Many sites claim that bedding and underwear should be thrown away for sanitary reasons every few years (the exact recommendation varies between sites and clothing/bedding type).

This, regardless of the laundry routine they endure. So for example, even if you wash your underwear at 60°C with bleach every day, they should allegedly be thrown in the garbage every year for sanitary reasons.

How does this make sense? Why does the item's age matter? Isn't a 5-year old item (pillow/underwear/duvet/etc) as good as new, hygienically speaking, after being washed with a detergent at 60°C? Do you mean to tell me things get "too contaminated" over time, to the point where they are a "sanitary lost cause" and must be thrown away and replaced?

Note that I'm only talking about the hygienic perspective. For the sake of this discussion let's ignore things like loss of functionality, comfort, aesthetics, etc.

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    I love it when articles throw out scary sounding numbers like how many bacteria can be found in clean underwear. Seriously, we live in a world immersed in bacteria. We eat them, drink them, breath them, and grow them in and on our bodies by the billions. 10K bacteria in your shorts is absolutely nothing compared to the number that are living on the skin covered by those shorts.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 23:23
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    @CareyGregory That's such an important point: since Koch/Pasteur we developed a public discourse that is germophobe. We can't and shouldn't sterelize the world or our own bodies. There is such a huge gap. –– Have you had the number of germs counted on your keyboard lately; on phones it's even worse… Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 1:06
  • Which is why milk is pasteurised and not sterilised. Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 9:59

1 Answer 1


I agree with the comments in that article. It's rubbish.

Does the NHS toss their bedding every few years??

To get rid of dust mites

Wash bedding weekly. Wash all sheets, blankets, pillowcases and bedcovers in hot water that is at least 130 F (54.4 C) to kill dust mites and remove allergens. If bedding can't be washed hot, put the items in the dryer for at least 15 minutes at a temperature above 130 F (54.4 C) to kill the mites. Then wash and dry the bedding to remove allergens. Freezing nonwashable items for 24 hours also can kill dust mites, but this won't remove the allergens.


The sun newspaper is not a reliable source of health information.

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    I think people have just too much time on their hands and have to justify their existence hence these recommendations which go against common sense. Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 9:52
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    Realistically unless they can provide any data to support these suggestions I'd just ignore them. When I was a lot younger I doubt I'd ever wash my sheets, or night attire .. since I was showering anyway in the morning. And there's good reason not to wash at all! But that's another topic altogether. Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 10:22
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    @OhadSchneider I predict you'll find that none of them are backed by credible data showing actual effects on health. It's pseudo-science being used as fodder to fill magazine and newspaper articles, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find advertisements for bedding and/or underwear in those same issues.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 15:02
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    I agree. I have extensive experience in infection control QI, and I cannot postulate a legitimate mechanism requiring disposal of household linens or clothing that can be washed with detergent - especially on hot. My only addition is regarding washing bedding: besides the recommendations from medical societies (AAAAI, AAD, AAFP), both from patients' reports and personally, I have found that washing bed sheets weekly-ish on hot often improves allergic rhinitis/asthma symptoms (as part of allergen reduction methods).
    – DoctorWhom
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 20:22
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    @OhadSchneider Yes, exactly. Finding bacteria means nothing in and of itself. Your skin hosts approximately 50 million bacteria per square inch. How much do you think it's going to matter if your shorts add a few thousand more?
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 23:22

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