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AMERICA’S BED BACTERIA: Mattress Clarity swabbed bedrooms and uncovered harmful bacteria that could cause health problems

  • Headboards are the dirtiest area of the bed, with diverse species of bacteria, fungus and mold colonies. These can lead to rashes, asthma, and breathing difficulties.

  • Analysis of swabs revealed that the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus spp, which can lead to skin infections, was present in bed sheets. 

  • U.S. bedrooms were revealed to be dirtier than U.K. bedrooms. This may be explained by higher temperatures, which create better conditions for germs to multiply. 


Mattress Clarity, a provider of online mattress reviews and informational sleep content, has partnered with microbiologist Amy-May Pointer. Together they put America’s beds to the test, uncovering the harmful bacteria that could be hiding in bedrooms.

Haley Owens

“The human body sheds over 500 million skin cells a day. Where those cells go and what they come into contact with has implications for our health – especially when it comes to

bedding materials,”

says microbiologist Amy May Pointer


Beds are at risk of becoming host sites for potential pathogens. This occurs because the moisture released from sweat while we sleep creates ideal bacteria-growing conditions: moist, warm, and dark. 


Mattress Clarity collected and analyzed swabs from headboards, mattresses, and bed linen in residential bedrooms and anonymous hotel rooms (after housekeeping) in the U.S. and U.K., to reveal what germs lurk between the sheets. 

The germs people in the U.S. are sleeping with, the risks associated, and how to

prevent them

Headboard - Staphylococcus aureus spp, fungus and mold colonies

  • The dirtiest location on the bed was revealed to be the headboard, with the highest density of microbes. Analyzed swabs contained a diverse species of fungus and mold colonies, as well as bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus spp. 

  • Staphylococcus aureus spp can lead to skin infections and can be especially dangerous for people who have cuts on their skin. 

  • Mold can lead to breathing difficulties, which could be especially harmful to people who suffer from asthma. 

  • Wiping down the headboard regularly will help to remove any of these germs.

Bedsheet - Staphylococcus aureus spp, fungus and mold colonies

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  • Bedsheets were revealed to be the second dirtiest place, home to Staphylococcus aureus spp and fungus and mold colonies, with a medium density of microbes.

  • Staphylococcus aureus spp is commonly found in nasal passages, but pathogenic strains can pose a serious health risk, especially as some strains are antibiotic-resistant, meaning treatment for those impacted will be more difficult. Staphylococcus aureus spp is also associated with acne. 

  • Washing sheets in temperatures above 140F should kill any bacteria and wearing pajamas to bed helps avoid sweating directly onto your sheets. 


Tony Klespis, Staff Writer at Mattress Clarity comments on how frequently we should be washing our bed sheets:


“One of the most common pieces of advice you’ll see online about washing sheets is to wash at least once a week. However, sometimes, things just fall through the cracks. Once a week is certainly a good way to ensure your sheets stay clean. But depending on the material and construction, frequent washing could potentially lead to pilling.

“Cotton percale sheets are a durable set of sheets that have a crisp feel to them. These are the most resistant to pilling and can likely handle weekly washing. However, something like a bamboo sheet set with a sateen weave could be prone to pilling with that weekly wash schedule. In all honesty, I’d say waiting no more than every other week at most between washes works. But if your sheets can take it, once a week is a good goal to have.”

Mattress - Penicillium chrysogenum, fungus and mold colonies

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  • Surprisingly, mattress swabs came in third place, with a low density of microbes. This may be explained by mattress protectors acting as a barrier to bacteria growth. Mattress protectors should be washed about once every two months.

  • The biggest problem for mattresses was mold. Any additional moisture, such as sweat, will contribute further to mold growth.

  • Molds, such as Penicillium chrysogenum, can cause a number of issues, including itchy skin rashes, asthma, and breathing difficulties. 

  • As mold thrives in a warm, humid, dark environment, it’s important to air out bedrooms with cool air when possible and wash down mattresses regularly to remove skin cells, which allow bacteria and fungus to thrive.

“A worn mattress can impact your sleep in a number of ways. If it has trapped too much sweat, germs, bacteria, and allergens, you may deal with allergic reactions. You could become congested, and this can make it more difficult to get a good night of sleep. 


“Poor sleep has been linked to a number of negative health outcomes, both physical and mental. Physically, poor sleep can increase your chances of heart disease, diabetes, and many other conditions. Mentally, when you aren’t getting proper sleep, your chances of dealing with anxiety and depression increase.”

Marten also shared his top tips for keeping sleep spaces clean:

  1. You first want to make sure that you change your sheets and other bedding on a regular basis. They are the first culprit when it comes to a dirty sleep space and an easy one to combat. 

  2. Try using a mattress protector to help prevent stains. 

  3. If you have a pet, letting them in the bed can make it much more difficult to keep your sleep space clean, and pet dander is a major cause of allergies. 

  4. Finally, if you do make a mess on your mattress, clean it promptly. 


More information about how to take care of your mattress can be found here

 You can view the full story here

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