67% of Our Readers Think It's Unsafe to Sit on Their Bed in Outside Clothes—a Doctor and Laundry Expert Settle the Debate

·4 min read
woman reading on bed in outside clothes
woman reading on bed in outside clothes

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After a long day, few feelings compare to plopping onto our beds and getting comfortable. But when you do so, is it in loungewear or a fresh pair of pajamas—or are you perfectly fine sitting on your bedding in the clothes you've been wearing all day? While some of us have an aversion to wearing "outside clothes" in or on our beds, others don't see anything wrong with it.

In an attempt to glean some insight into how people really feel about this divisive topic, we took to Instagram to see just how many of you wouldn't dare to wear your day clothes on your sleeping sanctuary. In total, 6,207 people responded to our poll asking if it's acceptable to wear outside clothes on the bed: 2,050 respondents said it's perfectly fine to do so, while more than double—4,157—said it is absolutely not.

"I think many people feel that their outside clothes are dirty and they want to feel clean in bed," says Patric Richardson of The Laundry Evangelist. "The reality is, we've all done it [when we have] come home late or had a tough day, but most of the time, we want more comfort than outdoor clothes anyway." But no matter where you stand in the debate, the real question is this: Is it actually safe to wear your outside clothes in bed?

Related: How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets?

Wearing Outside Clothes on Your Bed Is (Mostly) Safe

While germs from the outdoors can cling to your clothes and body, in general, wearing outside items on your bed (or even placing luggage, purses, and other things that have been outdoors on your sheets) doesn't pose much of a risk to your overall health. "It is safe in terms of infection because your body—and its normal bacteria—are capable of fighting off [these] threats," says Nasia Safdar, MD, Ph.D., a professor of infectious disease at the University of Wisconsin.

Despite this fact, Dr. Safdar says people have strong feelings about their tolerability for germs. "Bacteria are everywhere in our systems, from skin to gastrointestinal tract to mouth. They play a huge role in keeping us well," she says. "Yes, [the outdoors] also has germs, but one has to strike a balance. Bacteria are everywhere and you cannot, nor would you want to be, completely free of them."

Notable Exceptions

Of course there are some things you wouldn't want to track into your bed from the outside—think chemicals, pollen, sweat, coffee spills on the subway, and more outliers—but those are fairly obvious and you often know when you come into contact with them.

Working a Hazardous Job

According to Dr. Safdar, you need to make sure the items you're wearing when you are on your bed are reasonably clean. "Any setting where you have environmental exposures, you should have separate clothes—or cover them with a lab coat," she says, citing labs, veterinarian's offices, and other hazardous jobs as examples. And if you work with chemicals without a protective covering? Be sure to change before you rest. "I would never climb into bed if there were chemicals on my clothes, as the pollutants could settle into the mattress," says Richardson.

Allergen Exposure

When you are out in the world, touching and swiping your clothes against other surfaces is unavoidable—and this can easily result in pollen and other allergens clinging to your garments. "We are exposed to so many things in the outside world—brushing up against a car, for example, could transfer something to the bed— but I think the biggest issue is allergens, like pollen, that attach to our clothes," says Richardson.

But, according to Dr. Safdar, allergens are like bacteria: It's important to strike a balance, since the former (much like the latter) are all around us and difficult to avoid. If you spot any visible irritants, like cat or dog hair, she recommends vacuuming them off before sitting down on your bedding. (A moot point, however, if your pup regularly sleeps with you!)

Sweaty Clothes

While they don't pose a true health risk, our experts advise against wearing sweaty clothes in bed. The reason? Simply put, it's not conducive to sleep, says Dr. Safdar.

"I think the best part of getting into bed is [forgetting about the] outside world and climbing in for a cozy sleep," says Richardson, who doesn't know why someone would want to wear smelly gym clothes in bed. No matter what items touch your sheets, both experts note that it's important to keep a regular linen cleaning schedule—regardless of where you stand on this debate.