Warning: 10% of your pillow's weight might be dust mite dung | Jack Marshall's column

Last September, a video of a woman washing (and hopefully fumigating) her boyfriend’s disgustingly yellowed bed sheets and pillow cases went viral.

Monday, 31st May 2021, 7:00 am
Wash, air, dry, repeat...

In the clip, the woman claims her “better” half had never washed his bedding in the 10 years he’d owned it.

The consensus from the Internet was emphatic: men treat their sheets like a cast iron pan. Wipe, never wash. The verdict was similarly unanimous: this was and is gross.

At the time, I reckon I washed my bedding once a fortnight. I’m a tidy person and, as far as I was concerned, this was fine. Perfectly normal. Then I read an article containing the words ‘sweat’, ‘skin cells’, ‘dust mites’, ‘fungal spores’, and ‘bed bugs’ and swiftly reconsidered.

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According to one Australian respiratory professor, if you went a year without washing your bedding, it would become a kilogram heavier thanks to dead skin alone. Relishing the warm and humid conditions, dust mites and their dung would account for 10% of your pillows’ weight.

I did not like this. At all.

I resolved to wash my bedding weekly and religiously. Easy - who doesn’t want freshly-laundered sheets which smell of coconut? (Other, far less cool fragrances are also available for all you lavender fans out there.) But this was just the start.

Tentatively researching ways to make sure everything was a little cleaner - I’m not talking Howard Hughes levels of germaphobia, but I could probably do without a few thousand dust mites and their excrement on my pillow - I ended up opening Pandora’s Box.

Turns out, sheets and pillowcases are just the start.

The real work starts with the other two main components of a traditional bed: the mattress, and the pillows and duvet themselves. The heavy-duty stuff of dust mite fantasies; veritable bonbons of skin flakes and sweat.

Pillows rank high on the bed-dwelling creepy crawly’s list of TripAdvisor ‘Places to Visit’ and so should be washed thoroughly once a month, apparently. Same for the duvet, which is hard to manage climatologically when you live under the North West’s leaden skies.

As for the mattress, the rule of thumb is to give it a hoover every time you do the rest of the house. And, if you can’t remember when you bought it, buy a new one: it’s probably been far too long.

This is my life now. Do I have time to sleep in my bed? Nope, I’m too busy washing the damn thing.