of community-based infections,” she said.

Sneezing into your sheets when you have a cold or lying in bed with a contagious skin rash can cause these infections to spread to that special someone lying next to you.

Scott recommends changing your sheets every week or even more frequently after you’ve been sick.

Those with allergies may want to double their efforts to heed her advice because sheets can accumulate dead skin cells and sweat deposits, which is a perfect meal for tiny dust mites. These microscopic parasites trigger allergic reactions in many people, causing sneezing, itchiness, skin inflammation, and watery eyes.

While the survey researchers didn’t ask men how often they washed their towels and dirty gym shorts, I’m hypothesizing that there’s a direct link between dirty sheets and other unwashed laundry. Scott said such soiled items can also pose health hazards and should be washed in hot water also at least once a week. (Better to exercise in clean workout gear every time since microbes thrive in moist gym clothes balled in a locker that never have a chance to dry.)

“This is very important in reducing risk of skin infections such as Staph aureus,” she said, and staph strains called MRSA that are resistant to many antibiotics.

We should also think about the way items are washed, she added. “All the items you have mentioned should be washed in hot water and detergent, preferably a color-safe bleach detergent” to fully eradicate germs.

Okay guys. Got all that?