Pillowcases and Oily Skin

Dear Home-Ec 101,

We’ve been married for nearly 25 years, and for about 7 or 8 years now, his pillowcase and [upper] part of the sheet reeks! I DON’T SEE how he can stand it. I’m not sure if it’s oil or sweat; he does have very oily skin. I read your advice to someone who was having a sweaty man problem. I suppose this could be part of it. But even if I did, his side would get gunked up before long!
What can I do about his gunky pillowcase and sheets?


Oilslick in Olympia

I have a few ideas, but ultimately the decision is up to you and your situation. You can try these options individually or a couple at a time.

Option 1: Change the Person, Kinda

Ask your husband to try different methods of personal hygiene until the situation improves. At the very least, taking a shower just before bed instead of in the morning may make a difference.

Maybe a visit to a dermatologist would help. I know some people are resistant to visiting a doctor, but any skincare advice might be received better if it came from an expert, in person, rather than just some rando on the internet. If a doctor isn’t possible, talk to one of the skincare ladies at a department store. Take the advice on specific products with a grain of salt. You don’t necessarily need that expensive version to see an improvement. Do try to make at least one purchase to compensate for the advice and time.

Option 2: Change the Sheets More Frequently/Wash More Thoroughly

Maybe the sheets just aren’t getting clean. This article on dealing with sour-smelling towels talks about the detergent build-up, which could be an issue with your sheets, too. Try this technique to make sure the sheets themselves aren’t the problem. We’ve also talked about sweaty sheets; this article may be helpful.

If you don’t have a quality mattress pad between your sheets and the mattress, the sheets could be absorbing the oil, and the oil could then make its way to the mattress, where the sheets pick it back up again in an unpleasant cycle. Mattress pads don’t need to be washed every week, but they will need to be washed regularly.

Option 3: Extra Pillowcases

We use this option with one of our teenagers. We purchased a few extra pillowcases. They aren’t high end because he doesn’t care. Each week, we put all of the pillowcases on his favorite pillow. Each morning one of the cases is stripped off and put in the laundry bin. I like this technique because it doesn’t cause an issue with the laundry rotation. If we miss a day, it’s fine; it’ll go in the next cycle, no big deal. His skin is much clearer than it was, and not wallowing in his oil seems to have helped. 

Option 4: Hide it

To not be gross, this tactic assumes the sheets are cleaned regularly, just stained. Make the bed and put decorative pillowcases with a sham on top of the stained pillow. Out of sight, out of mind. 

Each option has its drawbacks. Maybe you don’t want to buy additional pillowcases or sheets. Perhaps you don’t want to do more laundry. Maybe your husband doesn’t want to change his habits. You’ll need to figure out which makes the most sense for your situation.

In any case, I guess it’s a good thing that even if you can’t change a person, you can change their sheets.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com

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