And advice from the experts on how frequently you should be washing them

If it’s not ‘visibly’ dirty it doesn’t need washing right? Wrong. Despite the enhanced hygiene measures we’ve been taking in recent months, a new survey has revealed the grubby truth about how little UK households are washing household fabrics around the home – which experts have shockingly indicated could be harbouring all sorts of hidden nasties.

In the survey of 2000 UK adults by Surcare, the 10 least laundered items in the home include:


  1. Rugs – more than 55% of people have NEVER washed or deep cleaned their rug (either in a domestic washing machine or professionally) – ever! Making them the least washed fabric item in the home.


  1. Pillows – 41% have never washed their current pillows. Only 5% wash their pillows to the recommended frequency (every three months)


  1. Curtains – 34% have never cleaned their curtains. Only 18% factor them into their annual clean


  1. Duvets – 25% have never washed their current duvet. Only 12% wash their duvet to the recommended frequency (every six months)


  1. Throws (and blankets) – Only 15% have washed their sofa or bed throw in the last 12 months


  1. Bedding (sheets) – average length between washes was 18 days. One in ten haven’t changed their bedding in six months


  1. Pillow covers – pillow covers are just as neglected as bedding. The average length between washes was 16 days.


  1. Towels – on average we wash our towels once a week


  1. Cleaning cloths – only 10% of people wash their cleaning cloths


  1. Tea Towels – 21% of people only wash their tea towel once a week, experts recommend it should be changed every day!


And also up there in the overall least cleaned items in the home is the washing machine itself – a massive 62% claim they have not cleaned their washing machine in the past six months. Despite being responsible for keeping our clothes clean and fresh, the crevices and damp conditions of our washing machines can be a breeding ground for bacteria. They should in fact be cleaned inside and out once a month.


How often you should wash certain items and how

 So how often should you be cleaning your household items? And what advice do experts offer on how best to rid soft furnishings of the little nasties that like to build up in unsuspecting areas?

“Fabrics around the home need regular laundering to keep homes healthy”, says Claire Lancaster from Surcare – the sensitive skin home brand that carried out the survey. Fabric and fibres in particular can harbour pet hair and pet dander, dust, pollen, bacteria and even mould and mildew – and if left to build up can cause illness and trigger allergies such as asthma and eczema.

“Many of the items that are being neglected can be washed in domestic washing machines, and these jobs only need to be done every few months so it really is a case of planning in a bit of a deeper clean once a quarter to make sure that your home is as healthy as it possibly can be. Here is how to keep on top of these cleaning jobs.”


Rugs – vacuum once a week, professional clean once a year

You should really be vacuuming your rug at least once a week to keep dust and dirt at bay. If your rug is in a high traffic area then you may need to vacuum it a lot more frequently. Regularly taking it outside to shake it will also help to remove dust and dirt, especially if the pile is shaggy.

Different rugs need different types of care so always refer to the specialist care instructions with whatever product that you choose – this will advise you on how to keep your rug looking better for longer.

Many rugs – especially popular washable rugs – can actually be machine washed, making them a really convenient option for lots of households.

You should also consider getting your rug professionally cleaned once a year to kept it as fresh and clean as possible – especially if you have pets.


Pillows – clean every three months

We may snuggle our heads into our pillow overnight, but if you knew what lies beneath you might not feel so comforted. Absorbing sweat and moisture whilst we sleep, pillows are a breeding ground for mould, bacteria and dust mites. In fact, up to a third of the weight of your pillow could be made up of bugs, dead skin and house dust mites and their faeces.

Pillows should be washed every three months. Most pillows with synthetic fibres can be washed in washing machine but always check the care label first. If your pillow is made from natural fibres then you may need to get it professionally cleaned. A pillow protector can also help to keep your pillow fresh and increase the time between washes.


Curtains – vacuum weekly, thorough clean once a year

Curtains are often a hugely forgotten about household item and cleaning them can seem like a daunting task. Unfortunately though your curtains could be storing up all kinds of nasties – the swathes of fabric can create the perfect conditions for capturing dust and the growth of mould and mildew. They can also absorb odours and become discoloured if left for too long.

You should vacuum your curtains with a soft brush attachment once a week to keep on top of dust. Then once a year you should take them down to wash them properly – either in your machine or professionally. Always read the care label and follow the instructions carefully to keep them looking their best.


Filled Duvets – every six months; Filled Pillows – every three months  

The body naturally sheds millions of skin cells every time we go to sleep and it’s also estimated that we sweat out about 200ml every night – meaning that bacteria and bodily fluids can easily build up in our duvets.

Dust mites are also a common bed nasty – these are microscopic mites that can be present in their thousands living on the constant supply of dead skin cells. They are renowned for aggravating allergies and for people with asthma and eczema can make symptoms worse.

Washing your duvet at 60 degrees every six months will keep bacteria and dust mites in check, ensuring you can sleep easily at night. Again, always read the label for your particular product.


Throws – every three to six months

Throws and blankets are another ideal home for dust mites and dirt – something you might not have considered when you’re snuggling down on the sofa at night. Washing or dry cleaning them every three to six months will keep any nasties at bay.


Sheets – once a week.

Similar to your duvet and pillow, your bed sheets will be absorbing sweat and moisture whilst you sleep and should be washed once a week to kill bacteria and stop them from becoming discoloured and smelly. You can also air your bed every day by throwing back the top sheets and duvet to help air circulate.

It’s also wise to vacuum your mattress every fortnight to prevent dust mites from building up.


Pillow covers – once a week

Your pillow cover will be subjected to a lot of sweat whilst you sleep, as well as natural oils from your face and hair and make-up residue (if you haven’t removed it properly). All this will lead to nasties breeding in the area where you lay your head at night. Wash your pillow covers once a week with your bed linen. Pillow cases and duvet covers should be machine washed at a minimum of 40°C, but it’s better to clean them at 60°C if the fabric will take it. That way, you stand a better chance of any harmful bacteria being killed.


Towels – every three to four washes

Your towels should be pretty clean because you use them to clean a freshly washed face, hands or body, right? Wrong. Don’t be fooled – every time you dry yourself you transfer dead skin cells on your towel – the kind of thing that bacteria just loves to grow on.

You should therefore wash your towel after every three to four washes to keep it fresh and clean and doing the job it is supposed to. If you have a towel that you use for working out then make sure that is washed after every exercise session.


Cleaning Cloths – at least weekly

Cleaning cloths easily pick up dirt, grime and bacteria so wash them frequently in your washing machine to keep them clean and replace them every few months. Air drying your cloths will also stop them from smelling damp.


Tea Towels – every day

You may find this hard to believe but experts recommend that tea towels are washed every single day! This is because they are come into contact with all sorts of surfaces – hands, dishes, mopping up spills, taking things out of the oven. They also get frequently damp which can encourage bacteria to multiply. So at the end of the day make sure that you replace your tea towel to avoid bacteria build up and cross contamination.


Claire adds:

“It is clear that when it comes to keeping our homes healthy there is a lot that we can do to stop bacteria and nasties in their tracks. Whilst some of these jobs can seem like a lot of extra hard work, broken down into small chunks they are all manageable.

“Keeping on top of these areas of your home can help to reduce the risk of allergies and illness in your family, this can be particularly important for anyone with sensitive skin as well where excellent cleaning capabilities but being kind to the skin is important.”


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