How clean do you think you are? There isn’t usually a universal understanding of when the best time to clean your sheets is, or how often is too often when using a towel. But many items which we think are perfectly fine to carry on using could be building up a whole lot of bacteria which could be harmful to your health.

We surveyed 750 Brits to find out just how often we wash essential items like towels, bed sheets and jeans to see who is the cleanest and who is the most likely to be drying themselves off with a fungal nightmare waiting to happen.

How Clean Are UK Citizens?

Overall, our survey found some pretty interesting results about how clean Brits keep themselves and their homes. In comparison with our professional guidelines as laundry experts, the majority of Brits only washed their bed sheets as advised. While these are only guidelines, it just goes to show that few people are aware of the hygiene risks of using their linens too long.

Jeans are the most contested item to wash, with 51% of respondents washing theirs every week and 10% waiting at least 6 months between washes. Most denim experts suggest simply washing your jeans going by the sniff test but a general rule of thumb is to wash denim every 2 months.

Towels dry us off after we’ve cleaned ourselves but they can still build up bad bacteria fast. For this reason, it’s advised you throw your towel in the wash after 2-3 uses. However, 46% of Brits keep their towels for a week before washing and 9% dry themselves with the same towel for a whole month. Week-old towels may not cause too much damage to your health but allowing a whole month of bacteria to build up can be slightly more risky.

54% of us wash our sheets after a week, allowing the build-up of skin, sweat and bacteria to be cleansed regularly enough that it doesn’t make us sick but there are 21% of us who sleep in the same sheets for 1-2 months and 7% who wait 6 months to a year! You spend a lot of your life in bed so make it a safer space with regular laundry treatment.

Towels

Bath towels are typically only used when you feel your cleanest, just after jumping out of the shower or bath. While we may think that drying our clean bodies would mean towels can be used for a long period of time, the damp conditions of a wet towel are the ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Studies have found that leaving your bath towel for too long can cause a build-up of mould, yeast and even E. coli.

When it comes to keeping towels the cleanest, Brits don’t tend to follow best practice (wash after 2-3 uses) but the most common answer in our survey was 1 week, with 46.8% of respondents choosing this answer. Overall 78.2% of respondents washed their towels after 1 week or less, while 9.4% said they use their towels for a whole month.

When we broke it down, we found that men were more than 1.5 times more likely to keep their towels for longer than a week compared with women.

However, taking a closer look at the data also showed that age says a lot about your cleaning routines. For example, men aged 18-24 were the cleanest group, with 34% washing their towels every 1-2 days compared with only 26% of women the same age. 

Interestingly, a larger percentage of young men kept their towels for a month than those who were older – 22.1% of 18-24 year olds washed their towels after 1 month, compared with 25-34 year olds in second place at 19.5%.

Additionally, keeping your towel for longer gets less common with age for everyone – do we learn the value of clean towels as we grow old or do we just buy enough towels to throw them in the wash whenever we please?

While every 1-2 days is the advised method of washing your towels, most experts believe you can use a towel for five days without any issue and using towels for even longer doesn’t always carry serious risks. To avoid the build-up of bacteria as much as possible, spread your towel across a bar to dry fully between washes.

Summary:

  • Men are 1.5x more likely to use their towels for longer than a week
  • People aged 18-24 are the most likely to leave their towels for longer
  • 20% of all respondents didn’t wash their towel at least once a week

Sheets

You will spend an average of 229,961 hours asleep in your lifetime, or roughly 49 hours per week. If you’re going to spend so long lying down, the place you’re doing it in should be looked after carefully. There is a suggested link between dirty pillowcases and acne outbreak, but what about the rest of the bed? 

One study found between 4-16 species of fungus in UK pillowcases and some experts suggest that bed sheets can contain fungi, bacteria, soil, food, and bodily excrement, so cleaning your sheets on the regular is highly advised.

The advised cleaning schedule for sheets is to wash them every week to ensure as little bacteria as possible is building up. Yet again, women were the most likely to stick to this schedule, with a 58%/42% split. On the other hand, 85% more men wait at least six months before changing their sheets, evidencing the stark difference between male and female cleaning standards.

As with towels, young people were the most likely to leave their sheets for longer too. Only 41.5% of millennial men (18-34) wash their sheets every week, with 7.7% leaving their sheets six months or longer before throwing them in the wash. On the other hand, 60% of millennial women washed their sheets weekly and only 1.1% left their sheets as long as six months. 

Aside from gender differences, older people are generally more likely to wash their sheets on the regular. Less than half of people aged 18-24 wash their sheets every week, compared with almost 60% of 25-44 year olds and 56% of people aged 45+.

Summary:

  • 18-24 year olds leave their sheets for longer (18-24: 45.3%, 25-44: 58.1%, 45+: 55.6%)
  • Women are the most likely to wash their sheets weekly (58%/42%)
  • 85% more men leave their sheets at least six months before changing them.
  • The only age group for men where washing sheets every week was the majority was the over 65’s (61.3%)

Jeans

Jeans are now a staple in almost every wardrobe but their origin as workwear means they’re typically much more durable than other items of clothing. Levi’s boss Chip Bergh once claimed that he hadn’t washed his jeans for over a decade, despite the brand itself advocating for a wash every 10 wears for best results.

The general consensus is that jeans should be washed as little as possible but as often as they need. Our survey revealed that almost exactly half (50.9%) of Brits wash their jeans every week, slightly more often than advised.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, men are more likely to leave their jeans for longer in between washes, with a third (33.4%) of men washing their jeans after a month compared to less than a fifth (18.1%) of women doing the same. 

Though Levi’s may know denim a bit better than the average survey respondent, the consensus doesn’t change much with age, showing that Brits across the board believe that waiting longer than a week for a wash isn’t the best idea.

Our survey found the same result at the end of the spectrum, with a similar percentage of people at every age waiting at least six months before washing. The reliability, durability and personality of everyone’s favourite jeans has obviously created a personal relationship with our denim where we feel we know exactly what’s best for them, despite the advice of the experts.

Summary:

  • 50.9% of Brits wash their jeans after just a week
  • 9.6% of Brits wait at least six months before washing their jeans
  • Men wait longer to wash their jeans than women, with 33.4% of men washing after a month compared to 18.1% of women
  • The treatment of denim transcends age, with no notable change in the results between millennials and boomers

Cleanly Conclusions

We undertook this survey to discover the washing habits of Britons and who was the most by-the-book in terms of cleanliness. Unsurprisingly, women tend to beat out men when it comes to the laundry but this doesn’t mean that it’s too late for men to learn!

What’s interesting is the changing attitudes to cleaning as we age, as some younger men are putting the girls to shame in the laundry room. But, in general, millennials aren’t as regular with their washing as those in generations boomer and beyond.

With the knowledge of the fungal cultures developing in your bed sheets, we hope you sleep well knowing just how clean you keep your linens when you next climb into bed.

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