The winter months mean it’s flu season, with all kinds of germs and viruses doing the rounds. In the case of seasonal flu, this is the most likely way to contract it, according to the CDC (opens in new tab)is by airborne droplets when other people with the flu cough, sneeze, or even talk near you.
However, if you or your partner get the flu, it can spread through your bedding in a different way; we can spread germs and viruses when we sleep without realizing it, which is an ideal way to pass on infections to everyone sleeping in the same bed. So it makes sense to keep bedding as clean as possible when the flu is out, but how far should you go?
The answer, according to Ethical Bedding (opens in new tab) CEO James Higgins might surprise you: He suggests that if you have a cold or flu, you should try to change your bedding every 72 hours. But before you freak out at the thought of all that extra laundry, there’s a caveat: “You don’t have to wash the bedding,” he adds, “but you do need to replace it with clean sheets to get rid of the bacteria.” which could linger in your bedding.”
How long do flu germs live on bedding?
The flu virus can survive outside the human body for 24 hours or more (opens in new tab), depending on several factors, including the type of surface it lands on, humidity, and temperature. Non-porous surfaces such as door handles, keyboards and telephones are places where the flu virus can survive and spread, while porous surfaces – including bedding – are much less welcoming to viruses.
“Porous fabrics can absorb moisture and even suck moisture away from the virus, keeping it dry,” Higgins explains. “The lack of moisture causes the virus structure to break down.” It’s also something to consider when shopping for the best mattress and pillows, as many options have covers designed to wick away moisture, creating an inhospitable surface for germs and viruses.
Higgins says germs can live on bedding for a few hours; however, different bedding types can mean longer or shorter survival times. “The ideal bedding to prevent the spread of germs is one that creates an environment in which viruses and germs have a hard time living,” he says.
What are the most hygienic bedding options?
Plastics such as nylon and polyester can give germs and viruses a much better chance of survival because they are not very absorbent. “They often create a sweaty environment throughout the night that is uncomfortable for humans but ideal for germs,” notes Higgins.
“Having breathable bedding that wicks moisture away from the body creates a more hygienic sleeping environment,” he adds. “Any viruses that get into the bedding will break down quickly through dehydration.”
Standard cotton is a better bet, he says, but not by much because the short fibers are less absorbent than longer fiber cotton, making it less able to wick away moisture. For best results, Higgins suggests organic cotton, which is known for its breathability and moisture-wicking properties, as well as, surprisingly, the semi-synthetic Tencel: “The absorbency of the fabric gives it antibacterial properties and creates a harsh environment for invading germs” says Higgins.
How to prevent germs from spreading on bedding
So while germs may not survive that long in your bed depending on the fabrics your sheets, pillows and other bedding are made of, you don’t want to give them a chance. In addition to changing all your bedding every 72 hours, Higgins recommends washing bedding regularly with warm water.
“If the fabric allows,” he continues, “add some color-safe bleach or hydrogen peroxide to effectively sanitize sheets (be careful, though, as this can damage your sheets, depending on what they’re made of). They should also given time to dry well in a dryer or in the sun.”
If there’s actually a flu in your household, he also suggests changing and washing pillowcases — which are most likely to contain the virus — every day. of sunlight.
And if you’ve succumbed to it, our 6 tips guide to help you sleep better when you have a cold can help you get the rest you need while your immune system does its job.