It might seem simple enough. You do your laundry every week. You bung a load in the washing machine, add some washing power, pour in the fabric softener, turn a few dials – and hey presto! Clean, albeit wet clothes, an hour or so later.

But while we might have a routine to washing our clothes, it seems like lots of people are a bit hit and miss about washing their bedding with one in ten of us only cleaning our sheets every four weeks. And as for duvets and pillows – well for some it’s only an annual event.

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We probably don’t need to remind you that every day our body sheds millions of skin cells - many of these while we’re asleep at night - and we can also lose a litre of sweat during a typical night’s sleep. Because of the mixture of dead skin and sweat our bedding is often made up of dust mites, which can produce droppings that trigger itchy eyes and asthma – as well as being the breeding ground for up to 16 other forms of bacteria.

Feeling yucky? It gets worse. If left unwashed for months at a time a third of a pillows weight can sometimes be made up of bugs, dead skin and their droppings. Err, nice.

If the thought has got you rushing to the laundry basket to freshen up your bedding, here are some quick tips to get you on your washing way …

The best way to wash your duvets:

• Aim to wash your duvets and pillows every two to three months.

• Check the label first – some feather and down fillings may need to be dry cleaned.

• If there is a stain on the duvet, shake the feathers away from the area and treat the stain before you pop it in the washing machine.

• Not sure how to squeeze a big duvet into the machine? Check it has enough room to move around the drum, then fold the duvet in half and turn it into the washing machine. The weight of your duvet will be spread out and your machine won’t make as much noise.

• Use a normal spin setting and aim to air dry your duvet afterwards.

• Drying duvets in the sunlight will kill micro-organisms, in the winter try running a warm iron over them to kill any remaining bacteria once they’re dry.

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The best way to wash your pillows:

• Washing at a temperature setting of 60 degrees will kill most bacteria.

• Try to wash two pillows together to keep the washing machine balanced.

• Dry feather pillows using the air cycle to keep them fluffy.

• Synthetic pillows can be dried on the lowest heat setting – try tossing in a few tennis balls covered in old socks to stop your pillows from clumping.

• Enjoy fluffy pillows by popping them in the dryer once a week for a quick spin and to remove dead skin and moisture from the pillow.

Share your tips for washing duvets and pillows in the Comments box below.