This Disturbing New Report Reveals the Dirtiest Thing in Your Bedroom (It’ll Surprise You!)

published Jun 23, 2024
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bedroom detail with a brown headboard and bedding
Credit: Joe Hendrickson / Getty Images

While the changing weather may be to blame for your mild health symptoms — allergies, rashes, sleep quality, the list goes on — there may be one other possibility disrupting your microbiomes that needs further inspection: your bed

True to its name, Mattress Clarity identified the most unsanitary components of the average American bed in a recent study. The team conducted a swab experiment and analyzed the results with a microbiologist, revealing the top three offenders. At the top of the list, with the most bacteria in both quantity and diversity, was the headboard.

Headboards often get overlooked during the cleaning or sheet-changing process, which can result in a build-up of fungus, mold, and bacteria. In most cases, a thorough wipe-down can get rid of unwanted, skin-irritating germs. However, there’s one exception to this protocol: Upholstered headboards, as aesthetic and cushiony as they look, are unsanitary for those exact reasons. The fabric, described as “germ magnets” by Edward Jones, home improvement expert and founder of HomeCareHow, easily accumulates bacteria, dust, dust mites, and bed bugs

Regularly vacuuming, occasionally steam cleaning, and avoiding humidity can all prevent dirty upholstery. If that sounds like too much upkeep, wood, metal, leather, and rattan headboards or even washable draperies are the way to go. 

To no surprise, bed sheets were called out in the study as the second dirtiest items, followed by mattresses. During sleep, sheets gather skin residue that, if left unwashed for too long, can result in inflammation, itchiness, breakouts, and eczema. Sheets and other high-touch linens (duvet covers, blankets, pillow covers) should be washed weekly. 

Lastly, mattresses are ideal environments (warm, humid, and dark) for mold and fungus to thrive. Preventative measures include regularly airing out your room with cold air, exposing the mattress to sunlight, and wearing pajamas to bed to reduce potential moisture, according to Marten Carlson, Mattress Clarity’s lead reviewer. 

Mattress experts also advise cleaning your mattress at least twice a year, vacuuming it monthly, and cleaning stains right away. A regularly washed mattress protector is encouraged to maintain a contained and clean space.

So, your bedroom cleaning checklist may have just gotten a tad longer. (Mine definitely did!) But you can rest assured knowing the extra time and care put into laundry day is a labor of love for yourself and your household.