Your worst fears about mattress cleanliness just might be confirmed.
Look, you probably already suspected that your mattress can be a nesting ground for bacteria and allergens — even if you're washing your sheets and pillow cases regularly. However, your mattress might be even dirtier than you think. Because we spend up to eight hours a night in our beds, our mattresses see their fair share of skin cells and sweat. Both of these things create a healthy nesting ground for fungus, bacteria, and dust mites.
Your Bed Is Gross
Dust mites and allergen build-up is unavoidable, especially in your bedroom. One study found that dust mites are much more likely to be found in the bedroom than any other place in the house. While low humidity and central air/heat may mitigate this, controlling those factors isn't always easy.
An Ohio State University study found that dust mites are most prone to your mattress because spending eight hours in one place causes us to shed a lot of skin cells (which is food for dust mites). According to the study, the average person sheds enough skin cells during eight hours of sleep to feed thousands of mites for a month. Even worse, in addition to providing a home for dust mites, your bed could be filled with lots of bacteria and fungus if you don't wash your sheets often.
Another common allergen found in mattresses is pet dander. Mission Allergy mentioned that soft surfaces are often the most common resting places for dander, fur, and bacteria from our furry friends. To remedy this, bathe them regularly — up to twice a week if you have allergies — and wash their paws before you let them up on your bed.
Get an Antimicrobial Mattress
It's impossible to keep dust and bacteria from settling on a mattress all together. In fact, one study found that a significant amount of mite allergens can accumulate on brand new mattresses in under four months. If you are in the market for a new mattress, look for one that features antimicrobial silver woven into the mattress or mattress cover. There have been several studies done around silver in textiles claiming that silver can kill up to 98% of bacteria.
Wash Your Sheets Every Week
One of the easiest things you can do is clean your sheets, pillow cases, and mattress regularly. When cleaning sheets use hot water to eliminate bacteria. You should be washing sheets at least once a week, because the oil and bacteria from your skin can build up quickly, which can cause skin breakouts. If you see any stains on your mattress, add dish soap to warm water and blot the stain until it's removed. Make sure you dab to avoid getting the mattress soaking wet. Then, vacuum your mattress to eliminate dust mites (pay extra attention to the sides and the seams). SleepHelp.org advises people to sprinkle baking soda onto the top of the mattress and allow it to sit there for up to four hours to help eliminate any odors and absorb moisture, which will help kill any mold or bacteria.
Replace Your Mattress
According to the Better Sleep Council, seven years is a good rule of thumb. That said, as you age, your preferences change. So, if you're waking up with stiffness or back pain, don't feel like you have to stick to the seven-year rule — you can trade it in earlier. If you have a hybrid mattress and you start to see heavily-set indentions, it's probably time to upgrade as well.