Sex, Sheets and Bedding: What You Need to Know
How often should you change your bedding after doing the deed?
Right after having sex, cleaning your bedsheets isn't likely going to be the first thing that comes to mind. But how long should you wait before you change the sheets before bacteria gets out of hand?
Here's what experts have to say about some of the most pressing questions about bedsheets and sexual hygiene around the house.
How often should I change my bedsheets after sex?
Ideally, you'll want to change your bedsheets every time you have sex—especially if you have multiple partners. Even if your sheets look clean, you'll want to remove any bodily fluids left behind and prevent bacteria buildup.
"You'd be surprised at what's left behind after sex," said Mayla Green, a sex expert, podcaster, blogger and founder of The Adult Toy Sex Shop based in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. "Try this. Lay out the sheet flat on the bed and turn on the lights. You'll likely see small liquid spots left behind. These can be from lube, semen and other bodily fluids, including from the vagina."
It's always a good policy to clean up afterward to prevent bacteria from sweating and remove any unpleasant odors.
All of these fluids serve as a breeding ground for bacteria, which can irritate your skin and even lead to infection in serious cases, according to Cleveland Clinic. These excess fluids can clog your pores and lead to body acne.
"Bacteria thrive[s] in moist and warm conditions, and the combination of bodily fluids and body heat can provide an ideal breeding ground," said Aliyah Moore, Ph.D., a certified sex therapist in Atlanta and relationship expert at SexualAlpha. "If there are any open cuts or wounds on the skin that come in contact with the soiled sheets, it increases the likelihood of infection or irritation."
What's the worst that could happen?
Although it's best to change your sheets after each sexual encounter, realistically, there might be times when you're just not up to the task. So, are there any consequences for keeping post-sex bedsheets on the bed?
"How often you change your bedsheets is a personal choice, but changing them every week or two is generally recommended to maintain cleanliness and hygiene," said Rhiannon John, a Brooklyn, New York-based certified sexologist at Bedbible.
If you have one partner, it's generally OK to leave the bedsheets on for up to a week or so. However, washing them sooner will prevent bacterial growth. Sexual fluids left on bedsheets don't present genital risks, but can irritate your skin if you're exposed to them for an extended period.
An exception to this rule is if you are having anal sex. However careful you are, it's possible fecal bacteria may end up on the sheets during play. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, fecal bacteria can cause pink eye and various other illnesses.
So if you're having anal sex, the best strategy is to clean the sheets immediately afterward.
After washing, can sexual fluids still live on my bedsheets?
Properly washing and drying your bedsheets should remove sexual fluids and the resulting bacteria. Still, consider adding bleach or disinfectant to your laundry to better sanitize them.
Occasionally, you might encounter a stubborn, difficult to remove stain. Adding a 1:1 mix of baking soda and vinegar to your laundry will likely get it out.
If you have sex while on your period and find blood stains afterward, put a small amount of hydrogen peroxide on the stain immediately, let it sit for 30 minutes and then pat it dry.
Stain removal sticks can also prove helpful, although they may need to be powerful for stains that are more resistant.
How should I prepare my bed before sex?
Before sex, put clean and dry sheets on the bed to set the mood. This will ensure there are no lingering bacteria from previous sexual encounters, and sheets' freshness will likely make you and your partner(s) more comfortable.
Another great idea is to have a mattress protector between your sheets and the mattress to not only add more cushioning but prevent fluids from seeping through.
If you're concerned things might get particularly messy and you don't want to wash your sheets every time you have sex, consider putting down a large towel or another extra layer to protect your bed. You might even want to shop around and invest in a dedicated sex blanket.
"Using a sex blanket or towel can be a great solution," John said. "These specially designed blankets are absorbent and capable of capturing sexual fluids, and they can be easily cleaned by placing them in the washing machine and hanging them out to dry."
However, if you don't want to buy a separate blanket just for sex, the towels you already have on hand will do the trick.
"It is perfectly fine to lay a big bath towel or two over the bed," Green said.
You'll want to stock your bedside table with gentle wipes for cleanup and high-quality lube.
"Silicone or coconut-based lube will often leave oil stain marks on bedsheets, especially on delicate fabrics like silk or satin," Green said. "It's best to use water-based lube because it's water-soluble and washes off easily when the sheets are laundered."
Where else can I have sex around the house?
If you don't feel like washing your bedsheets or just want to spice things up, consider getting creative with other locations around the house.
Bathrooms are a natural choice for sex because they're easy to clean, whether adding a little something to a routine shower or experimenting with some unique angles in the bathtub.
Sex in the shower or standing up in the tub can be slippery. Ensure you keep at least one hand free to steady yourself in the more acrobatic positions.
Other popular spots have to include the kitchen. Countertops offer plenty of possibilities. For example, one partner can sit on the countertop or use it as a brace while standing. Ensure you clean everything up with disinfectants before you start cooking the evening meal.
The living room is a fun place to experiment.
"[The living room] often serves as a central and comfortable space in the home, making it conducive to relaxation and intimacy," Moore said. "Its inviting furniture—such as sofas or armchairs—provides a cozy and supportive surface for engaging in various sexual positions and activities."
If you're having sex in the living room, prevent stains or spills by putting down a towel or bedsheet on the surface you're using. Additionally, ensure the area around you is clean and comfortable so you can enjoy connecting with your partner without distractions.
Wherever you choose to have sex, it's always a good policy to clean up afterward to prevent bacteria from sweating and remove any unpleasant odors. You know how nice it is to see a newly made bed and feeling clean bedsheets will always set the stage for pleasurable sexual activity in the bedroom.