What to do with old bed linen and how often should you replace it?

With a little imagination and ingenuity you can upcycle old bedding (and other things) to give it a

With a little imagination and ingenuity you can upcycle old bedding (and other things) to give it a whole new lease of life. Picture: GETTY IMAGES - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

How often should you replace bed linen - every few years or only when the cotton starts to wear thin?

It’s a sensitive subject, especially if you bring pillows and duvets into the equation as well as sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers.

The advice from manufacturers and hygiene experts is regularly. And I warn you, reading about why they recommend frequent updating might make you slightly less keen to snuggle down in bed tonight. For instance, apparently, a third of the weight of a two-year-old pillow is made up of dead skin and dust mite faeces.

Of course, they’ve got a very good reason for wanting us to replace pillows and bed linen every year or two. But there is an alternative; it’s called washing.

It’s a subject I’ve started to think about because I’ve got a couple of sets of bed linen that’s wearing a thin, which, perhaps, is no surprise given that it’s 20-plus years old. It hasn’t been replaced up to now because there was nothing wrong with it. It’s a neutral colour and, crucially, a good quality make that has stood the test of time.


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This brings me back to the subject of last week’s column, the concept of ‘mindful curation’ championed by Tara Button in her book, A Life Less Throwaway. Mindful curation is about buying less but ensuring what we do buy is good quality and made to last, which helps the planet and, in the long run, saves money. It seems I inadvertently practised mindful curation when I bought my bed linen all those years ago, something I’ll do more consciously this time round. But what should I do with my old bedding? Reader Beryl Penny may have the answer.

“We have four charity shops nearby and I’ve made ironing board covers, tablecloths, pedestal mats, garment covers and tabards for school plays from old duvet covers,” she says. “From babies’ vests with poppers I’ve made dolls’ vests, combined with knickers and cushion covers from unwanted pyjama tops (the buttons and holes are already in place). My husband always asks me if I need his old shirts. I make lots of my own clothes and use surplus material for bags etc.”

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Follow that, if you can!

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